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Sharon Under Pressure From Latest Violence - 2002-03-03


Israel has launched strikes against Palestinian targets after a series of devastating attacks by Palestinian militants that left more than 20 Israelis dead. Reports suggest that at least four Palestinian policemen have been killed in a wave of retaliatory strikes by Israeli tanks, warplanes, and navy vessels.

The Israeli strikes were in response to Saturday's Palestinian suicide-bomb attack that killed nine Israelis in Jerusalem and Sunday's gun attack on an army checkpoint in the West Bank that left a further 10 dead.

The high loss of Israeli life is putting strong domestic pressure on Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, to consider more drastic measures to halt Palestinian terrorism.

Mr. Sharon held talks with his Security Cabinet to decide on Israel's next step, after already holding discussions earlier with senior ministers, some of whom are calling for the government to topple the Palestinian Authority.

Cabinet Minister Danny Naveh is among those calling for an end to what they call "Arafat's regime." He said, "In my mind, what we need is a clear strategic decision that we have to dismantle of the infrastructure of the [Palestinian] terrorist organisations in the territories [the West Bank and Gaza Strip]. And then to define what is the right border for the state of Israel for the future. Probably what we will have to do it unilaterally, because there is no partner for peace, on the other side."

Seventeen-months of violence have claimed more than 1,200 lives, mostly Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has condemned the suicide bombing in Jerusalem, but some Palestinians in the West Bank openly celebrate the news that more Israeli blood had been shed.

A military wing of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction has claimed responsibility for the bombing and also the shooting attack on the Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank, near the Jewish settlement of Ofra.

Seven of those who died were soldiers, and the Israeli military has launched an investigation into what now appears to be the work of a lone sniper, who was able to escape unharmed into a nearby Palestinian village.

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