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Israel Vows Response to Monday Bus Attack - 2002-10-22

Israel's Defense Minister has pledged that there will be a response to the bomb attack against a bus on Monday that killed 14 people. At the same time the Minister says any retaliation will be in the manner and timing of Israel's choosing.

As Israelis buried some of the dead Tuesday from the suicide bomb attack against a bus the day before, the Defense Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer pledged the army will retaliate when it sees fit.

He says in spite of the high number of fatalities, Israelis should remember that the country's security forces are preventing some 90 percent of all potential terror attacks.

But Mr. Ben-Eliezer added the latest killings only served to strengthen his belief that ultimately the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be resolved through negotiations and not by force.

He was reacting to questions about the possible response to the deadly explosion that ripped through a bus near Hadera in northern Israel on Monday.

Several survivors remain hospitalized. Some are in a serious condition.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Danny Shek says although there has no been immediate retaliation, there will be no let-up in the war against terror. "We will continue to do so, and that includes every organ of the Palestinian Authority or Palestinian society that feels comfortable with the continuation of terror attacks," he said.

Mr. Shek says Israel has no other choice but to target militant Palestinian groups. And he repeated Israeli charges that the Palestinian Authority is not doing its part to curb their actions.

The militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Monday's attack.

Israel's Interior Minister, Eli Yishai says there should be what he called a harsh but precise response.

He added, however, that Israel must take into account U.S. interests when planning any military retaliation.

Israeli media report that Washington has cautioned Israel not to escalate the conflict with the Palestinians and inflame regional tensions ahead of any possible military action against Iraq.