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26 Killed in Mideast Violence - 2003-06-12

A day after 26 people were killed in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Israeli officials and militant Palestinian groups are saying there will be more attacks.

Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon convened a meeting of his security cabinet Thursday morning to consider the government's response to the latest suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 16 and wounded more than a hundred.

Israeli media quoted Mr. Sharon as saying that Israel will continue to hunt down Palestinian terrorist groups but will continue to make efforts to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. He said Israel will take all means necessary to protect its citizens.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met with the chiefs of all the security services late Wednesday and told them to use all means at their disposal to fight Hamas - the Palestinian militant group that claimed responsibility for the latest bombing. According to an official who briefed journalists after the meeting, Mr. Mofax told the security chiefs that no Hamas leader will be immune from Israel's wrath.

About three hours after the Jerusalem bombing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned it as a terrorist attack. It is the first time he has used the term to describe an attack on Israel or Israelis since the current intifada began more than two and a half years ago.

In a statement which he read out on television from his headquarters in Ramallah, Mr. Arafat strongly condemned this terrorist attack that targeted Israeli civilians in Jerusalem. He called on Israel and Palestinians to cease the violence and linked the Jerusalem terror attack with Israeli missile strikes against Hamas militants in Gaza which began on Sunday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas called on both sides to stop the violence and to take immediate steps to implement the international peace plan known as the road map.

Just one week ago President Bush met with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in Aqaba, Jordan to urge both sides to take the necessary measures to restart peace efforts. He got a commitment to do so from both men, but Palestinian militant groups rejected the appeal and Israeli hardliners condemned Ariel Sharon for even accepting the idea of the creation of a Palestinian state.