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Israel Looking at Limited Response to Suicide Bombing


Israeli Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert met with his Cabinet and security chiefs to weigh how Israel should further respond to the deadly suicide bombing that killed nine people and injured dozens more Monday in Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister-designate Olmert met with his top ministers for two hours to discuss options. Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra was there.

Ezra told Israel Radio, the government would not announce any specific plans, so as not to tip-off Palestinian militant groups.

From the start, Israeli officials made it clear they hold the Hamas-led Palestinian government responsible for Monday's suicide bombing.

That apparently remains the case. Participants at the meeting are quoted as saying the government holds Hamas responsible, but is stopping short of ordering a large-scale military retaliation.

But Israel has plenty of other measures at its disposal. Troops have already carried out security sweeps in the northern West Bank, and arrested dozens of suspected militants. Those types of operations are expected to increase.

That will come as no surprise, says Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamad.

Hamad says he has no doubt that Israel will take revenge. But, he says, killings, assassinations, travel restrictions have all become part of the daily Palestinian vocabulary, and part of a daily Israeli routine.

"The Israelis do this with or without any attacks from us. They always find an excuse," he said.

Each side has long blamed the other for what has become a seemingly endless cycle of violence. Often, militants say their attacks are retaliation for Israeli attacks against Palestinians. Israel in turn says its actions are either in response to militant attacks or to prevent them.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned Monday's suicide bombing, Hamas leaders defended it, saying it was self-defense and a natural reaction to Israel's occupation.

Such words have angered Israelis and many in the international community, and may further isolate the Hamas-led government.

Mr. Olmert is also in a tough position. He is trying to put together a coalition Israeli government and his potential partners, mainly more liberal parties, would not welcome large-scale military retaliation. But he also has to reassure the Israeli people he is willing to take tough measures to protect them.

Meanwhile, Israel's Cabinet has approved revoking the residence status for Hamas lawmakers living in East Jerusalem, which could mean they have to leave their homes and move to the West Bank.