Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has announced a state of emergency in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, following a series of terrorist attacks that have left at least 25 Israelis dead. The move paves the way for the Palestinian security forces to use tough new measures to rein in Islamic militant groups, which have carried out a campaign of suicide bombings.
Mr. Arafat's declaration follows a double suicide bombing in Jerusalem on Saturday and a bus bombing in Haifa.
Voice of Palestine radio reported that under the new state of emergency, only Palestinian police would be allowed to carry arms in Palestinian self-rule areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Groups daring to violate the new regulations would be banned, the radio said.
Senior Palestinian officials speaking on condition of anonymity said an all out-effort would now be made to arrest Islamic militants involved in suicide attacks in Israel.
Mr. Arafat took the decision after consultations with his security chiefs.
He came under strong pressure from President Bush and visiting U.S. Mideast envoy Anthony Zinni, who called on the Palestinian leader to prove he is committed to halting more terrorist attacks.
There are also increased calls by right-wing Israeli Cabinet ministers to take drastic measures against Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority, despite its official condemnation of the bombings.
One Cabinet minister, Shlomo Ben-Ezri, from the Jewish ultra-orthodox Shas Party, says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has moved from terrorism to an all-out war against Israel.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who convened the Israeli security Cabinet Sunday in the absence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, however, cautioned against jumping to any hasty conclusions.
The meeting decided that no decisions about a strong military reaction would be made, until Mr. Sharon returns Monday from a visit to the United States, where he held talks with President Bush.