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Israel Decides On More Strikes Despite US Ceasefire Pressure - 2001-12-09

Israel's inner Cabinet has approved more military strikes against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the wake of another suicide bombing Sunday. The decision came as U.S. Mideast envoy, Anthony Zinni put pressure on the two sides to implement a cease-fire.

Israel's inner Cabinet Sunday approved the continuation of a military offensive in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in response to a wave of Palestinian terror attacks.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, along with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, gave the approval.

They took the decision after a long briefing from Israeli security officials, who claimed that the Palestinian Authority is still not acting to foil terror attacks and that it had not begun interrogations of suspects it had arrested during raids against Islamic militants.

The decision also appeared to nullify any prospect that Israel would accept a possible offer from the Islamic militant groups to halt attacks for one week or until the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The matter was being considered on Sunday in a meeting of the Palestinian factions, which said any final offer would be conditional on Israel agreeing to halt its military strikes.

Earlier, Mr. Sharon warned that Israel was likely to step up military operations in retaliation for a wave of suicide bombings.

Speaking to reporters shortly after Sunday's suicide bombing in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, he said Israel's military offensive in the Palestinian territories may have to be intensified.

Mr. Sharon's office also commented on a reported threat by US Mideast envoy, Anthony Zinni, to leave the region, if the two sides did not make real progress within the next 48 hours.

The Prime Minister's office said in a statement that Mr. Zinni's anger had been directed primarily at the Palestinian side.