The United States is urging Israel to consider the impact on regional peace efforts of any new military foray into Palestinian areas. The comments come amid reports Israel may be preparing an assault in Gaza in response to the suicide bombing near Tel Aviv Tuesday night.

While acknowledging Israel's right to self-defense, officials here say that country should consider the consequences a new drive into Palestinian areas might have on regional peace efforts. Briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Israel has not told the United States about, or gotten U.S. assent, for any military plans.

"The Israelis do not seek, nor do we provide, any sort of green light for their military action or counter-terrorist actions. We have always said that Israel has a right to defend itself. That remains the U.S. position," he said. "It is essential, as we said yesterday and as the President said in his remarks, that both sides think carefully about the consequences of any action they decide to take.

Mr. Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the Middle East Thursday in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and in a meeting here with his Norwegian counterpart, Jan Petersen. U.S. diplomacy in recent days has focused on completing a deal to end the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.