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Israel Vows More Strikes on Palestinian Militants (REUTERS) By Jeffrey Heller JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 08/22/03 01:33 PM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=3323439
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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Friday threatened more attacks on Palestinian militants after its killing of a Hamas leader led major Islamic groups to declare an end to a truce vital for a U.S.-backed peace "road map" and vow revenge.
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In a bid to defuse the powder keg crisis, Washington turned for help to Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian president it has shunned in favor of reformist Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.
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"This is only the beginning," a senior Israeli security source said a day after an Israeli helicopter strike killed Hamas leader Ismail Abu Shanab and two bodyguards in Gaza.
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"We plan serious retaliation on the terrorist infrastructure," he said, referring to a Hamas suicide bombing that killed 20 people on a Jerusalem bus on Tuesday.
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Osama el-Baz, a special envoy sent by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, visited Arafat at his West Bank headquarters to deliver what the emissary said was a message warning of impending catastrophe.
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Baz, who also planned to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, said: "All sides have to take steps to avoid escalation and to implement the road map." He told reporters he discussed some proposals with Arafat, but declined to elaborate.
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Secretary of State Colin Powell also turned to the veteran Palestinian leader, who has been accused by Washington of encouraging violence in a nearly three-year-old uprising for statehood -- allegations Arafat denies.
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In remarks on Thursday, Powell urged Arafat to work with Abbas and to make available "those security elements that are under his control so that they can allow progress to be made on the road map -- end terror, end this violence."
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The appeal implicitly acknowledged Arafat retains influence and Abbas may not have enough clout to stop attacks on Israel.
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Thirsting for vengeance, tens of thousands of Gazans, turned out for the funeral of Abu Shanab, a U.S.-educated engineer seen by Palestinians and independent analysts as a moderate in the militant group and by Israel as a terrorist.
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"We love martyrdom and we seek martyrdom," Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, a Hamas leader who survived an Israeli assassination attempt in June, told the crowd, which shouted "revenge, revenge."
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Hamas, which said it carried out the Jerusalem bombing as payback for Israeli attacks, declared it would avenge Abu Shanab´s assassination by striking in every corner of Israel.
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In what it called an initial response, Hamas lobbed more than a dozen mortar bombs at Jewish settlements in Gaza and at least two of its makeshift Qassam rockets hit homes in Sderot, a town in southern Israel. There were no reports of casualties.
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After the attacks, Israel blocked several Gaza Strip junctions, dividing the region into two sections and tightening a military hold it had loosened in a bid to boost popular support for Abbas.
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Israeli troops also have been carrying out sweeps for militants in several West Bank cities, operations that could further undermine Abbas´s authority.
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Fearing civil war, Abbas had sought to curb violence through negotiations, rather than dismantle Islamic militant groups as mandated by the peace plan championed by Washington.
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Palestinian officials said plans by Abbas´s security chief, Mohammed Dahlan, to launch a crackdown on militants following the Jerusalem blast were wrecked by the killing of Abu Shanab. (© Reuters 2003 08/22/03)
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