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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 01:20 GMT 02:20 UK
Israel approves 'anti-terror' actions
Palestinian security officers stack sandbags in Yasser Arafat's destroyed compound in Ramallah
Palestinians have evacuated authority offices
The Israeli security cabinet has agreed to take action against what it described as "terrorist targets", in response to a Palestinian suicide attack which killed 15 people in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

The cabinet empowered Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer to decide how to proceed at a crisis meeting following the early return of Mr Sharon from the United States.

Whatever response Israel decides to take, my hope, of course, is that the prime minister keeps his vision of peace in mind

US President George W Bush

Meanwhile in Bethlehem, negotiators announced that agreement has been reached on releasing 26 Palestinian militants and all of the civilians besieged inside the Church of the Nativity for more than a month.

A BBC correspondent in Bethlehem says the governor of the town - who has been in the church throughout the siege - left the building with the Palestinian negotiating team a short while ago.

The remaining 13 militants, who are on Israel's most wanted list, are expected to remain inside the church until arrangements can be made to send them abroad.

'Kill first'

Details of the new Israeli targets have not been given but Israeli sources suggest operations may focus on the Gaza Strip and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that troops are massing on the Gaza border.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat earlier ordered his security forces to prevent "all terrorist operations" against Israelis after the bombing - a move welcomed by US President George W Bush.

Describing Mr Arafat's order to his forces as an "incredibly positive sign", Mr Bush also appealed to Mr Sharon to show restraint.

"Whatever response Israel decides to take, my hope, of course, is that the prime minister keeps his vision of peace in mind," he said.

When Mr Sharon cut short his visit to the United States he vowed to continue fighting what he called the Palestinian "terror infrastructure".

"He who rises up to kill us, we will pre-empt it and kill him first," he said before leaving Washington.

Aftermath of pool hall bombing
The bombing in Rishon Letzion was the worst such attack in over a month

In a reference to Mr Arafat, he said the pool hall attack showed "the true intentions of those who lead the Palestinian Authority".

The BBC's Kylie Morris reports from Gaza that there is growing apprehension in the territory where Hamas, the militant organisation which claimed responsibility for the pool hall attack, has strong support.

Mr Arafat went on Palestinian TV to say he had instructed his security forces to "confront and prevent all terror attacks against Israeli civilians from any Palestinian side or parties".

Return of the bombers

On Wednesday morning, a Palestinian man tried to blow himself up next to two soldiers at a bus stop at Megiddo Junction, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south-east of Haifa.

The timing of the latest suicide bombing was not coincidental

Oleg, Canada

The bomb went off only partially and the bomber alone was seriously injured.

Tuesday's suicide attack on a crowded pool room in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion was the deadliest since Israel launched its campaign against Palestinian militants in the West Bank at the end of March.

Police said the bomber walked into the third-floor Spiel club with a suitcase packed with nails and explosives.

More than 50 people were wounded, some seriously.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"It's merely a trivial hitch that can be resolved"
Siege Negotiator, Canon Andrew White
"The final siege will not be over until the 13 have also left the church"
See also:

08 May 02 | Middle East
Gaza fears Israeli assault
07 May 02 | Middle East
In pictures: Israel bomb blast
08 May 02 | Middle East
Witnesses speak of bomb horror
08 May 02 | Middle East
Israeli press reflects return of fear
08 May 02 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
07 May 02 | Middle East
Italy 'in dark' over Bethlehem deal
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