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Israel orders crackdown; PLO calls for end to violence

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Is Israeli PM Ariel Sharon right to suspend contacts with Palestinian Authority after deadly attack by Palestinian militants?
Ariel Sharon
Mahmoud Abbas

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday that Israeli forces will conduct anti-terrorist operations "without restrictions," while the Palestine Liberation Organization called for an end to "violence against Israelis anywhere."

The actions of Sharon and the PLO -- once considered a terrorist group by the United States -- came a day after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as Palestinian Authority president. (Full story)

The PLO's executive committee announced Sunday "that the Palestinians are ready to carry out their obligations to stop violence against Israelis anywhere," committee member Saeb Erakat told CNN, adding that the committee hopes "the Israeli side would reciprocate by stopping violence against Palestinians everywhere."

The PLO has called for an end to violence in the past, and in this case -- as in the past -- Erakat said the call was for a bilateral end to violence. But Israel complains the PLO has refused to take action to prevent Palestinian violence. Sharon complained Sunday that Palestinian leaders "are not lifting a finger" to end attacks.

Erakat said Abbas, who also heads the PLO, planned a trip to Gaza on Wednesday "in order to get all Palestinian factions to agree to this call."

Abbas won the historic January 9 presidential election with more than 62 percent of the vote, filling the office that was previously held by Yasser Arafat, who died in November of an unknown illness.

Sharon congratulated Abbas on Sunday and voiced intent to meet with him. But on Friday, Sharon suspended contact with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority after a deadly attack the day before killed six Israeli citizens in Gaza.

Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committee and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades all claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack at the Karni crossing separating Israel and northern Gaza.

Sunday, Sharon told his Cabinet he had given the go-ahead for "any action ... that is necessary to halt terrorism."

"Over the weekend and this morning there has been an increase in Palestinian terror against Israeli civilians," he said at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

"Unfortunately despite the change in Palestinian leadership, we see that its leaders have not even begun to take any action against the terror. This situation cannot continue."

Israel Defense Forces "and the security forces have been instructed to step up operational activity against terrorism, and they will continue to do so, without restrictions -- I emphasize, without restrictions -- as long as the Palestinians are not lifting a finger," Sharon said. "The political leadership has instructed that any action -- that any action -- be taken that is necessary to halt terrorism."

Israeli shelling Sunday in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis killed a Palestinian woman and her 19-year-old son, Palestinian medical officials said. Palestinian witnesses reported clashes in the area. Israeli military officials had no immediate comment.

In other violence over the weekend, Israeli forces killed an armed Palestinian approaching Israeli forces near Netzarim, five armed Palestinians -- including a policeman -- who approached troops in Gaza City and two Palestinians in Rafah, Israeli military sources said.

In the Rafah incident, Israeli officials said they fired at a group of Palestinians trying to infiltrate an army outpost, and Palestinian officials said the group believed the outpost was abandoned. Six others were wounded in the incident, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli officials also said two children were wounded when a mortar shell hit the Jewish settlement of Netzarim and another person was critically wounded after a Qassam rocket hit Sderot, an Israeli town near the Gaza border.

CNN's Yoav Appel contributed to this report.

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