Prime Minister &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/13/41963_.html' target=_blank>Ariel Sharon said Sunday Israel was escalating military measures and would freeze peace efforts after a Tel Aviv suicide bombing unless Palestinians smashed militant groups.
"There will not be any diplomatic progress, I repeat, no diplomatic progress, until the Palestinians take vigorous action to wipe out the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/12/11/40695.html' target=_blank>terror groups and their infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority's territory," Sharon said.
Addressing his cabinet in forceful tones Sharon said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's "immediate test" was to act against &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2002/12/20/41078.html' target=_blank>Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the first deadly Palestinian attack in Israel since November, informs Reuters.
Israel on Sunday rejected a joint committee meeting on the release of Palestinian prisoners after Friday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, the Ha'aretz daily reported.
Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that Israel's reluctance to convene the panel, which was charged with setting criteria for the prisoners' release, stemmed from the lack of Palestinians' determination to counter terrorism in the territories.
The committee, of which Livni is a member, was established after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit between Israel and the Palestinians on Feb. 8, when Israel promised to release 900 Palestinian prisoners in a goodwill gesture, reports the Xinhua News.