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Israeli Defense Minister Warns Gaza Palestinians

02 April 2007

Israel's defense minister says he has authorized the army to take limited action against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Amir Peretz issued the warning during a tour of a military base near the Gaza border Monday.

He said Israel will not allow Palestinian militants to build up their capabilities. He said the Israeli military has the authorization to deal with any attempt to attack Israeli soldiers or civilians.

A ceasefire has largely held in Gaza since November, but Palestinian militants have sporadically fired rockets into Israel.

In other news, Palestinian journalists began a three-day strike Monday to protest the kidnapping of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston - who has been held longer than any other journalist abducted in Gaza. Johnston was kidnapped on March 12.

Hundreds of journalists, many with their mouths symbolically sealed, rallied in Gaza City Monday to protest the kidnapping.

On the diplomatic front, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Sunday invited all Arab leaders to a peace conference to discuss resolving the Middle East conflict. Mr. Olmert singled out Saudi King Abdullah, saying he considers the king a "very important leader."

Last week, the Arab League re-launched a 2002 plan calling for normal relations with Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

Mr. Olmert welcomed the decision to revive the plan, but said Israel does not accept all parts of it.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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