Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh said Israel would not attack first, after Iran's defense minister said his country would retaliate "beyond the imagination of any Israeli politician" for a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactor.
At the United Nations Monday, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Iran has put Revolutionary Guards its elite military force in Lebanon and is turning the country into a powder keg.
The rhetoric between Israel and Iran has become increasingly hostile following Israel's interception last month of a shipment of Iranian weapons to the Palestinian areas and President Bush's inclusion of Iran in a list of countries forming to an "axis of evil." Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, Israel has found Mr. Bush more receptive to its fears over Iran.
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Secretary of State Colin Powell told a prominent Palestinian, Ahmed Qureia, at a meeting Monday in Washington the U.S. continues to insist the Palestinian attacks on Israel end before any new peace initiatives.
Qureia, speaker of the Palestinian parliament, helped arrange the 1991 Oslo accords that led to Israeli withdrawals on the West Bank. He is considered a potential successor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"There is no question that Yasser Arafat must take strong, resolute steps to halt the terror," Philip Reeker, a State Department spokesman, said after the hour-long meeting.
Peres also said Yasser Arafat's promise in an article in the New York Times on Sunday to fight terrorist groups was stronger than anything the Israelis had heard from him before.
"But this should be put to the test," Peres said. "An article is an article, and actions are actions."
Israel has confined the Palestinian leader to the West Bank town of Ramallah, charging he has not done enough to stop terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Palestinian gunmen stormed into a Palestinian military court on Tuesday and shot dead three men who had just been convicted in the killing of a security officer.
Witnesses said hundreds of Palestinians including several masked gunmen burst into the courtroom in the northern West Bank city of Jenin after a heavy police presence failed to hold them back.
The incident appeared to be part of a cycle of revenge killings carried out by relatives of the dead. Witnesses said many of those who stormed the courtroom were the security officer's relatives.
Peres said Monday that Iran has supplied the Hezbollah guerrilla group in Lebanon with 10,000 rockets with a range long enough to strike at the heart of Israel. Israel is especiall concerned about Iran's program to develop nuclear weapons.
Sneh, an ex-general, said Iran has clear intentions to escalate the situation, especially along Israel's border with Lebanon. Tensions have been high on the border since Israeli troops withdrew in May 2000 from a strip they occupied in south Lebanon.
"That's all they (the Iranians) are doing; encouraging terrorism and deploying rockets in south Lebanon," Sneh told Israel Radio. "We, as much as we can, will not be dragged into this."
Tensions on the border have flared in recent days as Hezbollah has shot anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli fighter jets flying over the border into Lebanese airspace. Israeli schools along the border sent students into bomb shelters Monday when the militia shot missiles at the planes. No injuries or damage were caused.
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