Jerusalem The Israeli military was preparing a "crushing and decisive" response to recent Palestinian attacks, and it could include an extended stay by Israeli troops in Palestinian areas, a senior defense official said Saturday.
Israeli troops have poured into several Palestinian towns and cities in recent days, and as of Saturday night, remained in at least six places in the West Bank, where strict curfews were in force.
In two refugee camps on Nablus' edge, Israeli fire wounded five Palestinians who were out during a temporarily lifting of the curfew, Palestinian witnesses said. The army said the curfew was not lifted in Nablus and that it fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians who attacked soldiers with rocks and live fire.
Other West Bank towns occupied by Israeli troops were mostly quiet Saturday.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government has endorsed a plan to gradually reoccupy Palestinian land until suicide bombings and shootings stop. The move came after a bloody week that left 33 Israelis and 18 Palestinians dead, leading President Bush to put off an address that was to outline his proposal for moving toward a Palestinian state.
Amos Yaron, director general of the Defense Ministry, suggested that the operation could be even larger in scale than the six-week sweep through the West Bank that ended in May.
"This terrorism cannot be allowed to continue. Our response has to be crushing and decisive," Yaron said in an interview on Israel radio. "We have to take much more massive action than we have up until now."
"If what we have done (in the previous operation) was not enough, so we'll do it with even more force," he said. "If we have to stay in the territories for more time, we'll do it for more time."
During the earlier campaign, the Israeli forces killed or arrested scores of suspected Palestinian militants.