Top PLO Body Calls for Halt to Attacks

A top PLO (search) decision-making body called on Palestinian militants Sunday to halt attacks against Israel (search), charging that the violence gives Israel an excuse to carry out military operations.

The PLO Executive Committee issued its statement in Ramallah. It followed a militant attack late Thursday at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel that left six Israeli civilians dead, setting off Israeli reprisal raids in Gaza.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, downplayed the announcement, repeating Israeli policy that the Palestinians will be judged by their deeds and not their words.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) cut off contacts with the regime of Mahmoud Abbas, sworn in Saturday as Yasser Arafat's successor as head of the Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday, Sharon authorized his military to step up operations to stop the attacks, which include rocket and mortar fire targeting Jewish settlements and Israeli towns outside Gaza.

In its statement, the PLO body called on militants to "stop all the military action that might harm our national goals and give the Israelis an excuse to obstruct Palestinian stability."

Abbas has spoken out against Palestinian violence but has rejected demands to confront the militant groups, preferring to negotiate a truce instead.