Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is under pressure to respond decisively to Palestinian attacks ahead of a party leadership election against Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday and general elections in January. At present he appears on course to win both, with latest polls showing him 18 per cent ahead of Netanyahu for the Likud leadership, and Likud well ahead of Labour.

Sharon’s chief of staff Dov Weisglass met US National Security Adviser Condolezza Rice yesterday and requested a total of $14,000 million in aid. $4,000 million of this was to be in the form of military assistance, for defending against Palestinian attacks, fighting terrorism and preparing for potential US conflict with Iraq, and the rest to shore up the troubled economy. The US is considering the request.