In the occupied West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces has increased.

EU condemnation

Olmert reiterated at the cabinet session that such attacks were "intolerable".

The European Union also condemned the attacks, saying that "it is up to the Israeli government, which has itself condemned these acts, to take the necessary measures to stop them immediately, in accordance with its international obligations".

Under international law, the construction and expansion of settlements is illegal.

Settler leaders have also condemned the violence but have made no secret of their community's opposition to the evacuation of settlements that would make way for a future Palestinian state.

Olmert has said Israel would have to withdraw from almost all of the territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

But he is now serving in a caretaker role after resigning in September in a corruption scandal, and the peace deal that Israel and the Palestinians had hoped to achieve this year appears out of reach.

Olmert remains prime minister until a new government is in place after an Israeli parliamentary election on February 10.