Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Israelis launch offensive against Palestinian militants

The Israeli government has approved a major military offensive in the West Bank in response to Wednesday's suicide bomb attack in Hadera, which killed five people.

Security sources told that prime minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided on a large scale military operation against Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the Hadera market bombing. The offensive will take place on two fronts: northern Gaza and the northern West Bank. The blast in the Hadera market was the first such attack since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last month.

On Thursday morning, Israeli aircraft launched three strikes on the Gaza Strip in what the army said were attacks aimed at stopping militants firing rockets into the Jewish state from the territory. Israeli military officials said the first assaults, in northern Gaza, struck a road and an open field, causing no casualties, while soon afterwards, the air force struck in southern Gaza.

"We will do everything we can to strike out the infrastructure of the organization that carried out this act of terror," Mofaz told reporters. No timetable was given for the West Bank offensive.

Islamic Jihad said the Hadera attack was to avenge Israel's killing of one of its top West Bank commanders in a raid on Monday.

Five people were killed and at least thirty injured when a 20 year old from the West Bank blew himself up outside a sandwich stand in the market.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the bombing and vowed to try to save the fragile truce negotiated in February but which Islamic Jihad and Hamas are putting in jeopardy, AKI reports.