Israel imposes strict closure on West Bank and Gaza Strip

Israel imposed a strict closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday and vowed to target Islamic Jihad militants following a suicide bombing that killed five Israelis and wounded more than 40 other people outside a shopping mall.By yesterday morning, Israeli forces had arrested 14 wanted Palestinians, most of them in an area of the northern West Bank that is a hotbed of Islamic Jihad activity and the origin of the suicide bomber who blew himself up in the coastal city of Netanya on Monday morning. Nine of the 14 suspects were believed to be Islamic Jihad members, military officials said.

Among those arrested, Israeli troops detained the father and a brother of the 21-year-old bomber in the village of Ilar, about 5 miles northeast of Tulkarm, army officials said. The two are members of Islamic Jihad, said an Israeli military spokeswoman, but it was not known whether they had any role in the bombing.

Palestinian authorities said they had arrested seven members of Islamic Jihad as part of their investigation into the bombing. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned Monday's attack, said his security forces would seek to bring to justice any others involved.

But Israeli officials said the arrests by Palestinian authorities did not go far enough. ''It's a start. But it's clear that responsive actions, sporadic actions, alone are not going to deal with this issue," said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. ''You have to disarm."

Israeli military officials said their forces would vigorously pursue suspected Islamic Jihad militants through arrest operations and so-called targeted killings of the group's leaders. In addition, Israel vowed to continue airstrikes into the Gaza Strip to combat rocket attacks on communities in southern Israel.

During the past two months, Israel has killed several Islamic Jihad activists and arrested many more in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But after Monday's attack, Israeli officials vowed stepped-up reprisals against the hard-line group, which is relatively small in size but has stubbornly carried out attacks against Israelis despite an informal cease-fire declared by other armed Palestinian groups, reports the AP. I.L.

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