In response to bombing, Israel arrests 14

December 07, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- Israel imposed a strict closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday and vowed to target Islamic Jihad militants after 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 Netanya on Monday morning. Nine of the 14 suspects were believed to be Islamic Jihad members, military officials said.

Among those arrested by Israeli troops were the father and a brother of the 21-year-old bomber in the village of Ilar, about five 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 a role in the bombing.

Palestinian authorities said they had arrested seven members of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank in their investigation of 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. Tawfiq abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, said the investigation would continue.

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."

Israel has criticized Abbas and his government for failing to act forcefully enough against armed groups, and its latest threats of sweeping military operations against Islamic Jihad appeared in part an effort to prod the Palestinian authorities into action.

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.

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