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Israeli Security Forces To Step Up Operations Against Islamic Jihad

Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered his security forces to go after the leaders of Islamic Jihad after a suicide bombing by the Palestinian militant group killed four Israelis.

The bombing was the first such attack in the five months since Mr. Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a ceasefire. Hours after Tuesday's deadly attack, Israeli forces sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and made five arrests.

Israeli tanks rolled into the West Bank city of Tulkarm, as loudspeakers announced an immediate curfew. Soldiers arrested five suspected Islamic Jihad members, and killed a Palestinian policeman in a firefight. Israeli troops also blew up a house they said housed an explosives laboratory. Israel handed Tulkarem to Palestinian control four months ago, as part of what was to have been a gradual Israeli withdrawal from West Bank cities.

Mr. Sharon told reporters he ordered troops to step up operations against the Islamic Jihad and "hit the leadership" of the militant group, after it claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Netanya Tuesday, which killed four Israelis. Islamic Jihad said the attack was in response to Israeli raids on wanted militants.

Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Mr. Sharon, accused Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas of doing nothing to deter Palestinian terrorists. "There's the lesson that has been learned, I think, in London, in New York, and in Madrid. With terrorists, you don't talk, you don't sign deals. With terrorists, you fight."

Ghassan Al-Khatib, a member of the Palestinian Cabinet, immediately condemned the attack, and said the Palestinian Authority is committed to honoring the ceasefire.

He said, "However, the insistence on the behalf of Israel to continue with expansion of settlements, especially in the West Bank and the continuous building of the wall on the Palestinian land and all its consequences: political, human, and economic, is making the task of the Palestinian Authority controlling the Palestinian side a bit more difficult."

Mr. Sharon has ordered the Gaza Strip settlements and four settlements in the northern West Bank closed to all non-residents, to keep out protesters opposed to Israel's planned withdrawal from those communities.

Wednesday, Israeli soldiers set up roadblocks, and turned away all those without residence permits.