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Israel Fires Missiles Into Gaza Strip Hours After Palestinian Suicide Attack

Palestinian witnesses say the Israeli military has fired missiles at a metal factory in the Gaza Strip, hours after a Palestinian suicide attack that killed nine people.

They say the missiles damaged the factory but caused no casualties.

Palestinian sources have also reported Israeli military activity in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin.

Earlier Monday, a bomber with the militant group Islamic Jihad detonated explosives at a fast food stand in Tel Aviv. At least 60 people were wounded.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which recently took control of the Palestinian government, defended the bombing.

But the United States, which called the attack "a despicable act for which there is no excuse," condemned Hamas for condoning the blast. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the bombing and urged the Palestinian Authority to take a stand against what he called "such unjustifiable acts of terrorism."

Following the bombing, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met with top security officials and decided against a large-scale military operation at this time. But Israeli media say a recommendation emerged from the meeting for Israel to increase its policy of separation between West Bank cities in hopes of restricting travel.

The suicide bombing was the first one in Israel since Hamas took over the Palestinian government nearly three weeks ago. The same Tel Aviv food stand was also targeted in a January bombing.

A U.S. State Department spokesman (Sean McCormack) said the Hamas-led government encourages teenagers to strap explosives on themselves to try to kill innocent civilians.

Palestinian militant groups have threatened in recent days to strike Israeli targets, to avenge the deaths of 18 Palestinians killed this month in Israeli air and artillery strikes in the Gaza Strip.