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Israel Ups Reprisals for Killings On West Bank After Bombings

By Steven Erlanger
THE NEW YORK TIMES


JERUSALEM

Israel intensified a crackdown on Palestinian areas on Thursday, imposing a curfew on the West Bank and carrying out a series of arrests. It also mounted a rocket attack on the car of two Islamic Jihad members in a crowded Gaza district, killing them and at least five passers-by.

The Israeli actions, which included banning private cars from traveling in the northern West Bank and creating sonic booms over Gaza for a third night in a row, came in response to Wednesday’s suicide bombing, which killed five Israelis and wounded 20 more in a Hadera market.

“Our activity will be wide-ranging and continuous until we have brought about the cessation of terrorism,” said the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

He attacked the performance of the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, saying, “The Palestinian Authority is not taking any serious measures in the fight against terrorism” and adding that he would not meet with Abbas in November as planned.

The Israeli chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz, declared “a war to the bitter end” against Islamic Jihad, the small militant group that has carried out most of the recent attacks against Israeli citizens, including the Hadera bombing.

The arrests and airstrike on Thursday were largely aimed at Islamic Jihad. Those killed in the rocket strike near the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza were Shadi Muhana, a military commander in northern Gaza, and an aide, Muhammad Razaineh.

The attack came as Palestinians were leaving the mosque after evening prayers, and hospital workers said that in addition to the five passers-by who had been killed, another 14 had been wounded.

Islamic Jihad said the Hadera bombing was revenge for Israel’s killing of a commander, Luay Saadi, in Tulkarm Sunday night. But Islamic Jihad was also responsible for suicide bombings Feb. 25 in Tel Aviv and July 12 in Netanya.

Islamic Jihad, unlike the larger Hamas, is not planning to take part in Palestinian elections, cares less about public opinion and is more directly controlled, the Israelis contend, by Iran through its leadership based in Syria.

Abbas said the bombing “harms the Palestinian interests and could widen the cycle of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodshed.” But in a speech to the Palestinian parliament on Wednesday, he refrained from condemning Islamic Jihad.