Israel: 'War to bitter end',00.html

(Gold9472: Definitely NOT good.)

27/10/2005 11:34 - (SA)

Jerusalem - Israel declared all-out war on Islamic Jihad on Thursday, launching air strikes on its Gaza Strip stronghold and putting its leaders in the crosshairs after a suicide bomber killed five in a marketplace.

As the funerals took place for the victims of Wednesday's attack in Hadera, officials said they were taking the gloves off against Jihad in the absence of any firm action from the Palestinian Authority.

The five dead were the first Israelis to be killed by Palestinian militants since Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip.

The pullout had raised hopes in the international community of a genuine breakthrough in the Middle East peace process but Israeli commentators warned that the public had to get used to continuing attacks.

Army chief of staff General Dan Halutz was quoted as declaring a "war to the bitter end" against Islamic Jihad after convening a meeting of defence chiefs late on Wednesday.

Security sources said defence minister Shaul Mofaz gave the green light for the resumption of 'targeted killing' operations against the masterminds of attacks such as the one in Hadera, carried out by a 21-year-old from the northern West Bank village of Qabatiya, near Jenin.

The army also announced a general closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Jihad said the attack was to avenge the death of their West Bank military leader who was killed in a gunfight with Israeli troops at the weekend.

"We will hit Islamic Jihad very hard. We will not give them any respite," said a source close to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

"We will not allow the West Bank to become a new Iraq and we will use every means possible in our offensive, including targeted operations."

Around a dozen Palestinians, including members of Jihad, were arrested overnight by the Israeli army while the air force carried out three air strikes over Gaza without causing casualties.

Two of the attacks targeted access routes into Gaza City and the nearby town of Beit Hanun and a third hit open fields in the north of the territory.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas condemned Wednesday's attack, saying it was counter-productive and warned that he would not tolerate people taking the law into their own hands.

Israeli officials, however, say there is no sign of Abbas taking on hardline groups such as Jihad and the larger Hamas movement.

All the main armed factions are meant to be observing a truce brokered by Abbas in March but Wednesday's attack served as a reminder of its fragility.