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Sharon Warns Palestinians Must Take Action Against Terrorists

Israel's prime minister says a faction of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, based in Syria, was behind Friday's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed four Israelis and injured dozens more. Ariel Sharon also called on the Palestinian Authority to take decisive action against terrorist groups.

Mr. Sharon blames Islamic Jihad elements in Syria for the bombing, but he says that fact does not absolve the Palestinian Authority of its responsibility to go after terrorists.

Speaking before Sunday's regular cabinet meeting, Ariel Sharon said the test for the Palestinian Authority will be in how vigorously it acts against Islamic Jihad.

He said Israel is interested in moving toward peace with the Palestinians, but warned there will be no progress until the Palestinians take strong action against terrorists.

The prime minister also said Israel has shown restraint recently to facilitate progress, but said if the Palestinians do not begin taking vigorous action, Israel will.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not take up arms against his own people, preferring to bring the militants into the political process.

Mr. Abbas has blamed what he called "third parties" for trying to sabotage peace efforts. Palestinian police have arrested several men with ties to Islamic Jihad in connection with the bombing.

Syria quickly rejected Israel's accusations saying that the Islamic Jihad office in Damascus has been closed. And, the Reuter news agency quotes an unnamed Syrian Foreign Ministry official as saying Sunday that Damascus supports the Palestinian peace process with Israel, and the bombing on Friday contradicts its policy.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon declared an end to violence at a summit earlier this month, and a general calm had prevailed since then.

Mr. Abbas deployed security forces in Gaza to try to stop attacks on Israel. In response, Israel freed 500 Palestinian prisoners as a confidence-building measure. But, Friday's suicide bombing shattered the informal truce.

On Saturday, Israel froze plans to return security control of five West Bank cities to Palestinian forces.