Jerusalem Israel killed seven Palestinians in a missile strike Thursday against Islamic Jihad, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not meet with the Palestinian leader until he cracks down on armed groups - a double-edged Israeli response to the latest suicide bombing.
Sharon threatened a "broad and relentless" offensive against Palestinian militants, including mass arrests and airstrikes, but security officials said Israel would stop short of a large-scale military operation.
Sharon's decision to shun Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was the clearest signal yet that efforts to revive peacemaking after Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip last month have run aground. Abbas has said he cannot and will not confront militants, fearing civil war, but it's unlikely progress can be made unless the two leaders meet.
The international community has been pressing for a quick Israeli-Palestinian agreement on new security arrangements for Gaza's borders, and a continued deadlock over such issues will prevent the economic recovery of impoverished Gaza. That, in turn, could hurt Abbas' chances in parliamentary elections in January.
Later Thursday, Israeli jets fired missiles at a road leading to northern Gaza, but there were no reports of injuries. The Israeli military said the missiles were aimed at an open area used by militants to launch rockets.
Also in Gaza, Islamic Jihad said it fired rockets at Israel. However, witnesses said they landed inside Gaza. There were no reports of casualties. Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, condemned the bombing, but Israel said he must do much more.