Sharon said on Thursday that there could be no advance towards peace now because of the "absolute failure of the Palestinian Authority in the fight against terrorism".

"Our action will be broad and will not stop until it brings about a cessation of terrorism," Sharon said ahead of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Tel Aviv.
   
Sharon had agreed to an offensive in the northern West Bank against the resistance movement Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the bombing to avenge the killing of a top commander on Monday, security sources said. 

Missile strikes
   
No timetable was given for the West Bank offensive amid the worst flare-up of violence since Israel left Gaza last month after 38 years of occupation.

"Our action will be broad and will not stop until it brings about a cessation of terrorism"

Ariel Sharon,
Israeli Prime Minister

Also on Thursday, Israeli aircraft launched six missile strikes on the Gaza Strip, saying they were to stop rocket fire from the territory. There were no casualties.
   
Meanwhile occupation soldiers arrested the 20-year-old bomber's father in the northern West Bank on Thursday. Another nine suspected militants were held.

The bombing on Wednesday dealt a serious blow to an eight-month-old truce and international hopes for a revival of peacemaking after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last month.