WASHINGTON – Taking a strong stand against Palestinian extremists, the United States joined Friday with the United Nations (search), Russia and the European Union in demanding Syria immediately close the offices of Islamic Jihad in Damascus and prevent use of its territory for terror actions.
The so-called quartet (search), which has devised a road map to prod Israel and the Palestinians into a negotiated settlement, also condemned the bombing this week in the central Israeli town of Hadera in which five Israelis were killed.
Islamic Jihad (search), which is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization, took responsibility for the attack and said it was in revenge for the slaying by Israeli troops of a leading Islamic Jihad militant.
The quartet's demand was announced by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (search) spoke for about a half-hour by telephone with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, and European diplomats Javier Solana and Benita Ferraro Waldner.
The quartet called for restraint and communication between Israel and the Palestinians and said an escalation of violence should be avoided.
In the area, though, Israeli forces pressed their retaliation for the bombing in Hadera. In Gaza, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car in Gaza, killing a Palestinian militant.
McCormack said he was not drawing any specific link between the bombing and any particular orders that may or may not have come out of Damascus. "I am not trying to draw that line at this time," he said.
"But, I think it's very clear that you have senior leadership of some of these groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, resident in Damascus (search)," he said.
Linking Islamic Jihad to other deadly bombings in Israel, as well, McCormack said "This is a terrorist group that is intent upon subverting progress that the Israelis and the Palestinians are attempting to make along the pathway to the shared goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security."