The Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, has vowed to begin a military response tonight to a Palestinian suicide bombing in the Israeli town of Netanya that killed five people.

Speaking on Israeli radio, Mr Mofaz also said he was seeking approval to resume a policy of demolishing the homes of suicide bombers.

Israel suspended the policy in February after the start of a truce with Palestinians.

Earlier Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned this morning's suicide bomb attack which also left dozens of people injured.

Mr Abbas described the blast as an act of terrorism and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The explosion hit the Sharon shopping mall in the city of Netanya, 40km north of Tel Aviv, at about 9.30am Irish time.

The central Israeli city has been a frequent target of suicide bombings.

Two Palestinian militant groups, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the Islamic Jihad group, have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Reports from Netanya say the bomber, believed to be a 21-year-old man, was stopped by security guards. He then detonated the explosives outside the shopping centre.

It was the first such bombing since 26 October when a suicide bomber killed six people in the coastal city of Hadera.

The bombing has dealt another blow to a ceasefire declared in February by Mr Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.