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Fresh Israeli air strikes wound 11 in Gaza Strip

20 March 2010 07:03 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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At least 11 people have been injured by Israeli air strikes targeting Gaza's airport, Palestinian officials say.

The Israeli military confirmed the missile strikes near Rafah, in southern Gaza, which it said targeted militants.

It was the second night of Israeli raids since a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip killed a worker on an Israeli farm on Thursday.

Earlier, the international Middle East Quartet called for Israel to freeze all settlements in Palestinian territories.

In a strongly worded statement, the Quartet condemned Israel's announcement last week of planning permission for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.

That move undermined efforts to restart indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Response to fire

Friday's missiles hit Gaza's long disused international airport and tunnels dug by militants near the border with Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli missiles hit smuggling tunnels and a metal workshop in Gaza, but there were no reports of serious injuries.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes were a response to five rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past two days - including one that killed a farm worker from Thailand in a kibbutz in southern Israel.

He was the first person to be killed by rocket fire in southern Israel since the Israeli campaign in Gaza last year.

Stalled talks

Speaking for the Quartet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "Recalling that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised by the international community, the Quartet... condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem."

Mr Ban stated the goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement - including a Palestinian state - within two years.

The UN chief is due in Ramallah on Saturday morning, the first stop on a weekend visit to the region.

He spoke after talks in Moscow with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the other Quartet foreign ministers - new EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and Russia's Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Clinton indicated that hardening the tone with Israel had paid off, with talks now back in prospect.

"I think we are going to see the resumption of the negotiating track, and that means that is paying off, because that is our goal," she said.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the Quartet statement and urged the creation of a "surveillance mechanism" on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Quartet timetable was unrealistic and ignored "the last 16 years of Israeli attempts" at negotiating with the Palestinians.

US envoy George Mitchell is due to visit the region on Sunday in an effort to re-launch stalled peace talks.


 

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