Rice Seeks Fresh Middle East Talks

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has called on Palestinians to quickly resume peace talks with Israel.
 
Rice made her remarks after landing in Egypt on Tuesday at the beginning of two days of shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East.
 
"I am going to have discussions with the parties about how we try to keep this process going, given that obviously there are going to be spoilers."
 
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, snapped contacts with Israel in protest against latter’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
 
Addressing a joint press conference later with the Egyptian foreign minister, Rice called for an immediate halt to rocket attacks on Israel.

"The rocket attacks against innocent civilians in their cities… it needs to stop. No Israeli government can tolerate that," she said.

She also expressed her concern about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and said she had impressed upon Israel the need to be aware of the "effects of its operations against innocent people".

Rice has since arrived in Israel. She will also travel to the West Bank.
 
Israeli ‘Interval’
 
Israel pulled back its troops from the Gaza Strip ahead of the visit by Rice.
 
But Gaza’s residents remain wary of further attacks after a senior Israeli official said that the pull-back would only be a "two-day interval" during her visit.
 
Israeli air raids continued late on Monday as troops and tanks left the territory.
 
Two Palestinians were killed in the raids which came after six days of attacks that left 120 Palestinians dead.
 
Aljazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Gaza, said Rice’s regular but inconclusive visits were starting to lose weight with Palestinian citizens.
 
Abbas suspended on Sunday contact with Israel in light of the aggression against the Gaza Strip.
 
But by Monday he appeared willing to mediate a deal between Israel and his political rivals in Hamas, which control the strip.
 
A statement from his office on Monday said the Fatah leader was "willing to work for the conclusion of a total truce with the Israeli side to spare our people more victims and suffering".
 
A Hamas leader in Gaza confirmed to Aljazeera that the group had received approaches from Fatah, but said Hamas "has not reached a decision yet and no direct talks with Abu Mazen [Abbas] have yet ensued".
 
(Aljazeera and agencies)

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