Wednesday, January 28, 2009

US envoy visits amid Gaza clashes

The new US envoy for the Middle East is on his first official visit to Israel, a day after Israeli forces clashed with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

George Mitchell is to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - but not Hamas, which controls Gaza.

He will hear views about the best way to move forward, a US spokesman said.

Mr Mitchell's visit comes amid fresh violence in Gaza, despite separate ceasefires from both sides.

Overnight Israeli air strikes targeted Gaza's border with Egypt, as part of Israel's response to a bomb attack on one of its patrols on Tuesday, which killed one soldier and wounded three.

Residents near the town of Rafah fled as missiles hit tunnels through which Israel says militants smuggle arms.

On Tuesday fighting around the town of Khan Younis and the Kissufim border crossing left one Palestinian dead, medical sources said.

The latest violence is a sign of just how fragile the truce is, says the BBC's Bethany Bell in Jerusalem.

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