Hamas: Israeli aircraft strike Gaza as leaders talk peace

Clinton says negotiators are getting down to business, but attacks from both sides continue


Matti Friedman
September 15, 2010 5:20PM (UTC)

Hamas security officials in the Gaza Strip say an Israeli airstrike has killed one Palestinian and wounded four more. The violence comes as leaders hold peace talks in Jerusalem.

The strike appeared to be retaliation for a spike in Palestinian mortar fire into Israel on Wednesday, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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The Hamas officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the information was not officially released.

Israel's military did not immediately confirm the airstrike, but said militants had fired one rocket and eight mortars by mid-afternoon -- the highest daily total since March 2009.

Gaza militants have threatened to derail the talks with violence.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday said Israeli and Palestinian leaders are "getting down to business" on core issues of renewed peace talks, but gave no sign they are any closer to resolving a looming crisis over Israeli West Bank settlements.

The Palestinians are threatening to walk out of the talks if Israel resumes construction in the settlements after a slowdown expires at the end of the month. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this week that at least some construction will resume.

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Clinton was in Jerusalem for a second day of talks aimed at ending the impasse, a day after meeting Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a summit hosted by Egypt.

"They are getting down to business and they have begun to grapple with the core issues that can only be resolved through face-to-face negotiations," Clinton told reporters. "I believe they are serious about reaching an agreement that results in two states living side by side in peace and security."

She made no mention of the settlement dispute, but acknowledged that many obstacles remain and many Israelis remain skeptical after years of failed peace initiatives by a string of U.S. presidents, including her husband.

"We are convinced that the legitimate aspirations of these two peoples are not incompatible," Clinton said. "We are also convinced that peace is both necessary and possible and that this is a moment of opportunity that must be seized."

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President Barack Obama has made his pursuit of a Mideast settlement a centerpiece of his foreign policy. After months of U.S. shuttle diplomacy, he summoned the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Washington early this month to formally launch the first direct negotiations since talks collapsed in 2008 following Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Obama hopes to forge a deal within a year.

Negotiators will have to tackle a series of issues that have torpedoed talks in the past: borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the competing claims to the holy city of Jerusalem.

But they will have a hard time addressing those disputes if they cannot resolve the settlement disagreement.

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Netanyahu imposed a slowdown on settlement construction last November, seeking to draw the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The slowdown is set to expire on Sept. 26, and Netanyahu faces heavy domestic pressure to resume construction.

The Palestinians oppose all settlements, because they are built on captured territory the Palestinians claim for their future state.

Netanyahu has signaled he is looking for a compromise, suggesting this week that while he cannot continue the current slowdown he will greatly restrict building activity.

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Matti Friedman

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