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Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 21:21 UK

Bush praises close US-Israel ties

George Bush gives speech in Jerusalem - 14/5/2008
Mr Bush seemed emotional as he received a standing ovation

President George W Bush has underlined the close ties between the US and Israel during a visit coinciding with the country's 60th anniversary.

Speaking in Jerusalem, he praised Israel as a model for democracy.

Mr Bush has also said he believes Israel and the Palestinians can strike a peace deal by the end of the year.

Before he spoke, several people were injured when a rocket fired from Gaza hit the city of Ashkelon. They include a mother and daughter.

Earlier in the day, four people were killed in Israeli military operations in Gaza.

We believe that the surest way to defeat the enemies of hatred is to advance the cause of hope, the cause of freedom, liberty as the great alternative to tyranny and terror
President George W Bush

Mr Bush's Middle East visit will include Saudi Arabia and Egypt in an attempt to inject some momentum into the current peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

His tour will not take in the Palestinian territories but he will meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt.

"We believe that the surest way to defeat the enemies of hatred is to advance the cause of hope, the cause of freedom, liberty as the great alternative to tyranny and terror," he said at a peace conference in Jerusalem.

Correspondents describe President Bush's eyes welling with emotion as he received a standing ovation and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called him as a "great leader, a great friend".

Aftermath of Ashkelon attack

President Bush arrived in Israel earlier on Wednesday - 60 years to the day after Israel declared independence.

But what Israelis celebrate as 60 years of statehood, Palestinians mark as al-Nakba, or "the Catastrophe".

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes or were expelled in 1948.

Many Palestinians also accuse Israel of hurting the innocent and of collective punishment in its attempts to quash Palestinian militants, says the BBC's Katya Adler in Jerusalem.


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