Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Monday, 17 November 2008

Keep Gaza truce, urges Miliband

David Miliband explains why he is visiting Sderot

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has urged Israel and the Palestinians to maintain a Gaza truce, following recent outbreaks of violence.

He said it was "vital" the ceasefire was maintained, after holding talks in the West Bank with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr Miliband is also meeting the main contenders for the Israeli premiership, Tzipi Livni and Binyamin Netanyahu.

He is to hold talks with regional key players, including Syria and Lebanon.

Blockade

Speaking in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr Miliband said discussions between Mr Abbas and Israel's caretaker prime minister Edud Olmert "seem to be a very important contribution" to maintaining the five-month-old ceasefire.

He also said: "It is vital that the ceasefire is maintained."

At least 16 Gaza militants have been killed in the last week and Israel has tightened its blockade of Gaza.

Gaza map

Israeli police said Palestinian militants had fired eight rockets at southern Israel on Monday. The rockets landed in open areas and no-one was injured.

Following the incident, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would "act when the conditions are right".

BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said the UK believed there may be opportunities for progress in solving disputes in the region, as the world awaits the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president.

Mr Miliband reportedly voiced strong opposition to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

He has been pressing European partners for tighter control on produce from the settlements, which built on land captured in 1967 and are illegal in the eyes of international law.

Some agricultural and manufactured goods originating from settlements are admitted into Europe under the label of "Produce of Israel" and therefore enjoy tariff benefits under an Israel-EU treaty.

Attacked

Israeli Foreign Minister Ms Livni sought Mr Miliband's support for her country's tough stand on Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas militant group and which was sealed off by Israel two weeks ago apart limited from fuel supplies.

"Israel can not just watch its citizens being attacked... The international community can not turn a blind eye," she said.

Israel and the Hamas group agreed a ceasefire last July, but it has been under serious strain since early in November.

On Friday, UK-based aid agency Oxfam warned of catastrophe in Gaza and neighbouring areas of Israel if the truce was not maintained.

It called on world leaders to do everything they could to break Israel's blockade of Gaza and urged Israel to resume supplies without delay.

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