Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Saturday, 20 March 2010

Fresh Israeli air strikes wound 11 in Gaza Strip

Injured man brought to hospital in Rafah, after Israeli missile attack
The strikes hit near Rafah in southern Gaza

At least 11 people have been injured by Israeli air strikes targeting Gaza's airport, Palestinian officials say.

The Israeli military confirmed the missile strikes near Rafah, in southern Gaza, which it said targeted militants.

It was the second night of Israeli raids since a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip killed a worker on an Israeli farm on Thursday.

Earlier, the international Middle East Quartet called for Israel to freeze all settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In a strongly worded statement, the Quartet condemned Israel's announcement last week of planning permission for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967.

That move undermined efforts to restart indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Response to fire

Friday's missiles hit Gaza's long disused international airport and tunnels dug by militants near the border with Israel.

On Thursday, Israeli missiles hit smuggling tunnels and a metal workshop in Gaza, but there were no reports of serious injuries.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes were a response to five rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past two days - including one that killed a farm worker from Thailand in a kibbutz in southern Israel.

He was the first person to be killed by rocket fire in southern Israel since the Israeli campaign in Gaza last year.

Stalled talks

Kim Ghattas
Kim Ghattas, BBC News, Moscow

Hillary Clinton seems to believe that the spat over settlements with Israel might produce something positive. In a BBC interview she appeared to concede that escalating the tone with the Israelis had been a risk but she said it was "paying off".

She added she believed there would be a "resumption of the negotiating track soon". In other words, pressure on Israel is working.

But the pressure will have to continue if there are to be concrete results. Israeli officials are already pushing back.

Mrs Clinton said Benjamin Netanyahu had committed to peace and she made clear she expected him to deliver. She added it was his responsibility to bring the whole of his government, a right-wing coalition, on board.

Speaking for the Quartet, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: "Recalling that the annexation of East Jerusalem is not recognised by the international community, the Quartet... condemns the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem."

Mr Ban stated the goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement - including a Palestinian state - within two years.

The UN chief is due in Ramallah on Saturday morning, the first stop on a weekend visit to the region.

He spoke after talks in Moscow with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the other Quartet foreign ministers - new EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton and Russia's Sergei Lavrov.

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Clinton indicated that hardening the tone with Israel had paid off, with talks now back in prospect.

"I think we are going to see the resumption of the negotiating track, and that means that is paying off, because that is our goal," she said.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat welcomed the Quartet statement and urged the creation of a "surveillance mechanism" on Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Quartet timetable was unrealistic and ignored "the last 16 years of Israeli attempts" at negotiating with the Palestinians.

US envoy George Mitchell is due to visit the region on Sunday in an effort to re-launch stalled peace talks.

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