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Israel intensifies attacks against Hamas militants; Clinton arrives for truce talks

Ravi Nessman

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

Westerwelle said a truce must be urgently pursued, "but of course, there is one precondition for everything else, and this is a stop of the missile attacks against Israel."

The conflict erupted last week, when a resurgence in rocket fire from Gaza set off the Israeli offensive, which included hundreds of airstrikes on militants' underground rocket launchers and weapons' stores.

The onslaught turned deadlier over the weekend, as airstrikes began targeting the homes of suspected Hamas activists, leading to a spike in civilian casualties. Israel sent warnings in some cases, witnesses said, but in other instances missiles hit suddenly, burying residents under the rubble of their homes.

Hamas is deeply rooted in densely populated Gaza, and the movement's activists live in the midst of ordinary Gazans. Israel says militants are using civilians as human shields, both for their own safety and to launch rocket strikes from residential neighborhoods.

The conflict showed signs of spilling into the West Bank, as hundreds of Palestinian protesters in the town of Jenin clashed with Israeli forces during a demonstration against Israel's Gaza offensive.

Two Palestinian protesters were killed in anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank on Monday, according to Palestinian officials. Separate clashes occurred Tuesday in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian government, during the funeral for one of the dead.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007, now governs from the West Bank. Abbas claims to represent both areas, and there is widespread sympathy among West Bank Palestinians for their brethren in Gaza.

Barzak reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Associated Press writers Hamza Hendawi in Cairo, and Karin Laub in Gaza City contributed to this report.

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