Russia calls for halt to attacks on Gaza, southern Israel

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The Russian Foreign Ministry urged on Monday the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to stop attacks on Gaza and the south of Israel, and also expressed Moscow's concerns over the worsening situation.
MOSCOW, November 17 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Foreign Ministry urged on Monday the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to stop attacks on Gaza and the south of Israel, and also expressed Moscow's concerns over the worsening situation.

Palestinian rocket attacks and retaliatory Israeli strikes have broken a five-month truce brokered by Egypt in June, and led to the resumption of an Israeli blockade of the border with the Gaza Strip on October 30.

"The situation in the south of Israel and in Gaza has escalated over the past two weeks. Such a development of the situation cannot but cause us to have serious concerns," Andrei Nesterenko, a spokesman for the ministry, said.

At least 17 Palestinian militants have been killed since November 4, when Israeli troops went into the enclave to destroy a tunnel which Israel claimed had been dug as part of planned operations to abduct its soldiers.

Gaza has been ruled by the radical Islamic group Hamas since last June.

According to the Israeli military, at least 170 rockets and mortar shells have been fired by Palestinian militants at adjacent Israeli territory since then.

"We believe that under the current circumstance it is necessary to stop the rocket attacks and the violence," Nesterenko said.

He also said that the Russian ministry was particularly concerned with the humanitarian situation in Gaza and that the blockade of the region was unacceptable. Israel briefly lifted the blockade on Monday to allow in powdered milk and food.

The Russian statement came as Israel's outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for their latest round of talks in the troubled peace process.

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