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Violence accompanies Bush visit (AP)
Published at 10 January 2008, 16:36 GMT

An Israeli woman stands next to tiles that fell off the roof of a house hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip that landed in the town of Sderot, southern Israel, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip bombarded southern Israel with rocket and mortar fire Wednesday, striking a house in a border town shortly before President Bush arrived in the Mideast to try to build momentum for stalled peace talks. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)The Israeli military fired at Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing three people, after a rocket hit a house in a battered Israeli border town just as President Bush began his Mideast peace mission.

Palestinians fired at least 13 rockets and mortar shells from Gaza at Israel, and at least eight exploded in Israel, police said. Two hit houses in Sderot, just half a mile from the Gaza border fence, a frequent target of the crude, homemade Gaza projectiles.

The Israeli military hit back after both rocket strikes in the town. Before Bush arrived, the military said it targeted three militants who fired rockets at Israel, and Palestinian medics said one was killed. Another six people were wounded.

One rocket hit the home of Sderot resident Danny Dahan. Speaking from the hospital where he was treated for shock, he told Army Radio he had several close calls in recent years. In the Wednesday attack, the rocket tore through the ceiling and landed on his son's bed.

"Rockets have been raining on this town for years and no one is doing anything," a sobbing Dahan told the radio. He did not suffer serious injuries. Just after Bush arrived in Israel at midday, another rocket exploded in Sderot, hitting a house. No one was hurt, police said.

The military hit back with ground fire, aiming for the rocket squad. Palestinian hospital officials said two civilians were killed, a woman and a young man. Four people were wounded. Palestinian militants have been firing rockets and mortars at Israel nearly every day for months. The small, primitive projectiles cause little damage and few casualties, but they have badly disrupted life in Israeli towns and villages around Gaza.

Before the Bush visit, defense officials said army commanders were instructed to scale back operations against Gaza militants while Bush was in the area. After militants fired a higher-power, longer-range Katyusha rocket at an Israeli city last week, Israel stepped up its counterstrikes in Gaza, targeting buildings the military said were used by militants. Until then, Israel's strikes were pinpoint operations aimed at rocket squads and commanders of militant groups.

In Gaza on Wednesday, thousands of Islamic Hamas supporters chanted "Death to America!" and watched an effigy of Bush go up in flames, as they protested the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the West Bank.

Thousands of Islamic Hamas supporters chanted "Death to America" and watched an effigy of George W. Bush go up in flames Wednesday, as they protested the U.S. president's visit to Israel and the West Bank.
During his eight-day Mideast mission, Bush's challenge is to convince skeptical governments that with just a year remaining in his presidency and Americans deep in the process of selecting his successor, he is willing to devote the time and effort necessary to bridge decades of differences between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed in a meeting Tuesday to instruct their negotiators to begin tackling the core issues of a peace agreement borders, Palestinian refugees and sovereignty over Jerusalem.
An ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he believed Bush's visit would help the sides reach an agreement.

"I am happy that we are beginning to talk on the subjects that perhaps we should have begun to talk about earlier," Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio. "Both sides pay heed to his (Bush's) requests and his wishes and his visit will certainly accelerate the talks."


By Mark Lavie, Associated Press Writer
World news from Yahoo
 
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