Kerry in Israel on new Mideast peace push

Kerry in Israel on new Mideast peace push
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands before a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem January 2, 2014.

JERUSALEM - US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders Friday as he pushes a framework for Middle East peace talks, amid growing tension on the ground.

Kerry arrived in Israel Thursday and held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, launching what is expected to be an intense four days of shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Early Friday the problems involved were amply illustrated as Israeli war planes carried out a series of strikes in the Gaza Strip, shortly after a rocket from the Palestinian enclave struck the Jewish state.

A statement from the army said that "in response to rocket fire toward Israel", its "aircraft targeted a terror infrastructure site in the central Gaza Strip and three concealed rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip".

There were no immediate reports of injuries in Gaza.

Late Thursday night a projectile fired from the Islamist Hamas-run enclave hit southern Israel, a police spokeswoman told AFP, causing no harm or damage.

Kerry's initial meeting with Netanyahu, which included a joint dinner, lasted five hours, officials said.

The top US diplomat was due to meet his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman Friday morning before meeting again with Netanyahu, then heading to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.

Kerry has faced fierce opposition from both sides to any compromise on mostly irreconcilable demands since he kick-started direct negotiations in July after a three-year hiatus.

His latest visit, the 10th since March, comes with Palestinian and Israeli leaders accusing each other of lacking serious commitment to achieving a lasting peace.

"I plan to work with both sides more intensely in these next days to narrow the differences on a framework that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations," Kerry told reporters before meeting Netanyahu.

"An agreed framework would be a significant breakthrough."

Netanyahu repeated that he did not believe the Palestinians were taking the process seriously.

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