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Spain, France and Italy Launch Middle East Peace Initiative


Spain has joined France and Italy in a renewed peace initiative for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the effort Thursday at a summit in Spain with French President Jacques Chirac. He said the initiative includes calling for a prisoner exchange and an immediate ceasefire.

Israeli officials have dismissed the initiative, saying they favor direct talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian authority of President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the European proposal.

In other news, Israel Thursday said its soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian gunman in the West Bank. The Israeli army said troops opened fire when they spotted the gunman at a refugee camp in the city of Nablus.

Late Wednesday, Israel carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip after militants fired rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot, killing an Israeli woman.

One person was injured in the Israeli strikes in Gaza.

Palestinian witnesses say the Israeli air strikes hit the home of a leader of Hamas' armed wing and the home of a member of the Popular Resistance Committees.

In a television address, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged an end to the violence.

Mr. Abbas made the appeal after talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and diplomats from the Middle East peace quartet - the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.

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