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Palestinians Suspend Peace Talks With Israel Over Gaza Bloodshed

The Palestinians have suspended peace negotiations with Israel in response to a deadly incursion into the Gaza Strip. More than 100 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed during the past two days. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed in the offensive, which was launched in response to Palestinian rocket attacks. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the suspension of peace talks, accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Israeli assault on Gaza will only bring more violence.

"We believe that the international community must help us in acquiring and getting a cessation of hostilities immediately," said Saeb Erekat.

The Palestinian Authority was responding to anger which spilled on to the streets of the West Bank.

Palestinians called for revenge, and in the biblical town of Hebron they clashed with Israeli troops, who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. A 14-year-old boy was killed. There were also protests in Lebanon.

Arab states, the European Union, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused Israel of an excessive use of force in Gaza.

But the Israeli army kept up the pressure. In one air strike in Gaza City, missiles destroyed the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says it is a legitimate response to daily Palestinian rocket attacks.

"If you think of how the people in southern Israel have been living with these missiles coming in day after day, week after week, year after year, our response has indeed been proportionate," said Regev. "We will act to defend our people."

The violence is casting doubt over President Bush's goal of a peace agreement by the end of the year. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives here later this week and will try to get the peace process back on track.