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US Says it Supports Egyptian-French Gaza Cease-Fire Plan

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington supports the Egyptian-French initiative for cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York, Rice said she has held talks with Israel about the plan, which was proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Also Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted the Egyptian-French plan which, calls for a limited cease-fire to take effect immediately, to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israel said it welcomes the plan, but that it will only accept a cease-fire that stops Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, and stops Palestinian militants from re-arming.

Hamas says it is studying the Egyptian-French plan.

The Israeli cabinet says it will push ahead with the offensive while at the same time pursuing the cease-fire option.

Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets over Rafah in southern Gaza, warning people to leave before Israeli forces launch air strikes on the border city.

Rafah has the only crossing between the Palestinian territory and Egypt, but it is largely closed. It also has an extensive network of tunnels into Egypt, used by Hamas militants as well as civilians to smuggle supplies.

The Israeli military has targeted those tunnels in its air strikes in previous days.

The Israelis stopped their attacks for three hours Wednesday to allow a "humanitarian corridor" into beleaguered Gaza, and to allow residents to stock up on vital goods. They said they will consider further temporary cease-fires in the coming days.

Hamas also stopped firing rockets at Israel during the pause, but resume rocket attacks on Israel shortly after the pause expired. There were no injuries reported.

Palestinian medics estimate that Israel's massive air and ground assault has killed more than 700 Palestinians so far.

At least nine Israelis, three of them civilians, have been killed since the campaign began.

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