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US Pushes for Peace Talks Despite Israeli-Palestinian Unrest

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates shakes hands with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak after a news conference in Tel Aviv, March 24, 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says there is a need and an opportunity for "bold action" between Israel and the Palestinians to move toward a two-state solution in the stalled peace process.

He commented on Thursday during a news conference in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

His visit comes at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli warplanes targeted the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday, a day after Gaza militants fired about a dozen rockets and mortars into southern Israel.

Also, some Israeli officials suspect Palestinian militants were behind a bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday that killed one person and wounded at least 31 others.

Gates called the bombing a "horrific terrorist attack." During Thursday's news conference, Barak commented on the escalation in violence with Palestinians, saying Israel had to respond. He added that Israel was "determined" to bring tranquility back to the region.

The defense secretary is also meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

He arrived in Israel after holding talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on the opposition movements that are sweeping through much of the Middle East.

Gates told Egyptian officials in Cairo that the U.S. will maintain its aid flow after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down last month amid popular protests.

In all, the U.S. has provided roughly $1.5 billion yearly to Egypt in assistance.

Gates also talked about Libya with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the chief of the ruling military council. He discussed a no-fly zone imposed on Libya by a United Nations resolution.

Gates travels to Jordan after wrapping up talks in Israel.

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

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