A coalition of British aid and human rights groups says the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is the worst since Israel first occupied the territory more than 40 years ago.

In a report Thursday, the eight British-based groups called for an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza, saying the measures taken are illegal under international humanitarian law.

The aid groups, which include Amnesty International and Oxfam, said the blockade has dismantled the economy and impoverished the population.  The groups also urged Palestinian militants to stop "indiscriminate rocket attacks" on southern Israel.

Israel imposed the blockade after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza in June.

In violence Thursday, the Israeli army says one of its soldiers was killed and three others wounded when a bomb destroyed their jeep along the Israel-Gaza border.  The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

Elsewhere, Palestinian medics say an Israeli attack in northern Gaza killed a Palestinian militant.  Israel has not commented on the incident.

The new violence follows a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who secured pledges from Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had suspended the talks on Sunday to protest an Israeli offensive in Gaza that killed more than 120 Palestinian militants and civilians.  Israel carried out the offensive in response to daily Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel.


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