China is adding its voice to calls for an immediate cease-fire in the latest Middle East crisis - appealing to both sides to stop hostilities.  The Chinese government also announced it is sending humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.  

The Middle East crisis has never been China's main foreign policy priority, but, these days, the fighting in Gaza is front-page news.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters Tuesday that China grieves for the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Qin calls on both sides to immediately stop military actions and disputes.

The Chinese spokesman says his government has done "a lot of work" to help create conditions for a political solution to the dispute.

Chinese President Hu Jintao spoke with President Bush by telephone, Sunday, one day after Israel began its offensive into Gaza.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also spoke, via phone, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had to cancel a trip to China this week because of the crisis.

The Chinese spokesman says his government supports the White House's so-called "roadmap for peace," which calls for two states, Israel and Palestine, to co-exist peacefully.  He says China also supports the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, an Arab League agreement that calls for Israel to completely withdraw to pre-1967 borders, in return for diplomatic relations with Arab countries.

Back in Beijing, the Chinese spokesman says his country is sending one-million dollars worth of assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Qin says China will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, within its capability.

For Chinese people, the Middle East fighting also brought a halt to official tour group travel to Israel.

China and Israel signed an agreement in 2007, in which China put Israel on its so-called "Approved Destination Status" list.  The first batch of 80 Chinese travelers, which included many Chinese Christians, went to Israel in September.  The second group of Chinese tourists went to Israel in December.

Tour operators say a third batch of Chinese tourists has canceled a planned trip that was scheduled during the Chinese Spring Festival holiday, at the end of the month.