Ryad Mansour, a Palestinian UN observer, called the council statement "a small step in the right direction" and expressed hope that "we can build on it for a larger involvement" of the council in the situation.

 

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He said he would have preferred a call by the council for a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank, an end to Israeli air strikes and the dispatch of UN observers to monitor the ceasefire.

 

Dan Gillerman, Israel's UN ambassador, reiterated that Israeli attacks against fighters in Gaza and the West Bank would stop only when the Palestinian leadership secures an end to rocket firing into Israel.

 

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' political chief, has said that his group will continue attacks despite Israel's air strikes.

 

Potsdam statement

 

Also on Wednesday, G8 foreign ministers, meeting in Potsdam, Germany, urged Palestinian leaders to stop fighters from firing rockets on Israel  and urged the Israelis to show restraint in their response.

 

"We call on the Palestinian leadership to do everything in its  power to end the firing of rockets into Israeli territory," they said in the German version of the final communique.

Abbas says rocket attacks into Sderot
and other Israeli towns must stop [AFP]

They also called for Israel to "show restraint in its reaction  to these attacks and to refrain from any measures which are not in accordance with international law".

 

The escalating bloodshed in Gaza, which has included fierce factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah, has threatened to torpedo efforts to revive the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

 

Two members of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, were killed early on Wednesday in an Israeli air strike on the east Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources reported.

 

Israeli confirmation

 

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that aircraft had struck "armed terrorists in the Jabalya camp" but provided no further details.

 

A number of people have been injured.

 

Later in the day, two more Palestinians were killed and two others wounded when a car exploded in the West Bank city of Nablus, witnesses and hospital officials said.

 

They said the casualties were men in their 20s. Their identities were not immediately known.

 

Abbas call

The Palestinian president said that before progress could be made, rocket attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip needed to be stopped.

"The international community is questioning us and when we say we are under attack, the response is that we are also launching rockets," he told Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh.

"The truce with Israel should begin with us putting an end to firing rockets. When we stop firing rockets we'll put the ball in the court of the Israelis."

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Nearly 250 rockets have been launched at Israel since May 15, which have killed two civilians and wounded 20 others, the Israeli army said.

Abbas said: "Any assault or air raid against us [after ceasing rocket-fire] becomes unjustified for them and in the eyes of the international community."

"This should be the starting point - rockets must stop."
 
He also said that Israel should halt its assault on the Gaza Strip.
 
"They should be put to the test for a month, and then we can move to the West Bank where incursions and attacks should come to an end."

Abbas and Olmert agreed in March to meet every two weeks, but the two last met on April 15.