At least three Palestinians are killed in raids throughout the territory.
“He would see the medical supplies that have stopped coming in to Gaza, the shortage of fuel following the Israeli decision to reduce the amount of fuel piped across the border and the periodic shutting down of the power stations.
“If George W Bush ever came to Gaza, he would see the ordinary people who do not fire Qassam missiles over the border into Israel. He would experience the darkness of an existence that Gazans believe results from the collective punishment of a civilian population supposedly prohibited by international law.”
Negotiating sessions since the gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, in late November have been marred by Israeli construction plans in disputed territory and violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will discuss procedural matters, including which negotiators will be assigned to thrash out the various issues that divide the two sides.
Olmert is to host Abbas at his Jerusalem residence for their second meeting since they relaunched peace talks at a US conference in late
Israeli settlements and army operations against Palestinian fighters – key sources of discord – are due to feature prominently in Tuesday’s meeting and during the Bush visit.
So far in January, the death toll among Palestinians has risen to 19 while 25 have been injured. Israel recently completed a raid on Nablus in the West Bank during which it arrested several Palestinians.
Israeli forces moved into Gaza after a series of rocket attacks from the territory into southern Israel.
Mustafa al-Barghouti, the head of the political movement the Palestinian National Initiative, blamed Israel for the deadlock at a news conference on Tuesday.
“Israel’s impunity has increased after Annapolis, and we fear further Israeli military escalation after Bush’s visit,” al-Barghouti told a news conference.
“Nothing will change and the situation will not improve as long as Israel maintains its 562 checkpoints, continues the building of thousands of housing units in more than 800 settlements, and continues building the segregation wall and has not dismantled a single settlement.”
The Israeli view
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Mark Regev, spokesman for Olmert, defended the Israeli military operations.
He said: “We’ve got a situation where the Palestinian security services need to get their act together need to rebuilt, need to be retrained. They need to have their capabilities improved.
“That’s not just the Israeli position, that’s the position of the Arab world, the Europeans, of everyone who has following this process. And so I will say publically and clearly: when Palestinain security is ready to meet the challenges, then Israeli security will not have any need to act.
“If Israel, were to allow a security vaccum to develop in the West Bank … who would enter that security vaccum? Only the extremists.
“And not only would innocent people be killed, but you would see the peace process be killed.”
In another development, Haaretz, the Israeli daily, has reported that the government had refused to publish a report containing full details of settlement constructions, including outposts and neighbourhoods built across the Green Line.
In response to a high court petition on the matter, the defence ministry is arguing that publication would harm state security and Israel‘s foreign relations.
Haaretz and Maariv also said that the Israeli housing ministry was pushing for the construction of more than 1,000 units on lands “held by absentee Palestinians” from the Bethlehem area to expand the settlement of Har Homa.
Har Homa is built on confiscated Palestinian land in Jabal Abu Ghnaim in occupied East Jerusalem.