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Ed Miliband condemns new Israeli settlements

Labour leader Ed Miliband has condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank and warned they pose a "mortal threat" to hopes of securing a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.

Ed Miliband has met children in the West Bank today Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Mr Miliband, who is an atheist of Jewish descent, said he was a supporter of "the homeland for the Jewish people" but has made clear he does not give blanket backing to the actions of the Israeli government.

The Labour leader made his strongest criticism yet during a visit to the Middle East, blasting the policy as "wrong and illegal."

The Labour leader said: "What I have seen today shows that the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian West Bank is not only wrong and illegal but represents a mortal threat to the two-state solution and to a successful outcome of the peace process."

He is on the last leg of a three-day visit and will stay overnight in Ramallah, in central West Bank, tonight - the first leading British politician to be able to do so as a result of improved security conditions.

Israel cancels release of Palestinian prisoners

Israel has cancelled its last release of Palestinian prisoners because of the Palestinians' push for recognition at the United States, Israel's chief negotiator said. Tzipiz Livni said the decision to seek accessions through the UN violated the terms set for the prisoners' release.

The impasses over the prisoners throws further doubts about the outcome of the US-led peace negotiations. The talks had been scheduled to last until the end of the month, but both sides appear to be wavering.

For the families of those Palestinians due for release, the decision brings fresh heartache as their hopes are dashed at the last minute. Middle East Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports.

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John Kerry joins Middle East peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane upon his arrival at Ben Gurion International airport. Credit: Reuters

US secretary of state John Kerry is heading back to the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as peace negotiations hit a critical make-or-break point.

The US state department said Mr Kerry will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories amid a flurry of diplomatic activity by American mediators, in the hope of salvaging the troubled negotiations and getting them to extend the talks beyond a current late-April deadline.

Israel bombs Syrian positions after roadside attack

An Israeli army officer listens to a soldier who was wounded during the attack.
An Israeli army officer listens to a soldier who was wounded during the attack. Credit: REUTERS/Moran Mayan/Jinipix

Israel have launched air strikes against Syrian military sites near the town of Qunaitra in retaliation for a roadside bombing on Tuesday, that wounded four soldiers.

The bomb was detonated near an Israeli patrol along a fence between the Golan Heights and a section under Syrian control.

One of the four wounded soldiers was critically injured in the roadside bomb. In retaliation, the Israeli air strikes killed one and wounded seven others, Syria's armed forces said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet "Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us."

Israel claims rockets fired from Gaza for second day

The Israel Defence Force said rockets have been fired on Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the second day in a row:

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BREAKING: #Gaza terrorists just fired their 8th rocket at #Israel today. The #IronDome system intercepted it above Netivot

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UPDATE: The 3 #Gaza rockets that were fired several minutes ago hit the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, raising the toll to 7 rockets today

The rocket attacks came on the second day of Prime Minister David Cameron's trip to the Middle East designed, to bolster efforts to rekindle the stalled peace process.

Cameron hears Palestinian concerns 'over a cup of tea'

David Cameron said he spent some of the day "hearing about Palestinian concerns over a cup of tea and falafel" with the Mayor of Bethlehem, Vera Baboun.

Prime Minister David Cameron takes a drink with the Mayor of Bethlehem Vera Baboun.
Prime Minister David Cameron takes a drink with the Mayor of Bethlehem Vera Baboun. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

He met young Palestinian business people from east Jerusalem and spoke by video-link to three young women in the Gaza Strip, where he said the current situation was "unacceptable", to ask them about their hopes for the peace process.

Prime Minister David Cameron is shown around Bethlehem by Mayor Vera Baboun.
Prime Minister David Cameron is shown around Bethlehem by Mayor Vera Baboun. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The Prime Minister also took time out from his round of discussions to visit the site considered to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Church of the Nativity.

David Cameron looks into the manger where it is believed Jesus Christ was born in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
David Cameron looks into the manger where it is believed Jesus Christ was born in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

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Cameron tells Abbas peace is 'certainly possible'

David Cameron said both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will "have to take difficult and unpalatable and sometimes unpopular decisions for their constituencies" in order to achieve the peace settlement.

David Cameron meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Speaking alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after talks in Bethlehem, Mr Cameron said about the peace settlement: "I'm not saying it's definite or even probable, but it's certainly possible."

The Prime Minister also held brief talks with his Labour predecessor as premier, Tony Blair, who is now the special envoy of the Quartet of the UN, US, EU and Russia, working on the development of the Palestinian economy.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

Blair: Economy is crucial in Middle East peace process

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is now a special envoy in the Middle East, said economy is vital in the peace process.

"The economic side, which is absolutely vital because if we don't build the Palestinian economy up at the same time as you are pursuing the political negotiation then a state for the Palestinians seems a dream and not a reality," Mr Blair said.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

PM 'sees Israel as homeland for the Jewish people'

David Cameron told ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby he recognises Israel as "the homeland for the Jewish people."

"What we should do is recognise states," the Prime Minister said during his trip to the Middle East.

"It is then up to states to decide what to call themselves, that's the way it should work," Mr Cameron added.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

PM meets Blair in Jerusalem to discuss Middle East

David Cameron met the Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

David Cameron and Tony Blair Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The two spoke for 20 minutes, discussing the peace process.

Asked whether missile attacks could knock the plan off track, Mr Blair said: "The strikes from Gaza just underline and illustrate the depth of the problem.

Read: Cameron meets Abbas and Blair in Middle East peace push

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