Ehud Olmert and Condoleezza Rice agreed that stopping terrorist rocket fire from the Gaza Strip takes priority over relieving the Palestinian plight there.
The Israeli prime minister and U.S. secretary of state held a breakfast meeting Thursday in Japan, where their paths crossed during separate official visits.
Rice, who will travel to Israel and the West Bank next week to promote a U.S. initiative for helping the Palestinian economy, told Olmert she was concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza amid a surge in fighting this week.
“I am concerned about the humanitarian conditions there and innocent people in the Gaza who are being hurt. We have to remember that the Hamas activities there are responsible for what has happened in Gaza,” Rice told reporters, referring to cross-rocket attacks by the Islamist group.
“The issue is that the attacks – rocket attacks – need to stop,” she said.
Responding to stepped-up attacks, Israeli forces killed 18 Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank in several airstrikes Thursday.
Olmert, who was to fly home later Thursday, indicated that Israel’s current priority is crushing the rocket threat rather than relieving Gaza’s civilian problems.
“We are at the height of the fighting,” he said. “We will make the terrorists pay a very painful price.”