JERUSALEM — Amid a sharp increase in militant attacks from the Gaza Strip, Israelis and Palestinians concluded their latest round of peace talks late Wednesday without announcing the hoped-for breakthrough in an impasse over Jewish settlement construction.
Yet U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell offered a glimmer of hope, saying "progress" had been made on the settlement issue, though he gave no details. Israeli and Palestinian officials declined to comment.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, but key challenges remain over Palestinian threats to quit the talks unless Israel promises to halt all housing construction in the occupied West Bank.
Clinton, in her first trip to the Mideast to press negotiations as secretary of state, appeared unable to bridge the differences. Talks will probably resume at next week's U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York, where President Barack Obama is expected to meet personally with the leaders. American officials said Obama's personal intervention might be needed to break the deadlock.
Meanwhile, in response to the renewed peace talks, Gaza militants accelerated their attacks against southern Israel, firing one rocket and eight mortar shells on Wednesday. All landed in open areas, and no injuries or damage were reported. Police said two of the mortars appeared to contain phosphorus. Since Sunday, there have been about two dozen attacks.
Israel's military retaliated with an airstrike Wednesday against a Gaza smuggling tunnel, killing one Palestinian tunnel worker, officials said.