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(photo credit: AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi arrived in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday and held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Koizumi, who on Wednesday met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, is pushing for restraint between the Palestinians and Israelis amid escalating violence over the capture of Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists.
Koizumi, the first Japanese prime minister to visit Israel in 11 years, was to travel to Jordan later Thursday and then to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the annual Group of Eight or G-8 summit of leading industrialized countries.
The Japanese leader was greeted by an honor guard ceremony at the Palestinian presidential offices before meeting with Abbas.
Koizumi was offering new aid to help ease the Palestinians' burden, but an outbreak of violence has completely overshadowed his visit.
Also Thursday, IDF aircraft bombed the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza City, causing heavy damage.
Japanese officials in the delegation have stressed they have no plans to meet with any representatives of Hamas, the Islamist terror group that won elections in January and now controls the Palestinian government.
Hamas has been called a terrorist organization by the United States, and does not recognize Israel.
The new aid announced by Koizumi adds up to roughly US$30 million, delegation officials said, and will focus on medicine, sanitation and creating jobs. The officials, expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in Gaza, said the aid would be directed at helping Palestinians who have been most affected by the rising violence.
Tokyo's $833 million in aid to the Palestinians over the past 12 years already makes Japan the third-largest donor after the United States and the European Union.
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