Rice to travel to ME for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to the Middle East next week to gauge prospects for peacemaking with Palestinian and Israeli leaders amid a new outbreak of heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza. State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters Wednesday that Rice will be in the Middle East and then at NATO talks March 3-7. In the latest fighting, at least seven Palestinians, including two senior commanders in Hamas' rocket operation, were killed Wednesday. The Israeli military said the targets included sites where Hamas stores its weapons.