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BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to halt six days of clashes that have killed scores of civilians, saying the violence would only add to the tensions in the Middle East.
China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council with veto powers, has traditionally had a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, but has maintained close relations with the Palestinians for decades.
In recent years, it has also cultivated good ties with Israel, especially in the field of defence.
"China is extremely concerned about Israel's continued large-scale military operations towards the Gaza Strip. We condemn the over-use of force causing deaths and injuries amongst innocent ordinary people," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
"China supports Arab countries' position on the Palestine issue, and appreciates and supports the proactive efforts of Egypt and other countries and the Arab League to ameliorate the present situation," she added.
"We strongly urge relevant parties, especially Israel, to maintain maximum restraint and cease fire as soon as possible, to avoid any actions which may exacerbate the situation or raise tensions."
Israel bombed dozens of suspected guerrilla sites on the Gaza Strip on Monday and Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave dropped off as international efforts to broker a truce intensified.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Miral Fahmy