The U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that she ‘had concerns’ over the Israeli attacks on the Palestinian Gaza Strip, due to the recurring deaths of Palestinian civilians during the attacks.

Rice made her statement during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the Japanese capital Tokyo on Thursday. Rice and Olmert are in Tokyo for an economic conference.

Olmert warned that he will make those who launch Palestinian homemade shells ‘pay a high price’.

This week, Israeli army attacks on the Palestinian coastal region have so far left 18 Palestinians dead. Among those killed were eight civilians, including four children. Palestinian homemade shells this week have left one Israeli man dead and four others lightly injured.

Secretary Rice added her concern over the escalation of violence, risking the peace efforts between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Since the start of 2008, Israeli military officials have been pushing a wide scale military operation in Gaza, stating that this is necessary to to counter the homemade Palestinian shells.

Secretary Rice is expected to arrive in the Middle East later next week to boost the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. The talks were revived during last November’s Washington-sponsored Annapolis summit, in which both sides agreed to reach a peaceful settlement by the end of 2008.