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The United States have strongly criticized Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi for anti-Semitic remarks he apparently made before being elected president.

TV footage shows Mohamed Morsi in 2010 referring to Zionists as “bloodsuckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs”.

US officials want the leader to clarify his “deeply offensive” comments, which they say run counter to Middle East peace efforts.

Egypt receives around $1.5 billion in annual US military and economic aid.

The financial support is linked to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, which the US considers a cornerstone of regional stability.

The controversy erupted after the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translated and released Arabic footage of interviews Mohamed Morsi gave in 2010, as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the clip from Palestinian broadcaster Al-Quds TV, Mohamed Morsi referred to Jewish settlers as “occupiers of Palestine” and “warmongers”.

He called for a “military resistance in Palestine against these Zionist criminals assaulting the land of Palestine and Palestinian”.

Mohamed Morsi also denounced the Palestinian Authority, saying it was “created by the Zionists and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people.”

The US have strongly criticized Egypt's Mohamed Morsi for anti-Semitic remarks he apparently made before being elected president

The US have strongly criticized Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi for anti-Semitic remarks he apparently made before being elected president

In another interview, Mohamed Morsi urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred”.

The US State Department said the comments should be repudiated.

“We completely reject these statements, as we do with any language that espouses religious hatred,” the department’s spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“This kind of rhetoric has been used in this region for far too long. It’s counter to the goals of peace.”

The White House called the rhetoric “unacceptable in a democratic Egypt”.

“President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

However, both US officials also highlighted that Mohamed Morsi had shown his commitment to regional peace efforts since taking office in June last year.

The Egyptian leader helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after violence flared up in Gaza in November.

And although he has been openly critical of Israel, Mohamed Morsi also pledged to abide by the peace treaty when he was voted into power.

“What he has been doing is supporting that peace treaty, continuing to work with us and with Israel on common goals, including in Gaza,” Victoria Nuland said.

“But we’ll also judge him by what he says.”

Egypt has been a key US ally since it signed the 1979 peace deal as part of the Camp David Accords.

But observers say fears remain that the new leadership might try to renegotiate the treaty.

“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” Mohamed Morsi told the New York Times shortly after winning the election last year.

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Fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza appears to have calmed after an unofficial truce was reached following days of violence.

Israel said a mortar shell landed in the south of the country on Thursday after no reports of exchanges fighting.

Five Israelis have been wounded since Tuesday amid some of the heaviest barrage of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza in months.

Six Palestinian militants were killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Schools were closed on both sides of the border for fear of more attacks, though some reopened in parts of southern Israel on Thursday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to strike hard at the militants if attacks continued.

“We didn’t ask for this escalation and didn’t initiate it,” he said on Wednesday.

“But if it continues, we are prepared to embark on a far more extensive and penetrating operation.”

If previous ceasefires are anything to go by, there may well be breaches by both sides before calm is fully restored.

Hamas will have to stop other armed groups in Gaza from launching attacks, and the underlying conflict between Palestinian militants and Israel remains; any truce is unlikely to be permanent.

On Wednesday, more than 70 rockets were launched into southern Israel, injuring four people, two critically, according to the Israeli military.

In response, Israeli aircraft and tanks targeted rocket-launching sites in northern Gaza.

Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades, confirmed it had been involved in firing dozens of rockets and mortars into Israel.

In a statement, the Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades and a smaller Gaza-based militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), said: “These holy missions come in response to the repeated, continuous crimes of the enemy against our people.”

The violence comes during a visit to the region by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, to try to revive the stalled Middle East peace process.

Catherine Ashton is due to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad on Thursday, a day after holding talks with Israeli leaders.

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