China, whose public support for the Palestinians has been a key characteristic of its policy in the Middle East, Wednesday said it would host an envoy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the crisis in Gaza.

The envoy, secretary-general of the Palestinian People's Party Bassam Al-Salhi, would be in China from Thursday for a three-day trip, Reuters reported quoting Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

"China is paying great attention to the present situation in Gaza," Hua said. "China has been in close touch with Israel, Palestine and other countries, and has called on all sides, especially Israel, to exercise maximum restraint and cease fire as soon as possible to avoid the situation worsening."

"We support the necessary steps taken by the international community, especially the U.N. Security Council," she said. "China will continue to use its own means to work hard to ameliorate the situation between Israel and Palestine and maintain peace and stability in the region."

She reiterated China’s support for the Security Council efforts to condemn the escalating violence, in response to increased calls from the international community, including the Arab world.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had called the Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to declare support for Cairo’s efforts to broker a ceasefire agreement, news agencies reported.

China was the first non-Arab state to offer diplomatic recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and had also refused to recognize the Israel’s status as an independent state.  

However, much water has flowed under the bridge since and Beijing has cultivated good ties with Israel, especially in defense cooperation.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks in Jerusalem seeking a truce in a bid to evade a ground incursion by Israeli troops.

Though there were indications of a likely ceasefire by late Tuesday following the talks mediated by the Egyptian government, by the time Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early Wednesday, ceasefire seemed elusive as the demands put forth by the belligerents remain far apart.

Israeli missiles pounded a key compound of the Hamas government in an overnight attack that killed three Palestinians, BBC reported. Militants fired 29 rockets into Israel overnight and news agencies reported a bus explosion in Tel Aviv as Wednesday progressed.