JERUSALEM — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany started a three-day visit to Israel on Sunday, acknowledging Germany's "historical responsibility" to the Jewish state and stressing her country's commitment to help resolve the Mideast conflict.

Merkel was greeted at Ben-Gurion International Airport by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an honor guard and many of the country's political and religious leaders. The highlight of her visit will be her address to Parliament on Tuesday, where she is expected to underline Germany's deep commitment to defending Israel and its right to exist.

The speech, the first by a German chancellor to the Knesset, has angered some lawmakers because of the memories of the Holocaust. Israel won independence 60 years ago after the Nazi genocide. About 250,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel.

At the welcoming ceremony, Olmert expressed appreciation for Merkel's "extraordinary friendship, your deep understanding of Israel's security needs and the unwavering commitment you and Germany have shown to Israel's security." He also praised her "inspirational courage" in the battle against terrorism and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Merkel said that during her visit, "we will discuss Germany's historical responsibility" as well as future projects "to make the world a better place," according to a translation of her remarks. She also expressed a commitment to help to resolve the 60-year-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Merkel arrived at a time of heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, whose joint goal of reaching a peace agreement by the end of the year has been compromised by resurgent violence and Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state. Peace efforts are expected to figure high on her agenda, though the chancellor will not be meeting with Palestinian leaders during her visit.

Israeli airstrikes killed three Palestinian militants and wounded six Saturday, The Associated Press reported from Gaza, citing Palestinian medical and security officials.

They said the dead and wounded were all members of the Islamic Jihad group, hit in three separate raids in central and northern Gaza.