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White House Says Violence in Gaza Will Stop When Hamas Ends Rocket Fire

The Bush administration called for Hamas to stop shooting rockets into Israeli towns if it wants Israel to stop its deadly air offensive in Gaza.

December 29, 2008. "In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire. That is the objective to which all parties need to be working. That is what the United States is working towards," National Security Council Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in Crawford, Texas.

Johndroe said the administration is interested in getting back to the "roadmap" for peace and following the blueprint laid out in 2007 in Annapolis between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party is at odds with Hamas.

"Now no one wants to see violence," Johndroe said in a press conference with reporters. "We have urged the Israelis to avoid civilian casualties but they are working on decreasing the number of Israeli citizens who are vulnerable ... so they are going to continue to deal at this time with the Hamas terrorist threat."

He said President Bush has spoken to several regional leaders, including the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He added that Bush had a detailed briefing early Monday by video conferencing with Vice President Dick Cheney, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and European Union, canceled its participation in a cease-fire earlier this month, and has been sending a barrage of rockets from Gaza and into Israeli border towns.

In response, Israel launched an air offensive over the weekend and has been shelling suspected terror sites, including security outposts, a house next to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh's residence and the Islamic University.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations said her country must do what it can to defend itself from thousands of rockets that have slammed into the country from Gaza over the past eight years.

"We exhausted all the options. We exhausted diplomacy and showed a lot of restraint. Hamas was breaking the state of calm over the last months and years," said Amb. Gabriela Shalev.

Israel's outgoing U.N. ambassador said his country has no plans to reoccupy Gaza, but is determined to end the Hamas barrage.

"We want the Palestinians to govern Gaza. We want it to be a government that cares about the people, cares about raising their own children rather than killing ours," he said.

Johndroe said Hamas could choose to join the peace process and join Abbas, who has taken a more moderate tack toward Israel despite his condemnation of Israel over the latest attacks.

Hamas leaders have instead chosen the path of violence, Johndroe said.

The clashes between Israel and Hamas are another national security concern facing President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office in 23 days. The president-elect took part in intelligence briefings Monday and will speak with his national security team during the evening.

On Sunday, he also spoke to his Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton and incoming National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones.

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the U.S. will continue to stand with a democratic Israel against an Iran-backed Hamas.

"The latest barrage of attacks by these Iranian-sponsored Islamist militants continue a pattern of indiscriminate targeting of innocent men, women and children in Israel that could not go unanswered. Israel had no choice but to defend itself."

FOX News' Craig Boswell contributed to this report.


Obama could inherit Gaza crisis

CNN. December 29, 2008. As the violence rages in Gaza, President Bush is putting the blame squarely on Hamas, while President-elect Barack Obama is keeping a low profile and sticking by his belief that "there is only one president at a time."

But with less than a month until the inauguration, the president-elect could inherit an international crisis -- one he will not be able to defer to Bush.

Israeli airstrikes pummeled Gaza for a third day Monday as part of what Israel's defense minister called "an all-out war" with Hamas. Israel says the attacks are a response to escalating rocket attacks against southern Israel.

Israel has tanks on the border and has approved the call-up of 2,000 reservists, but there was no indication of a Israeli ground incursion Monday. However, Israeli politicians say that all options are on the table. Watch more on the violence in Gaza

When Obama visited war-torn Sderot in July, he declared his unequivocal support for Israel.

"I'm here to say that -- as an American and as a friend of Israel -- that we stand with the people of Sderot and with all the people of Israel," he said.

Obama said that it is in the interest of Israel's security to arrive at a lasting peace with the Palestinians. He also said that Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza.

Asked Sunday if a land invasion would change how the Obama administration views Israel, Obama's senior adviser yielded to Bush.

"The fact is that there is only one president at a time. There's only one president who can speak for America at a time. And that president now is George Bush," David Axelrod said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

The president-elect is said to be monitoring the situation closely. He has been in contact with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton, the incoming secretary of state.

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen said that the Obama administration probably will now put the situation on the "front burner."

"They've got a big job ahead of them to stay firm for Israel, but make the Palestinians trust them enough to come to the table," she said.

Obama has pledged to make Middle East peace a priority from the beginning of his presidency. Arabs are calling for a more even-handed approach than the Bush administration, but Israel is expecting Obama to stay true to the pro-Israel posture he showed during the campaign.

Obama also has said he believes that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel, remarks that have caused concern among some Palestinian leaders.

Earlier in the summer, his campaign spent several days clarifying his position after he said in a speech that Jerusalem should not be divided. Obama said he used "poor phrasing."

"The point we were simply making was, is that we don't want barbed wire running through Jerusalem ... that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent," he said.

Obama said it was in the interest of Israel's security to arrive at a lasting peace with the Palestinians.

"I think if you look at the signals President-elect Barack Obama put forward in the campaign, he was talking about defending Israel. I think you are going to see a lot of caution as they move forward strategically," said Leslie Sanchez, a Republican strategist and CNN contributor.

Asked Sunday if the Obama administration would be as supportive of Israel as the Bush administration has been, Axelrod said the president-elect would "honor" what he sees as "the special relationship between the United States and Israel."

"But he will do so in a way that will promote the cause of peace, and work closely with the Israelis and the Palestinians on that -- toward that objective," he said.

But one analyst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cautioned against putting "dangerously high" expectations on the incoming administration.

"I think the tone of American politics will change: You're going to get a serious effort on behalf of the new administration," said Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center and a former adviser to six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli relations.

But, he told CNN, "the fact is that unless the Israelis and Palestinians are prepared -- which they're not right now -- to take the political decisions required to overcome the gaps and to sell an agreement to their respective constituents, there's not much a new president, no matter how bold or charismatic he may be, is going to be able to do about that."

Source: Fox News & CNN News.