White House Calls for Gaza Cease Fire

December 29, 2008 11:45:17 AM PST
The latest upsurge in Mideast violence comes at an awkward time for U.S. foreign policy. President Bush has just weeks in office and Barack Obama is taking pains not to step prematurely onto the world stage. Monday, the White House called for a cease-fire, but blamed Hamas for breaking a six-month truce.

The escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, that has claimed at least 315 lives and wounded hundreds more, is provoking rage on Arab streets.

In world capitals, leaders are calling for calm. "Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid curtail civilian casualties," said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The White House said it is working to end the violence, but that Hamas has to agree to a new ceasefire and stop provoking Israel. "For the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets," said White House Spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

What could be President Bush's last international conflict is shaping up to be Barack Obama's first. During a trip to Israel in July, the President-Elect said he would not negotiate with Hamas, and supported Israel's right to defend itself, if provoked. "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

But Obama is still three weeks away from becoming the president.

He is receiving daily intelligence briefings, and is in contact with the State Department officials, but he is letting the Bush Administration take the lead.

"He is monitoring the situation but we've said repeatedly through this transition period that there is only one president at a time. And president bush speaks for the U.S. until January 20th and we're going to honor that," said Obama Advisor David Axelrod.

President Bush, and other world leaders have expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza as food, water, and medical supplies run low.



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