Bush pressing for cease-fire


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Bush administration is in consultations with leaders in the Middle East to bring about a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Gordon Johndroe, Bush’s spokesman, once again emphasized that the United States blames Hamas for the fighting, when he announced efforts by President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to bring about an end to the fighting. 

"Hamas has once again shown its true colors as a terrorist organization that refuses to even recognize Israel’s right to exist," he said in a statement issued Monday at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. "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, and that is what the United States is working towards."

Israel launched a major air assault against Hamas institutions in Gaza on Saturday, a week after Hamas refused to renew a fragile cease-fire and two weeks after the terrorist group began to intensify rocket assaults on southern Israel.

Johndroe said that Bush and Rice had been in touch with a number of Middle East leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Saudi King Abdullah and Jordanian King Abdullah II. Johndroe also pressed the sides to facilitate humanitarian relief to Gaza. 

"We ask that all parties involved allow food and medical supplies to reach the people there," he said. "We appreciate the efforts of a variety of countries in the region who are working to help the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza."

Israel has in recent days allowed limited emergency supplies to reach Gaza. Separately, the State Department announced that the United States pledged $85 million in relief assistance to the Palestinians for 2009 to be channeled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

"The United States reiterates its deep concern about the escalating violence in Gaza and commends UNRWA’s important work meeting the emergency needs of civilians in Gaza at this very difficult time," the department said in announcing the pledge. "We hold Hamas fully responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence. We call on all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza, by facilitating necessary access into Gaza for UNRWA and other humanitarian organizations."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner spoke twice on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak about implementing a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire, according to reports.

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