WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Bush blamed Hamas for the current Gaza Strip operation and said a cease-fire must end the group’s rocket fire.
“This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. “Eighteen months ago Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup, and since then has imported thousands of guns and rockets and mortars. Egypt brokered a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, but Hamas routinely violated that cease-fire by launching rockets into Israel.”
Israel launched major aerial attacks on Gaza a week ago, a week after Hamas ended the cease-fire with a massive intensification of rocket attacks on southern Israel. On Saturday, Israel launched a ground operation.
“The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful cease-fire that is fully respected,” Bush said. “Another one-way cease-fire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable, and promises from Hamas will not suffice. There must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly canceled plans to visit the region this week to broker a cease-fire. Such a deal likely will not be in place until after President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated on Jan. 20.