Clinton Sent to Seek Peace in Gaza

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to the Middle East amid continuing violence between Israel and Hamas, the White House announced.

“Secretary Clinton and the president spoke about the situation in Gaza … and they agreed that it makes sense for the secretary to travel to the region,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Tuesday, according to a White House transcript.

Rhodes said that Clinton, who is accompanying the president on his three-country tour of Asia and attending the ASEAN summit in Cambodia, would leave today to “travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo.”

Clinton’s trip comes amid reports that Hamas is expected to announce a ceasefire late Tuesday.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, whom the administration has pressed to stem attacks from Hamas on Israel, on Tuesday also predicted an end to the violence soon.

“The efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours,” Morsi said, according to Egypt’s MENA news agency.

Morsi’s statement comes as President Obama on Tuesday talked to him for the third time in 24 hours while flying home from his trip to Asia.

“It was an opportunity for them to continue the discussions they’ve been having and to speak in advance of Secretary Clinton’s arrival in the region,” Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president.

“President Obama underscored once again the importance of working for a de-escalation to the conflict in Gaza. He commended President Morsi’s efforts to pursue a de-escalation. And he also underscored that President Morsi’s efforts reinforce the important role that President Morsi and Egypt play on behalf of regional security and the pursuit of broader peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

Clinton is slated to meet with Morsi later this week, but will first speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday.

Rhodes added that Clinton would also meet with officials from the Palestinian Authority but would not speak to representatives from Hamas.

“The United States does not engage directly with Hamas. Hamas has not met the conditions that we’ve set for many years — to renounce terrorism, to recognize Israel’s right to exist and to abide by pre-existing agreements. So we do not engage directly with Hamas,” said Rhodes.

The White House on Tuesday reiterated its support for Israel’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.


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