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Rice Discusses Gaza Violence with Palestinian, Israeli Leaders

18 May 2007

United States blames Hamas for fueling violence

Washington -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert May 17 to express U.S. concern over factional violence in the Gaza Strip that has left scores of people dead in less than a week.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack May 18 confirmed the telephone conversations between Rice and Olmert and Abbas but he declined to provide details of the calls. “[T]he U.S. government wants to see an end to the violence … because the victims here are the Palestinian people, innocent Palestinian people,” McCormack told reporters.

Nearly 50 people have been killed and dozens wounded in recent clashes between Hamas militants loyal to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Fatah forces loyal to Abbas. The eruption in violence comes two months after the parties entered into a Saudi-brokered national unity government.

McCormack blamed Hamas for fueling the violence through attacks on Palestinian security forces.  “They need to bring an end to it.  And they also, beyond that, need to take those steps that the international community has asked them to take and that really the Palestinian people want them to take in the name of potentially realizing a Palestinian state,” he said.

The international community has demanded that Hamas renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and respect all existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians as a condition for international engagement with the Hamas-led government.

McCormack also condemned Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel.  More than 80 rockets have fallen in and around the Israeli city of Sderot over the past week prompting Israeli strikes on Hamas installations in the Gaza Strip.

McCormack said Israel has the right to defend itself but urged Israeli leaders to be mindful of the consequences an escalation in violence might produce.  He said U.S. officials have spoken to Israel about the need to protect Palestinian infrastructure and innocent life.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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