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Rice: US Agrees With Israel That Gaza is a 'Hostile Entity'

19 September 2007

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States agrees with Israel that the Gaza Strip is a "hostile entity" now that it is controlled by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

But Rice also says the United States will not abandon the innocent Palestinians in the impoverished strip. She spoke to reporters in Jerusalem Wednesday after holding talks with Israeli officials.

Earlier Wednesday, Israel's Security Cabinet decided to declare the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity," paving the way for cuts in vital supplies to the territory. Israeli officials said the move is in response to continuing cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The decision came as Rice began a two-day visit to the Middle East to lay the groundwork for a planned U.S.-sponsored conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace and Palestinian statehood.

Rice will hold talks in the West Bank Thursday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice will try to narrow the gap between the Israeli and Palestinian visions for a document on Palestinian statehood that the two sides are trying to hammer out. The document is to be presented at the international conference expected in November in the United States. Israel wants a vague declaration. The Palestinians want commitments on core issues.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation. But it controls Gaza's borders, air space and coastal waters.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after deadly fighting with the rival Fatah faction headed by Mr. Abbas. Mr. Abbas dismissed the Hamas-led Palestinian government and appointed a new administration based in the West Bank.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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