President Barack Obama has dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo as the U.S. seeks an end to fighting between Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza.
“The goal on that trip is for everybody to use their voices, their influence, for a peaceful outcome,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said today at a briefing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where Obama is attending the East Asia Summit. “The U.S. bottom line is that Hamas must stop rocket attacks on Israel.”
Clinton will begin her trip by meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and assist efforts by regional leaders to end the hostilities between Hamas and Israel, as both sides continued fighting.
After stopping in Jerusalem, Clinton will travel to the West Bank to speak with Palestinian leaders who don’t control Gaza. She will then meet with Egyptian leaders in Cairo, where United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to hold meetings today.
Rhodes stopped short of saying that Clinton would join Egyptian-led efforts to broker a cease-fire and he didn’t specify if she would meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.
“As the president said the other day, we believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, Israel will make decisions about its own security,” Rhodes said. “At the same time, if we can achieve the goal of ending rocket fire peacefully, that’s clearly preferable.”
Palestinians fired 26 rockets into Israel today, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, and Israel continued its attacks on Hamas and related targets in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
Obama has been monitoring the situation during his three- day trip in southeast Asia and spoke to Mursi twice last night. Clinton was traveling with Obama as he visited Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia on his first foreign trip since winning re- election. She departed directly from Phnom Penh this afternoon, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“She’s going because we have been in discussions with these leaders and we want to carry those forward and obviously the center of gravity for those discussions is in the region,” Rhodes said. “I don’t want to predict what the outcome of those discussions will be.”
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