U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States wants a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas as soon as possible, but that it must be more sustainable than the previous truce.
Rice said Friday the Bush administration does not want a return to the situation last month when an Egyptian-mediated truce was routinely broken by Hamas rocket fire into Israel. Rice says she has been in contact with key Arab states, Israel and European allies to find a solution to the Gaza conflict. She also says she has no plans to travel to the Middle East at this time.
Today, Friday, Israel allowed 300 foreign passport holders to leave the Gaza Strip. Israel pressed on Friday with its air strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, destroying buildings and a mosque in northern Gaza. Homes of senior Hamas officials were among the sites targeted.
On the Gaza border, Israeli troops and tanks remained massed preparing for a possible ground invasion. Hamas vowed revenge Friday, one day after an Israeli air strike killed cleric Nizar Rayyan. He was the first top Hamas leader to die in the offensive, which began about a week ago. A Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan said options for revenge include suicide bombings and striking at Israeli targets everywhere.
The Israeli offensive is aimed at stopping Hamas militants from firing rockets at Israel, but it has not halted such attacks. A rocket hit an apartment building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. One person was wounded.
There were huge protest Friday across the Middle East and around the world, condemning Israel's military offensive in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank town of Ramallah waved banners and chanted slogans in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Gaza. Anti-Israel demonstrations also took place in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.
There were other protests in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.Israel's seven-day offensive has killed more than 420 Palestinians and wounded about two-thousand others.
The United Nations says about a quarter of the Palestinians killed have been civilians. Hamas's rocket attacks have killed four Israelis, three of them civilians, since the conflict began.