The Bush administration says it is working to restore a sustainable
cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, as
both sides trade fire in the Gaza Strip conflict.
A White House spokesman (Gordon Johndroe) told reporters Monday in Crawford, Texas, (near President Bush's ranch) that the United States understands Israel is defending itself against continuing rocket and mortar attacks from Hamas militants in Gaza. He blamed Hamas for the failure of the cease-fire.
The spokesman said the U.S. is urging Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza. He said President Bush has spoken with the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan about efforts to stop the violence.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman (Gordon Duguid) said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also is working to rebuild the cease-fire, and has held talks with Israeli, Egyptian and Saudi officials on the issue.
He said U.S. officials are not engaged in talks with Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization. But he said U.S. officials are in touch with parties, such as Egypt, who do have dialogue with Hamas.
The spokesman said Secretary Rice has briefed officials from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's transition team on her Gaza diplomacy, as well as aides to Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton.
Officials from the Obama transition team have said little about the Gaza crisis, deferring to the outgoing Bush administration.