Friday 2 January 2009

US worried by 'very bad daily life' in Gaza

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the Gaza situation is worrisome, as Israeli strikes on the strip continue for a seventh day.

"Obviously, the United States is very concerned about the situation there and is working very hard with our partners around the world," Condoleezza Rice told reporters Friday in a short statement outside the White House.

She, however, said she has no plans to travel to the Middle East to deal with the Gaza crisis. "I have no plans to go at this point."

At least 430 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli strikes on Gaza, which started on Saturday. Some 2,250 others are reported wounded.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas-linked compounds in the region to stop Hamas' retaliatory rocket attacks. Meanwhile, the UN says that at least 25 percent of the victims are civilians.

Rice claimed the Palestinian Hamas movement is responsible for provoking the ongoing bombardments of Gaza, adding that the group is holding the people of Gaza "hostage".

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade since Hamas took control of the area in mid-June 2007 -- and after it won the majority vote in the 2006 Palestinian election.

She said Palestinians living in Gaza have had "a very bad daily life" as a result of Hamas action in the coastal sliver.

Rice pledged to continue to work to reach a "durable and sustainable" cease-fire in Gaza; however, she warned that a ceasefire that would not allow "a re-establishment of the status quo ante" in the region.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Hamas is ready to stop its rocket attacks if Tel Aviv agrees to lift the 18-month blockade of Gaza.

In the meantime, Hamas has continued its retaliatory attacks on Israel, killing at least 6 Israelis and wounding some 16 others.

On Wednesday, Israel's security cabinet rejected an international proposal for a 48-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid to enter the beleaguered strip.

As the death toll continues to rise in Gaza, Israeli tanks and troops massed along the Gaza border are reportedly preparing for a ground incursion into the coastal sliver.

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