The Bush administration called again Monday for a “sustainable cease-fire” in the Mideast and demanded that Hamas stop its attacks on Israel.
Spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters in Texas that President Bush had a detailed briefing early Monday by video conferencing with Vice President Dick Cheney, White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and national security adviser Stephen Hadley.
Johndroe blamed the militant Hamas organization for the latest wave in violence, saying that it broke a six-month cease-fire agreement arranged by Egypt. He said that Hamas has “shown its true colors as a terrorist organization.”
At the same time, Johndroe said the United States has asked Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
But the spokesman declined to respond to questions about whether the United States believes Israel is ready to launch a ground attack on Gaza.
He said that Bush had spoken early Monday with King Abdullah of Jordan, and had spoken on Saturday with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Johndroe said the Israeli actions were “in response to the mortar and rocket attacks on Israel” and said that the United States has asked Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
Johndroe also said that parties on all sides should clear the way for humanitarian assistance such as food and medical supplies in Gaza.
Asked if the administration believes it permissible for Israel to launch attacks in Gaza, Johndroe said, the spokesman replied: “The United States understands that Israel needs to take actions to defend itself.”
Johndroe repeated that President-elect Barack Obama is getting daily intelligence briefings “and we will continue to stay in touch with his staff as developments warrant.”
Johndroe said that “at this time” there are no plans for Bush to speak on the issue.
He said he did not want to speculate too heavily on the impact the new violence will have on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Asked why Hamas broke the cease-fire, “You know, it’s hard for me to get into the minds of terrorists … so it’s impossible for me to answer.”
Asked if the Israelis would be justified in seeking to destroy Hamas if it does not renounce further rocket attacks, he said, “I think what people want is peace on the ground and an end to the violence so people can go about living normal lives, and especially people in southern Israel, who spend so much time living in bomb shelters. It’s unacceptable.”
He said the ultimate goal of Israelis is “for their people to be able to live in peace.”