Hamas to blame for violence: US

Hamas to blame for violence: US Crawford (Texas), Dec 27: The United States blamed Hamas "thugs" for provoking bloody Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip and said they would end when the Islamist movement halts its rocket fire on the Jewish state.

"If Hamas stops firing rockets into Israel, then Israel would not have a need for strikes in Gaza," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters yesterday.

"What we've got to see is Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel."

US President George W Bush, on his Texas ranch to usher in 2009, discussed the fighting with Saudi King Abdullah, US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Johndroe.

"The United States is deeply concerned about the escalating violence in Gaza," Rice said in a statement urging "all concerned to protect innocent lives and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza."

"We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there. The ceasefire must be restored immediately and fully respected," she said.

She was referring to a six-month truce mediated by Egypt, which ended on December 19, when Hamas refused to renew it.

Johndroe urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties and expressed concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, but pinned the responsibility for ending the fighting entirely on Hamas.

Bureau Report