Clinton Flies To Middle East For Talks With Israel, Hamas And Egypt

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East Asia Summit
U.S. President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen, as Secretary of State Clinton looks on, at the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh Nov. 20, 2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday hastily departed to the Middle East from Cambodia, where she was accompanying President Barack Obama to attend the East Asia Summit, to join efforts to broker truce between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Clinton would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Palestinian officials in Ramallah, in the West Bank, and Egyptian leaders, who are negotiating a ceasefire, in Cairo, Reuters reported.

Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the U.S. believed "Israel will make its own decisions about the military operations and decisions that it undertakes," but added that Washington hoped Israel, like other countries, “would prefer to see their interests met diplomatically and peacefully.”

Obama and Clinton had consultations on the Gaza crisis during their Asia tour before Clinton made her decision to travel to the region, Reuters reported citing their aides.

However, Clinton’s strategy during her meetings with the leaders of the region remains unclear.

Though the belligerents say they are open to mediation efforts led by Egypt, their demands remain far apart.

On Monday, Russia accused the U.S. of blocking the U.N. Security Council’s attempts to condemn the escalating Gaza crisis, adding that other council members were trying to “filibuster” the issue.

Russia's U.N. ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters outside the Security Council that one of its members had indicated “quite transparently that they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Council” as that would “somehow, allegedly hurt the current efforts carried out by Egypt in the region,” the Associated Press reported.

He added that anyone who could guess the foot-dragging member was the U.S. would be “a connoisseur" of the Security Council politics.

Churkin said if the council could not agree, Russia would initiate a resolution — a stronger move by the council than a statement — on which the members would proceed to vote on, possibly as early as Tuesday afternoon. 

Moscow’s draft resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, support for international and regional efforts, mediation efforts and renewed peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. It does not have any explicit mention of the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, an issue the Western diplomats say is essential to any U.N. statement.

Meanwhile, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is also trying to contain the crisis before Israel’s aerial attacks escalate to a ground incursion.

Ban met with the Arab League's secretary-general Nabil El-Arabi Tuesday and plans to meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, CNN reported.

On the seventh day of fighting Tuesday, fresh aerial offensive pounded Gaza as rockets targeted southern Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said it targeted 100 militant sites overnight, "including underground rocket launchers, terror tunnels and ammunition storage facilities," CNN reported.

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