On Wednesday, President Barack Obama's new envoy to the Middle East called for an end to Hamas weapons smuggling and a reopening of Gaza's borders.
This call seeks to strengthen the shaky cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants which threatened to break following renewed violence yesterday when Hamas bombed killing an Israeli soldier.
After talks in Jerusalem with Israeli, according to reports from the Associated Press, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Mitchell said consolidating the cease-fire is of critical importance. He said a longer-term truce should be based on an end to smuggling and reopening of the crossings into Gaza. Egypt and Israel have kept their borders with Gaza largely closed since Hamas seized control of the territory by force in 2007.
Mitchell's tour is the first Mideast tour under the Obama administration. Obama said his envoy would listen to all sides to then craft a way forward with stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Once Mitchell has completed his consultations in the region and with Europeans, he will report to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his conclusions for the next steps.
The United States is committed to vigorously pursuing lasting peace and stability in the region, said Mitchell, who met earlier Wednesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, the first stop on his Mideast tour.
On Thursday Mitchell will meet pro-Western Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank; he however has no plans to meet with Hamas.
Gaza was seized by Hamas from Abbas in June 2007. Its control of the territory of 1.4 million and refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist are major obstacles to peace efforts.