Palestinian rescue teams help a man partially buried following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip
Palestinian rescue teams help a man partially buried in the sand in the garden of his house following an Israeli air strike on Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. The United States on blamed Hamas for an explosion of violence in Gaza after salvoes of rockets were fired into Israel in retaliation for the killing of the group's military chief. © Mohammed Abed - AFP
Palestinian rescue teams help a man partially buried following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip
AFP
Last updated: November 15, 2012

US asks Egypt to use sway to end Gaza violence

The United States called Thursday on Egypt to use its sway with the Palestinians to try to end the violence from Gaza, adding that Hamas must stop its rocket attacks on Israel.

"We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation," deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner told journalists.

But he insisted the militant rocket attacks into southern Israel had to end after the Jewish state on Wednesday launched Operation Pillar of Defense, its biggest military campaign against Gaza in nearly four years.

"This is a situation that they've created by firing rockets on innocent Israeli civilians. You know, we obviously mourn civilian deaths on both sides. But the onus is on Hamas to stop its rocket attacks," Toner said.

Seven Palestinians and three Israelis were killed Thursday in a wave of unrelenting cross-border fighting as Israel pressed its vast air offensive.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had spoken with her Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Amr on Wednesday, Toner said.

"Both we and the Egyptians agree there needs to be a de-escalation, and we urged the government of Egypt to take steps to support that kind of de-escalation," he said.

Obama spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday in recognition of Egypt's "central role in preserving regional security," the White House said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is to visit Gaza on Friday to express his country's solidarity with the Hamas-ruled strip, Morsi's spokesman said.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu announced the visit and said "we welcome this visit and appreciate this courageous stand."

The visit "confirms the support of the Egyptian leadership, government, and people for the Palestinian people in the shadow of the Israeli war against them in Gaza," he added, saying Qandil would meet Hamas premier Ismail Haniya.

Toner said the US was hoping the Egyptian prime minister would deliver a message to halt the rocket fire into Israel.

"There's a very clear path here to ending the violence, and that's for the rocket attacks to stop. So we would hope that's a message that's delivered."

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and Toner said Thursday that the US believed the new leadership remained committed to the peace deal.

But Morsi, an Islamist elected in June after ex-president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in 2011, has promised to take a harder line than his predecessor, who was accused of doing little to stop Israel's Gaza assault beginning in 2008.

The president's Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is closely aligned with the Hamas rulers of neighboring Gaza, has called for an economic boycott of Israel.

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