ABC News’ Jon Garcia reports:
From the Oval Office President Bush maintained his view that Hamas is responsible for the violence plaguing the Gaza strip and stopped short of calling for an immediate cease fire.
"All of us, of course, would like to see violence stopped — but not at the expense of an agreement that does not prevent the crisis from happening again," Bush said Monday. "I know people are saying let’s have that cease-fire, and those are noble ambitions. But any cease-fire must have the conditions in it so that Hamas does not use Gaza as a place from which to launch rockets."
Bush’s comments echo what administration officials have been saying since the Israeli military launched a bombing and subsequent ground attack in the Palestinian territory last week. Israel, Bush said, was simply defending itself from indiscriminate and increasing rocket attacks launched by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.
"Hamas reminds us that there are people who are willing to kill innocent people to stop the advance of free societies," Bush said.
But Bush also maintained that humanitarian assistance is a top priority for the US and pointed out that millions of new dollars of aid would soon be flowing to Gaza — by way of the UN — to help. The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, told reporters that will include everything from heating oil to cooking oil to drinking water.
Perino, maintained that a ceasefire which did nothing to stop Hamas from refortifying their rocket positions in Gaza wouldn’t work.
"We are calling for a durable cease-fire. That’s what we are trying to establish," she said. But durable doesn’t necessarily mean immediate.
"If rockets were coming into the United States from Canada, do you think that we would just say, well, it’s okay, because they really haven’t hurt or killed that many people this week? We would never stand for it. And we have an ally in Israel, and we’re trying to work with the international community to establish a durable cease-fire so that this vicious cycle can end," she said.
And Perino took a final swipe at Hamas, which the Bush administration has labeled a terrorist organization. "I think at their base level, they are despicable, evil human beings who use violence and murder in order to achieve political objectives," she said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has been the administration point person on solving the problems of the Middle East peace process, canceled a scheduled trip to China in order to focus on the violence now raging in Gaza. But Perino said she didn’t know if Rice plans to travel to the region anytime soon.