George Bush today blamed the continuing violence in Gaza on Hamas terrorism and offered no criticism of Israel in his first comments since Israeli air strikes began a week ago.
The US president condemned Hamas's campaign of rocket attacks on Israel as an "act of terror" and said no peace deal would be acceptable unless the flow of smuggled weapons to terrorist groups was monitored and stopped.
"This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel's destruction," he said.
Bush said Hamas ended the latest ceasefire on 19 December and "soon unleashed a barrage of rockets and mortars that deliberately targeted innocent Israelis, an act of terror that is opposed by the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, President [Mahmoud] Abbas".
Israeli aircraft and gunboats continued to target Hamas in Gaza today. In the latest attacks, the Israelis struck the homes of two Hamas operatives, saying the buildings were used to store weapons and plan attacks. Hamas said one of its military leaders, Abu Zakari al-Jamal, was killed in an air raid last night.
More than 400 Palestinians and at least four Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive last Saturday. The UN estimated yesterday that a quarter of the Palestinians killed were civilians.