- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The White House sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo Tuesday in an effort to quell the violent clashes between Israel and Hamas.

The decision was made after a discussion between President Obama and Mrs. Clinton while both were still in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a summit with leaders of Southeast Asian nations.

“Her visits will build on the engagement that we’ve undertaken over the last several days … to support a de-escalation of the violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and restores a broader calm in the region,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser.

Mrs. Clinton landed in Israel late Tuesday and headed to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu amid mixed signs about the prospects of a cease-fire. Her mission comes on the sixth day of escalated conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Clinton, speaking alongside Mr. Netanyahu on Tuesday, said “the goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike,” the Associated Press reported.

Both sides are continuing to barrage one each other with airstrikes and rockets — with an Israeli warplane killing at at least one senior Palestinian militant and wounding others in a missile strike on a building in Gaza, and Hamas firing 75 rockets into Israel with one hitting an empty school. Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down 20 of the rockets, and there were reportedly no injuries related to the others.

Also on Tuesday, a suspect wielding a knife and an ax reportedly attacked a security guard at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and has been detained.

Mr. Obama spoke by phone with Mr. Netanyahu and twice to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Monday night, the White House said.

“We commend Egypt’s efforts to de-escalate the situation and are hopeful they will be successful,” Mr. Rhodes told reporters traveling with Mr. Obama Tuesday.

He said Mrs. Clinton will underscore the United States’ interests in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel’s security.

“The best way to settle this is through diplomacy,” Mr. Rhodes said.

The violence between Israel and Hamas began last week after a dramatic increase in rocket fire from Gaza prompted Mr. Netanyahu’s decision to ramp up its response. Israeli air assaults have killed Hamas‘ military chief and have targeted militants’ underground rocket launchers and weapons arsenals.

The attacks escalated over the weekend and by Tuesday, civilians have accounted for 54 of the 113 Palestinians killed while 840 people have been wounded, including 225 children, according to Gaza health officials.

The Israeli’s rocket-defense system developed through U.S. funding has kept the toll down on the Israeli side. More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel this week with three civilians killed and dozens wounded. The rockets have hit three Israel schools, emptied because of the attacks.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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