- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2014

A bipartisan group of senators is urging the Obama administration to ensure that any cease-fire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas still affords Israel the ability to defend itself from incoming rocket fire and underground tunnel attacks.

“Everybody would like the violence to stop, but we want the violence to end forever,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “At the end of the day, a cease-fire that leaves Hamas in place is dooming everybody in the Palestinian world who lives under the Hamas yoke and puts Israel at risk.”

Mr. Graham said their hope is that a cease-fire can be crafted to allow Israel to deal with the new threat of underground tunnels “effectively and permanently” and that they can deal with rocket sites being positioned, in some cases, around hospitals and schools.

“That when the cease-fire is done, Israel will have had an opportunity, through diplomacy or military action, to deal with the threat that faces the Israeli people and finally, when a cease-fire is done, we hope the Palestinian people will have a chance to live in peace and that means Hamas has to go as a governing entity,” he said.

The senators made their pitch as Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo Thursday trying to kick-start cease-fire talks with regional leaders. AP reported that at least 788 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the operation, which has now lasted for more than two weeks.

“Here’s the bottom line: as long as Hamas is in Gaza, there will be no peace in this region, unfortunately,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said if Hamas had agreed to a cease-fire offered by the Egyptian government, there wouldn’t be such a loss of life, pointing out that the last cease-fire only lasted for hours before Hamas was launching rockets.

“The only way to have a cease-fire that’s going to make a difference is to make sure that Hamas no longer has the capability of launching rockets into Israel or sending killers through tunnels into Israel,” he said. “That cease-fire should occur only after Hamas is denuded of the missiles and only after the tunnels are no longer useful.”

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