Rice Pushes for Gaza Cease-Fire That Is 'Durable and Sustainable'

ABC News' Rachel Martin Reports: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to reporters at the White House after briefing President Bush this morning about the situation in the Middle East.

It's not often that Rice stops to talk to the press during trips to the White House, so while her statement didn't provide any new revelations, her appearance underscored the urgency of the current crisis of the Middle East. She didn't take any questions but she did take the opportunity to castigate Hamas.

"I want to begin by noting that Hamas has held the people of Gaza hostage every since their illegal coup against the forces of President Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimate president of the Palestinian people," Rice said.

She went on to talk about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, blaming Hamas for making like very difficult for the people of Gaza. During the White House briefing minutes later, deputy press secretary Gordon Johndroe would not label the situation in Gaza a "humanitarian crisis" per se. He said that although the administration "...is concerned about the humanitarian situation on the ground in Gaza", he said Israel is accusing Hamas of hoarding Israeli-supplied humanitarian aid in order to politicize the humanitarian crisis.

Secretary Rice said she has been in constant contact with the Israeli government and European allies to try to come up with a ceasefire that would bring about the cessation of Hamas rocket attacks into Israel.

"It is obvious that that cease-fire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a cease-fire that is durable and sustainable." Rice said the President has also been on the phone with the Israeli government and Arab heads of state.

Rice ignored a question about the possibility of an Israeli ground offensive into Gaza. And in the White House briefing Johndroe refused to speculate on a possible ground incursion.

When a reporter shouted a question to Rice about whether she would fly to the Middle East to try to broker a peace deal she said, "I have no plans at this point." And when pressed in the briefing on the subject of a final Rice trip to the Middle East, Johndroe said, the Secretary has been on the phones constantly for a week "so, we don't see a particular need for her to travel to the region when she can do her work from here."

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