Sen. John Kerry Tours Sderot, Gaza Strip


kerrySenator John Kerry was in the Gaza Strip today, as part of a rare visit by American politicians to the area. The former Democratic presidential nominee said he was in Gaza to see the aftermath of Israel’s military offensive there last month. He was not scheduled to meet with anyone from Hamas.Kerry said his visit did not signal any change in American Mideast policy. He told residents that Hamas must take moves toward peace and halt its rocket attacks on southern Israel.Joined by an armed UN convoy, Kerry inspected the ruins of a school destroyed in the IDF offensive and toured a neighborhood in northern Gaza that was heavily damaged in the fighting.

Prior to entering the Strip, Kerry toured Sderot with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Earlier today, two Democratic congressmen, Democrats Brian Baird of Washington and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, traveled separately to Gaza.

American Consulate spokeswoman Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm said Baird and Ellison’s visit was the first of its kind to Gaza in at least four years.

Since taking office last month, President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he hopes to improve US relations with the Muslim world. As the first Muslim member of Congress, Ellison could play a key role in that mission.

Hamas official Ahmed Yousef welcomed the arrival of the Americans. “We highly appreciate the visit of any delegation that wants to find out the facts and see what has happened on the ground in Gaza,” he said.

Meanwhile, today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed that she would be attending an international summit set to take place in Egypt next month where money will be raised to rebuild the Gaza Strip.

“One thing is that immediately upon being inaugurated and my taking office as secretary of state, President Obama and I said the United States will get re-engaged in trying to help in the Middle East,” said Clinton, who is visiting Indonesia.

{Yair Israel with AP & JPost}