RAMALLAH (TIP): Hours after Palestinian militants fired at least two rockets from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip that crashed into the Israeli border city of Sderot on Thursday, President Obama travelled to the West Bank city of Ramallah and renewed his call for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, saying that continued Israeli settlement-building did not advance the cause of peace. But, at a news conference with President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority and the secularist Fatah movement that rivals Hamas, Obama did not specifically call for a halt in settlement construction and urged both sides to press for a broad agreement that would meet two objectives: to provide sovereignty and a state for Palestinians and security for Israel. “The core issue right now is how do we get sovereignty for the Palestinian people and security for Israeli people,” he said after almost two hours of talks with Abbas.
He added: “That’s not to say settlements aren’t important. That’s to say if we solve those two problems, the settlement issue will be resolved.” Obama travelled to Ramallah after talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on the first day of his visit. “I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership,” Obama said. “We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace.” Obama said Palestinians deserved an end to occupation and to the “daily indignities that come with it,” and a “future of hope.” In short, he said, “Palestinians deserve a state of their own.” President Obama called for a twostate solution and said “the only way to achieve that is through direct negotiations” between Israelis and Palestinians. “There’s no shortcut to a sustainable solution. We cannot give up on the search for peace no matter how hard it is,” he said. He warned that a solution based on the creation of two states, side by side, for Israelis and Palestinians, was “still possible but very difficult”.
Obama condemned the rocket barrage from Gaza. One of the rockets on Thursday landed in the courtyard of a house and another was discovered in an open area of the city, according to Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. They did not cause injuries or damage, he said.
An alert system had sounded as the rockets came in. Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 in Gaza and then seized control of the enclave a year later, routing Fatah forces. Though the two sides have signed several accords aimed at ending the Palestinian schism, Hamas remains entrenched in Gaza while Abbas’s authority is confined to parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu has been calling for a resumption of peace talks with Abbas, without preconditions, but has warned in the past that any reconciliation between Abbas and Hamas would stymie progress with Israel. Witnesses in Gaza said that militants had fired at least five rockets from the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun at around 7.30am. Some apparently fell short or were not immediately located by the Israelis.