Secretary of State Clinton Sent to Middle East in Effort to Stop Israel-Gaza Fighting

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was expected to arrive in Israel Tuesday night.

Her mission:  to help bring an end to the latest round of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.

Mrs. Clinton had been in Southeast Asia with President Obama.

Mister Obama sent her to the Middle East after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi is acting as an intermediary between the United States and the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

And the U.S. government does not have any direct diplomatic relations with the group.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also shuttling between Egypt and Israel, trying to make the fighting stop.

“All sides must halt fire immediately,” he told reporters in Egypt’s capital city, Cairo.  “Further escalating the situation will put the entire (Middle East) region at risk.”

But as of Tuesday morning, Ban’s pleas were falling on deaf ears.

Hamas’ top military commander, Mohammed Deif, urged his group to continue fighting, according to the Associated Press (AP).

“(We) must invest all resources to uproot this aggressor from our land,” Deif reportedly said.

And Israel has threatened to send ground troops into Gaza, if Hamas does not stop firing rockets into Israeli cities.

“I prefer a diplomatic solution,” Netanyahu said, according to the AP.  “But if the (rocket) fire continues, we will be forced to take broader measures and will not hesitate to do so.”

Israel has responded to the rocket attacks by launching missiles aimed at Hamas’ leadership in Gaza.

According to the AFP news agency, Israeli missiles killed at least 116 Palestinians in Gaza in the first week of fighting, including many civilians.

Israel blames the civilian casualties on Hamas.

The Israelis say that Hamas sets up its operations in crowded neighborhoods, turning innocent civilians as human shields.

Israel’s “Iron Dome” air defense system has deflected many of the rockets fired from Gaza.

But hundreds have landed on Israeli soil in the past week.

And at least three Israeli civilians have been killed.

Israel’s wants to stop Hamas from firing rockets over the Israel-Gaza border once and for all.

But Hamas has repeatedly rejected any attempt to reach an agreement that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace.

In his phone conversation with the Israeli and Egyptian leaders, Mister Obama “expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives,” according to a White House spokesperson.

But at a news conference in Thailand on Sunday, the President also said that Israel “has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory.”

“We will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he added.