Sat, Feb 21, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Hamas gives Kerry letter for Obama

AFP , JERUSALEM

US Senator John Kerry met Israeli and Palestinian officials yesterday after a trip to war-ravaged Gaza, where he was given a letter to US President Barack Obama from Hamas, considered a terror group by Washington.

The chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee was to hold talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres and then meet the Palestinians before flying to Syria today.

The president's office said Peres and Kerry would discuss “the regional reality in the wake of the war in Gaza” among other topics.

Kerry on Thursday saw the devastation wrought by Israel's 22-day offensive in Gaza, which targeted Hamas, the Islamist movement which took over the Palestinian enclave in June 2007.

During talks with relief officials at the main UN compound in Gaza City, he was handed a letter from Hamas, addressed to Obama.

“A letter addressed to Obama was left at the gate of our offices in Gaza; it is believed to be from Hamas,” said Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees.

Asked about the contents of the letter, Gunness said: “We are very polite at UNRWA, we don't open other people's mail.”

Kerry did not meet any Hamas representative and stressed that his trip to the impoverished territory, which no US official had visited for years, did not indicate a shift of policy towards Hamas.

Kerry defended Israel for responding to almost daily rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.

“Your political leadership needs to understand that any nation that has rockets coming into it over many years, threatening its citizens, is going to respond,” Kerry told a Palestinian lawyer amid the rubble of the American International School destroyed in the war that ended on Jan. 18.

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