Defense Secretary Robert Gates meets with troops at Combat Outpost Andar in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on June 6. Mr. Gates visited with troops on the ground in the south and east of the country for the final time as Defense Secretary before his retirement on June 30. Jason Reed/AP
Robert Gates (l.) is awarded the Wazir Akbar Khan, the highest award the Afghan Government can bestow, by Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 4. Jason Reed/AP
Robert Gates flies on a Blackhawk helicopter to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq, on April 7 after meeting with Iraq's president and prime minister. Chip Somodevilla/AP
Jill Stephenson, whose son, US Army Cpl. Benjamin S. Kopp, was killed in Afghanistan, shakes hands with Robert Gates during funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 7, 2009. Paul J. Richrad/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom/File
Robert Gates answers questions from the House Armed Services Committee about President Bush's plan to send more than 21,000 more troops to Iraq in Washington on Jan. 11, 2007. Mark Murrmann/Zuma Press/Newscom/File
Robert Gates makes remarks after taking the oath of office as the 22nd secretary of defense at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Dec. 18, 2006. Then-President George W. Bush (l.) and Mrs. Becky Gates (holding Bible) listen. DOD/Abacapress.com/Newscom/File
Former Sen. Robert Dole (l.), then-President George W. Bush's defense secretary candidate Robert Gates (c.), and former Sen. David Boren take their seats for the Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing for Mr. Gates in Washington on Dec. 5, 2006. Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom/File
Then-President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates speak to the press in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on the day Mr. Gates began his Senate confirmation hearing in Washington on Dec. 5, 2006. Martin H. Simon/UPI Photo/Newscom/File
Robert Gates (l.) and other members of then-President George Bush's cabinet discuss the United States' response to the Soviet peace plan with Iraq in Washington on Feb. 21, 1991. White House/CNP/Newscom/File
Then-President Ronald Reagan (c.) makes a point during his meeting with Soviet experts at the White House in Washington on Nov. 7, 1985. Robert Gates, then-Deputy Director of Intelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency, sits at right. Pete Souza/White House/CNP/Newscom/File
The US announced steps toward a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas Wednesday, but the leader of Hamas insisted the Islamic militants would not relent until their main demand of lifting an Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is met.
ByIbrahim Barzak and Tia Goldenberg, Associated Press
The United States announced signs of progress in cease-fire talks Wednesday, but prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim as Palestinian families fled fierce battles in southern Gaza and the death toll rose to more than 700 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.