Kerry steps cautiously into Hamas territory
Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts headlined a trio of US congressmen traveling to Gaza today. United Nations officials in the coastal strip took the 2004 presidential candidate on a tour of the destruction from the 22-day war between Hamas and Israel that came to a close on Jan. 18.Skip to next paragraph
2011 Reflections: Suddenly, a new era in the Middle East
2011 Reflections: the end of a landmark year for Latin America
2011 Reflections: Africa rises, taking charge of its affairs
How the 'Year of the Protester' played out in Europe
In Prague, a tale of communism past
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But does his visit there – a rarity for any US lawmaker or official since Gaza militants attacked a US convoy in 2003 – signal a shift in US policy? It's hard to say. While Senator Kerry has a close relationship with President Obama, an Israeli politician from the right-wing Likud party observed that the visit to Gaza doesn't mean anything "because Kerry is a member of the Senate and does not represent the administration."
Kerry himself says: "Let me make this clear, there is no change in policy." The White House didn't have any comment on the trip.
While he didn't meet with anyone from Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organization, he urged the militant group to end its violent campaign against Israel while visiting one of the most frequent targets of rocket attacks in Israel - Sderot.
'No one can remain unmoved'
With thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed during the military offensive and more than 1,300 Palestinians killed, there was much to take in.
Mr. Baird observed, "The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering."
Mr. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, noted the lack of basic supplies such as food, water, and sanitation. He was, he said, particularly moved by stories that affected children: "No parent, or anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw here."