WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate voiced strong support on
Thursday for Israel's battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, while
urging a ceasefire that would prevent Hamas from launching any more
rockets into Israel.
The chamber agreed on a voice vote to the
non-binding resolution co-sponsored by Democratic and Republican party
leaders in the chamber.
"When we pass this resolution, the
United States Senate will strengthen our historic bond with the state
of Israel, by reaffirming Israel's inalienable right to defend against
attacks from Gaza, as well as our support for the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat,
said before the vote.
Noting that Israel was bent on halting
Hamas rocket fire into its southern towns, Reid said: "I ask any of my
colleagues to imagine that happening here in the United States. Rockets
and mortars coming from Toronto in Canada, into Buffalo New York. How
would we as a country react?"
Co-sponsor and Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican said before the vote:
"The Israelis ... are responding exactly the same way we would."
The House was expected to pass a similar resolution.
The Senate resolution encourages President George W. Bush "to work
actively to support a durable, enforceable and sustainable ceasefire in
Gaza as soon as possible that prevents Hamas from retaining or
rebuilding the capability to launch rockets or mortars against Israel,"
It also expresses an "unwavering" commitment to
Israel's welfare and recognizes its right to act in self defense to
protect citizens against acts of terrorism, he said. "It allows for the
long-term improvement of daily living conditions of the ordinary people
of Gaza," he said.
Palestinians faced even grimmer conditions
in Gaza on Thursday after a U.N. aid agency halted work, saying its
staff was at risk from Israeli forces after two drivers were killed.
The reported Palestinian death toll in the 13-day-old conflict topped
700. At least 11 Israelis have been killed, eight of them soldiers,
including four hit by "friendly fire."
Reporting by Susan Cornwell, editing by Philip Barbara