Palestinians deserve a state of their own: US President Obama
JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH - Agence France-Presse
US President Barack Obama greets Israeli children prior to meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013, on the first day of Obama's three day trip to Israel. AFP photoUS President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed full backing for the establishment of a Palestinian state following talks in Ramallah with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
"Palestinians deserve a state of their own," he said. "The United States is deeply committed to seeing... an independent, sovereign state of Palestine."
Israel settlement activity 'not constructive': Obama
Obama on Thursday condemned Israel's ongoing settlement building as unhelpful to the pursuit of peace.
"We do not consider continued settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace," he said in a joint news conference with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Obama condemns Gaza rocket fire on south Israel
Obama also condemned the firing of two rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, saying the territory's Hamas rulers were responsible for stopping it.
"We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight with the rockets which targeted Sderot.
"We condemn this violation of this important ceasefire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians, a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent," he said of a ceasefire deal which ended eight days of bloodshed in November.
Gaza rockets hit southern Israel during Obama visit: police
Two rockets fired by militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Thursday hit southern Israel as US President Barack Obama was visiting the Jewish state, police said.
"One exploded in the back yard of a house in Sderot, causing damage, and the second landed in a field," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP, referring to a town very close to the Gaza border, which was visited by Obama on a previous trip in 2008 when he was a senator.
Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday for his first visit since being elected president and was expected to travel to Ramallah on Thursday morning for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Military officials cited by army radio said they believed the attack was timed deliberately to coincide with the Obama visit.
On his previous visit to Sderot, Obama had voiced his support for Israel's refusal to negotiate with the Islamist Hamas movement, which is Abbas's rival Palestinian faction and has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007.
"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in my power to stop that," he said.
Sderot mayor David Bushkila told Israeli army radio that his town "served as a punchbag for Hamas and other terrorist groups, which wanted (with the latest attack) to tell Obama he was not welcome in the region." It was only the second such rocket attack since the end of a deadly eight-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas militants in November which ended with an Egypt-brokered truce that has been almost completely respected.
On February 26, militants fired a single rocket which hit near the southern coastal town of Ashkelon in an attack they said was to protest against the death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody following interrogation.
During the eight days of bloodshed in November, which cost the lives of 177 Palestinians and six Israelis, the army said 933 rockets hit Israel, while another 421 were intercepted in mid-air by the US-funded Iron Dome air anti-missile system.
Obama visited the vaunted Iron Dome system shortly after arriving in the country on Wednesday afternoon.
Syria to be accountable for any use of chemical arms :Obama
Obama also warned Wednesday that if Syria let the "genie out of the bottle" by using chemical weapons in its civil war, it would unleash a serious international response.
Obama said in Israel that he was investigating reports that chemical weapons had been used in the vicious conflict in recent days -- following claims by each side that the other had fired off the deadly munitions.
But he said in his most expansive comments on the issue yet, that he was "deeply sceptical" that opposition forces had used such arms, saying it was well known that the government had control over chemical weapons stocks.
The president said at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he did not yet have the facts on the alleged use of the weapons.
"Once, we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer," Obama said, warning that the use of such arms by Bashar al-Assad's forces would be a "grave and tragic" mistake.
"But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties, and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we've already seen in Syria.
"And the international community has to act on that additional information." Obama has been reluctant to get the United States militarily involved in the Syrian conflict, and has blocked the dispatch of US lethal weapons and ammunition to rebels, despite fierce political pressure at home.