U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the people of Gaza need greater hope for the future, as he urged the extension of an Israel-Hamas ceasefire, AFP reported.
"The U.S. goal right now would be to make sure that the ceasefire holds, that Gaza can begin the process of rebuilding," Obama told a news conference.
Similarly, he said, Israelis need to "feel confident that they're not going to have a repeat of the kind of rocket launchers that we've seen over the last several weeks."
Obama said that the United States was supporting ceasefire talks but added: "Long-term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world."
Ordinary Palestinians living in the impoverished, blockaded Hamas-ruled territory need to "have some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off," Obama said.
Obama reiterated his concern over civilians killed in the conflict, which left 1,886 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side dead. His stance has drawn unusually sharp rebukes from hardliners in Israel.
Obama insisted he has "consistently supported Israel's right to defend itself" and repeatedly castigated Hamas, saying that the militant group has acted "extraordinarily irresponsibly" by launching rockets into Israel.
"I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza," Obama said.
Israel and Hamas have appeared to be at odds on an extension of a 72-hour ceasefire that expires at 0500 GMT on Friday. Egypt has been mediating between the two sides.
Obama said that peace efforts needed to involve the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, amid U.S. fears that the conflict has empowered the more militant Hamas.
Obama said that the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, has been "responsible" by recognizing Israel and seeking a two-state solution.
"I think Abu Mazen is sincere in his desire for peace, but they (the Palestinian Authority) have also been weakened, I think, during this process," Obama said, referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.
"The populations in the West Bank may have also lost confidence or lost a sense of hope in terms of how to move forward," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority should play an "important" role in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu had earlier rejected further negotiations with Abbas after he formed a coalition with Hamas amid the breakdown of the U.S.-led peace process.