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Cheney Says US Did Not Authorize Gaza Invasion

U.S. Vice president Dick Cheney says the United States did not authorize the Israeli invasion of Gaza. But he makes clear the Bush administration was not caught totally by surprise. We have more from VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson.

Vice president Cheney says the Israelis did not clear their invasion plans with the White House.

"They did not seek clearance or approval from us, certainly," said Dick Cheney.

But Cheney told the CBS television program Face the Nation that Israeli leaders had warned they could not sit idly by while Hamas launched rockets into Israel from Gaza.

"They have said now for a period of months - they told me on my last trip over there - that they did not want to have to act where Gaza was concerned," said Mr. Cheney They had gotten out of there three years ago. But if the rocketing did not stop they felt they would have no choice but to take action."

The Bush administration has blamed Hamas - the militant group that controls Gaza - for inciting the latest round of violence in the region, killing the cease-fire mediated last year by Egypt.

The White House says any new cease-fire must be durable and respected by all. But Palestinian officials say humanitarian conditions in Gaza are too dire to wait for negotiations, and the Israelis must pull out now.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN's Late Edition that once the Israeli attacks stop, they may be able to come up with a formula for a long-term cessation of hostilities.

"The most important thing at this stage is to stop immediately all forms of attacks against Gaza," said Saeb Erakat. "We have a human catastrophe in Gaza and that is what the international community needs to focus on."

The Israeli assault has been met with condemnation in the Arab world, and emotional calls for an immediate end to the military operation.

But on ABC's This Week, Israeli President Shimon Peres said the ground offensive will go on. He said Israel's intention is not to occupy Gaza nor crush Hamas, but to crush terror.

"And Hamas needs a real and serious lesson," said Shimon Peres. "They are now getting it."

Israeli launched the ground operation late Saturday, after more than a week of air attacks. Officials say at least 500 people have been killed since the assault began.