Diplomatic sources say new U.S. President Barack Obama is sending his
Middle East envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, to the region
The sources say Saturday Mitchell is expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
this week, Mr. Obama said Mitchell would travel to the region soon to
make sure the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is
sustainable, saying he is deeply concerned about the loss of
Palestinian and Israeli life.
News of the trip comes as
painstaking behind-the-scenes negotiations are getting underway in
Egypt between Egyptian mediators and Hamas, which controls Gaza.
officials say they are trying to broker a long-term truce between
Israel and Hamas, as well as help reconcile Hamas with Fatah, its rival
Palestinian faction which controls the West Bank.
Saturday, a Hamas delegation met with Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad. Syrian state media say Mr. Assad congratulated Hamas on what
he called its "victory" in Gaza.
The Hamas delegation says it is
on a regional tour to thank countries it says supported the Palestinian
people during the offensive.
Israeli officials have said the
offensive achieved its goal, dealing a heavy blow to Hamas and
deterring future rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.
thousands of children in the Gaza Strip are returning to schools that
were shut during an Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in the
Schools run by the United Nations
re-opened Saturday, after being shut for nearly a month because of the
violence. Some schools had been used as refugee shelters during the
conflict, and several were hit by Israeli fire.
Palestinians were killed during Israel's 22-day offensive, which ended
after both sides declared ceasefires last Sunday.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.