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New US Envoy to Visit Middle East Soon


U.S. diplomatic sources say President Barack Obama is sending his Middle East envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, to the region this week.

The sources said Saturday that Mitchell is expected to meet with Israeli leaders as well as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.

Earlier in the 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 under way in Egypt between Egyptian mediators and Hamas, which controls Gaza.

Egyptian 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 and is led by Mr. Abbas.

Earlier 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.

Some 1,300 Palestinians were killed during Israel's 22-day offensive, which ended after both sides declared cease-fires last Sunday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.


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