Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has expressed grief, despair and anger after seeing the destruction caused during Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
Mr. Carter toured parts of the Palestinian territory Tuesday and met with top officials from Hamas, which runs Gaza.
Speaking alongside top Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, Mr. Carter said he hopes rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah can reconcile in the interest of regional peace.
He noted that he is not a representative of the U.S. government, but said he supports President Barack Obama's call for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Mr. Haniya said Hamas supports establishing a Palestinian state according to the 1967 borders, meaning before Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War.
Mr. Haniya said he and Mr. Carter also discussed the Israeli soldier held in Gaza since 2006. He said he encourages negotiations to reach an agreement to swap Palestinian prisoners for the captured Israeli, Gilad Shalit.
Mr. Carter was expected to give Hamas a letter from Shalit's family. The soldier has become a focal point in efforts to mediate a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The Israeli military says the aim of its offensive in Gaza was to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
On Sunday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would endorse a separate Palestinian state as long as it has no military force and recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
President Obama acknowledged the conditions Mr. Netanyahu attached to Palestinian statehood, but said they could be discussed in negotiations.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.