| GEO World|
| Bush, Olmert have no timetable for Gaza crisis end|
| Updated at: 0111 PST, Thursday, January 01, 2009|
CRAWFORD: President George W. Bush received assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday that Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties in air strikes on Hamas-ruled Gaza, but a timetable for ending the assault was not discussed, the White House said.
Bush and Olmert were on the "same page" that a lasting ceasefire required Hamas to stop firing rockets, stop smuggling weapons, and to demonstrate that the Islamist Palestinian group does not intend to target Israel in the future, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"President Bush thinks that Hamas needs to stop firing rockets, and that is what will be the first steps in a ceasefire," he said.
Bush, who spoke with Olmert by phone while on vacation at his Texas ranch, sought assurances from the prime minister that Israel was trying to avoid civilian casualties in the air strikes that began on Saturday and have so far killed more than 390 Palestinians.
"Prime Minister Olmert assured President Bush that Israel is taking the appropriate steps to avoid civilian casualties," Johndroe said.
The United States has backed Israel's pursuit of Hamas targets, saying the Palestinian faction that Washington considers a terrorist organization had provoked the attacks by escalating rocket fire on Israel when a six-month truce brokered by Egypt expired on December 19.
The escalation of Middle East tensions showed no signs of abating and will be another foreign-policy problem handed to President-elect Barack Obama when he takes office on January 20, along with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.