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March 22nd, 2013
05:53 AM ET

President Obama spends final day of historic Mideast journey at holy sites in Israel before last stop in Jordan


After putting himself in the middle of the historic tensions between Israelis and Palestinians this week, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday wraps up his first trip to Israel since becoming president. He then moves on to another of America's closest allies in the region - Jordan, a military and intelligence partner, which has been facing trying times.

Obama is devoting his last hours in Israel and the Palestinian territories to cultural endeavors.

With Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president and Secretary of State John Kerry visited the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, where Obama placed a stone on top of the tomb.

From there, the delegation went to the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1995. Obama also laid a wreath and a stone there. The stone for Rabin's grave came from the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington.

Obama and the Israeli leaders also visited the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, where the president turned up the "eternal flame" of remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of Nazi death camps in World War II.

Before continuing on to the last stop of his trip, Obama with visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is on the West Bank, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Obama then travels to Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah II, who has faced harsh criticism lately from his country's people.

READ MORE: Obama travels from Israel and Palestinian lands to Jordan

Filed under: Israel • Israel-Gaza conflict • Jordan • Palestine • Refugees • Relief • Syria • World
March 21st, 2013
08:08 AM ET

Fmr. Ambassador Holliday: President Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Abbas 'a significant visit'

Today, President Obama is in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the second leg of his historic Middle East visit. He is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks in the region. The president has said he is prepared to listen, and hasn't come with a peace plan. The two leaders will talk at a working lunch and will then address the media.

But the trip is already marred by violence. Two rockets fired from Gaza  landed in the southern Israel city of Sderot hours earlier, while the president was about 60 miles away in Jerusalem. There are reports of property damage but no injuries.

Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of the Meridian International Center and fmr. former U.S. Ambassador special political affairs to the UN Security Council, weighs in on Obama’s meeting with Abbas today and how the attacks may have affected it. Holliday says the rocket attacks are a reminder that the Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza and that the Palestinian government is divided, highlighting "the weakness that we face in terms of the talks restarting."

Holliday calls the president's trip a significant visit, but notes that the Palestinians are very skeptical about what the president hopes to accomplish.  “I think it's a mixed bag,” Holliday says. “But I do believe that they would view the president's visit, and the look for any opportunity to get these talks restarted. And of course, they've been on the sidelines, waiting for what they see as a critical issue, for these settlements to halt. Whereas Israelis have said, look, ‘we're ready to talk at any point as long as you don't put preconditions on these talks.’”

March 21st, 2013
07:28 AM ET

President Obama meets with Palestinian President Abbas hours after rockets from Gaza land in southern Israel

Today, President Obama is in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the second leg of his historic Middle East visit. He arrived from Jerusalem this morning, making a 10-mile trip between two Middle East cities that are worlds apart.

The trip is already marred by violence. Two rockets fired from Gaza landed in the southern Israel city of Sderot earlier, underscoring the urgency of the visit. It happened just a few hours ago while the president was still in Jerusalem, about 60 miles away. There are reports of property damage, but no injuries.

The president is in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two leaders will talk at a working lunch and will then address the media.

Later today, President Obama returns to Jerusalem for a state dinner in his honor hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin is live from Ramallah with the latest on how the rockets may have affected what the president hopes to accomplish today.

March 21st, 2013
06:03 AM ET

VIDEO: President Obama arrives in Ramallah for visit with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

President Obama arrives in Ramallah for his first visit to the West Bank since becoming President of the United States.

Jessica Yellin is live from Ramallah. John King is live from Jerusalem.

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Filed under: Israel • Israel-Gaza conflict • Palestine • World
March 20th, 2013
07:01 AM ET

VIDEO: President Obama arrives in Tel Aviv for first visit to Israel

President Obama arrives in Tel Aviv for his first visit to Israel since becoming President of the United States.

Filed under: Israel • President Barack Obama
March 20th, 2013
05:48 AM ET

President Obama makes first visit to Israel amid growing concerns of chemical weapons use in Syria – Sara Sidner reports

President Obama arrives in Tel Aviv for the start of a historic Middle East visit today. He is scheduled to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the trip. The president is expected discuss the United States’ commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran with Netanyahu and restarting negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

His plane lands in less than 90 minutes but his mission is taking on a new urgency at this hour because there is mounting evidence the Syrian government has used chemical weapons on its own people near the city of Aleppo.

Sara Sidner is live in Jerusalem for "Early Start" this morning with the latest on how developments in Syria might affect the president’s agenda on this trip.

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Filed under: Israel • Israel-Gaza conflict • Middle East • Palestine • Syria
March 15th, 2013
06:53 AM ET

CNN Trends: American women want 'royal' nose & Obama's ideal Israeli excursion

According to the New York Daily News, there's something the Duchess of Cambridge has that American women really want— her nose.  There’s been a surge in women asking plastic surgeons for "The Kate Middleton". Experts say her nose has a feminine look with a cute upturn at the end.

Also trending on the web is an interview President Obama had with Israeli television ahead of his trip to Israel where he appears to be channeling Joe Biden in talking about what he'd really like to do there. He just wants to wander down Tel Aviv, go to a bar and spend time with strangers! The president heads to Israel for the first time as president next week.

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Filed under: Israel • President Barack Obama • Royal family • Royals • Trending
November 19th, 2012
07:56 AM ET

Wilson Center's Jane Harman 'optimistic' a cease-fire in Israel-Gaza conflict could be announced soon

Tensions are rising in the Middle East as a deadly conflict threatens to become an all out war along the border of Gaza and Israel. The international community watches on in hopes of a truce between Israel and Hamas. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is visiting the region today to help negotiate a cease-fire.

The lines are drawn: Hamas is demanding an end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza, while Israel says the airstrikes will not end until Hamas quits sending missiles. Egypt is a major negotiating partner between the two.

Wilson Center director Jane Harman. fmr. ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has traveled to Cairo, Egypt regularly to address the crisis and talks with CNN's Alina Cho about the likelihood of a cease fire.

Some doubt that Egypt is a neutral negotiator and is an ally of Hamas, but Harman disagrees and is hopeful Egypt will help foster a truce between Hamas and Israel.

“There is reason for optimism that a cease-fire could be announced as early as this afternoon,” Harman says. “And the role that the Egyptians have played in helping broker that is very positive. They could only do that if they had a special relationship both with Hamas and with Israel.”

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Filed under: Israel
November 16th, 2012
09:16 AM ET

Israel on the brink of war: Violence escalating with Palestinian militants in Gaza

Israel engaging in ground warfare with Hamas in Gaza overnight. Israeli militants shelling more than 300 terror targets overnight. Sr. International Correspondent Ben Wedeman joins Zoraida on the phone from Jerusalem.

 While officials spoke with Egypt Prime Minister, agreeing on a brief three hour ceasefire, Palestinian militants launched hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory for the second day. Two have hit Tel Aviv.  

 Wedeman says that a limited number of protests against Israeli police have sprung up around Jerusalem and the West Bank. Though there are several hundred protestors, he says it is relatively calm compared to protests in the past.

 Whether war is in the near future between the countries, he says, “Certainly they have called up 16,000 reservists and there are apparently tanks on the move. Other equipment and heavy armor heading for Gaza, very similar to what we say in 1008-1009 last time…it does appear that they are preparing. ”

Filed under: 2012 • Israel
November 15th, 2012
05:31 AM ET

Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza – CNN's Sara Sidner reports

(CNN) – Israel continued a blistering assault early Thursday against Gaza, targeting what it described as 100 terror sites in response to ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, a move that has raised fears of a wider regional conflict.

The countering Israeli and Palestinian attacks prompted the U.N. Security Council to call an emergency closed door session late Wednesday in an attempt to de-escalate the crisis.

CNN's Sara Sidner reports live from the area on Early Start this morning about the ongoing violence.

Check out Sidner's full article about the situation here.

Filed under: Gaza • Israel
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