Panetta reiterates U.S. commitment to Israel's security

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Washington, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday talked with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak over phone to reiterate the strong U.S. commitment to Israel's security and bilateral defense relationship, the Pentagon said.

"The secretary commended Israel on the cease-fire reached today. He expressed his hope that no further rockets will be fired from Gaza, and committed to continuing to work together to address the issue of the smuggling of weapons into Gaza," Pentagon's spokesman George Little said in a statement.

Barak thanked Panetta and the Obama administration for the U.S. support of the Iron Dome counter-rocket system, which has intercepted over 85 percent of rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas militants over the past days as the violence between the two sides escalated.

The system provided space for Israel to achieve its strategic goals without forcing further military actions, the statement said.

Panetta was so impressed by the Iron Dome system that he "looks forward to continuing to support the system for the benefit of Israel's security," it added.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama held phone conversations separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on the cease-fire agreement reached by Israel and the Hamas militants in Gaza with the help of the Egyptians.

Obama commended Netanyahu for his efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and a more durable solution to this problem.

The U.S. president also thanked Morsi for his efforts to "achieve a sustainable cease-fire and for his personal leadership in negotiating a cease-fire proposal," while the two leaders vowed to work toward a "more durable" solution to the situation in Gaza.

Israel confirmed on Wednesday evening that a cease-fire agreement was reached with the Palestinian militants in Gaza, after eight days of intense clashes that have killed nearly 150 Palestinians and injured over 1,200 others. Five Israelis have been killed due to rockets fired by Gaza militants. (Xinhua-ANI)

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