House Reps Make Rare Gaza Visit
Ellison, Baird arrive as violence continues in Strip
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 19, 2009 5:43 AM CST
Congressman from Washington, Democrat, 3rd District, USA, Brian Baird speaks during a session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan 31, 2009.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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(Newser) – Two members of Congress traveled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip today, the first such delegation to enter the area since the Islamic militant group rose to power in 2006. The House members—Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim member of Congress, and Brian Baird of Washington—will meet with UN officials but not with Hamas, which the US calls a terrorist organization.

Although Israel and Hamas declared separate cease-fires on Jan. 18, sporadic violence has persisted while Egypt tries to broker a long-term truce. Today the Israeli army said it had bombed smuggling tunnels along Gaza's southern border, about 20 miles from where the lawmakers were visiting. A spokesman for the Israeli government said he had no knowledge of the visit.