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Obama, Rice discuss Gaza strikes

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  • President-elect initiated eight-minute call with secretary of state
  • Obama "will continue to closely monitor" Middle East events, aide says
  • He has promised to make peace in the region a priority
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(CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday about the violence in Gaza, which has left as many as 225 people dead, two transition aides told CNN.

Barack Obama's approach to the Middle East as president will be the subject of much scrutiny.

Barack Obama's approach to the Middle East as president will be the subject of much scrutiny.

"The president-elect appreciated the call and the information from Secretary Rice," one aide said, adding that Obama initiated the eight-minute phone call. "He will continue to closely monitor these and other global events."

Israeli airstrikes pounded targets in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Saturday and continued into the night, retaliating against Palestinian militants who have been escalating rocket attacks against southern Israel. The fighting ignited eight days after a six-month Egypt-brokered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel expired.

Obama has pledged to make Middle East peace a priority from the beginning of his presidency. Arabs are calling for a more even-handed approach than the Bush administration, but Israel is expecting Obama to stay true to the pro-Israel posture he showed during the campaign.

But one analyst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cautioned against putting "dangerously high" expectations on the incoming administration.

"I think the tone of American politics will change: You're going to get a serious effort on behalf of the new administration," said Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center and a former adviser to six secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli relations.

But, he told CNN, "the fact is that unless the Israelis and Palestinians are prepared -- which they're not right now -- to take the political decisions required to overcome the gaps and to sell an agreement to their respective constituents, there's not much a new president, no matter how bold or charismatic he may be, is going to be able to do about that."

CNN's Ed Henry contributed to this report.

All About Barack ObamaCondoleezza RiceGaza

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