US lawmakers make rare visit to Gaza

The American consulate said US lawmakers are visiting the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Consulate spokeswoman Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm said Thursday's visit by Democrats Brian Baird of Washington and Keith Ellison of Minnesota is the first of its kind to Gaza in at least four years. She said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts is also expected to arrive in Gaza later Thursday for meeting with officials from international organizations there. The lawmakers are expected to meet with U.N. officials, and there are no plans to talk to the ruling Hamas group. The US considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization and has not recognized its authority in Gaza. Hamas militants violently took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007.