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Obama announces new sanctions on Russia, calls for peace in Gaza

President Obama announces new sanctions on Russia amid unrest in Ukraine
'We need to seek concrete actions and not just words' from Russia regarding Ukraine, Obama says
'Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people,' says Obama

President Obama announced during a news conference Wednesday new sanctions against a "weakening" Russian economy and continued his call for a diplomatic solution to the rocket fire that has left dozens of civilians dead along the Gaza Strip in recent days.

The “significant but also targeted” sanctions will take aim at Russian banks and energy companies and will involve freezing the assets of several Russian defense companies, Obama said during an afternoon news conference.

The sanctions are part of a continued economic backlash against the Russian government amid a growing conflict in Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly failed to halt the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, to urge separatists to release hostages, or to stop backing antigovernment fighters that have caused unrest and violence in Donetsk and other parts of the country.

"We need to seek concrete actions and not just words," Obama said. "So far Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned."

Obama also discussed the Middle East during the news conference, saying he would continue to publicly support Egypt's efforts to bring an end to hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians that have left more than 200 dead along the Gaza strip, including four boys killed by rocket fire Wednesday morning.

Although he called on both sides to bring about peace, the president also seemed to chide Hamas fighters for breaking a ceasefire brokered Tuesday.

"Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people," Obama said. "There is no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets."

The president did not take questions after the short briefing.

For more news, follow @raablauren, @JamesQueallyLAT and @JulieWestfall on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:24 p.m.: This post was updated throughout to add Obama's comments about sanctions against Russia and to call for peace along the Gaza Strip.

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