President Bush said Sunday he has not lost hope for peace in the Middle East and appealed for help in dealing harshly with Hamas and other militant groups responsible for renewed attacks on Israelis.

Those who want peace, Bush said, need to "deny the killers the opportunities to destroy it."

"It is clear that the free world and those who love freedom and peace must deal harshly with Hamas (search) and the killers," Bush told reporters as he left services in a tiny chapel near his family's compound.

"We've laid out the way forward ... and I believe we can have a peaceful Palestinian state, living side by side with the Israelis," Bush said.

The president said achieving a lasting peace will be difficult.

"I believe we've got a lot of work to do," said Bush, whose parents were looking on.

"Until these people are brought to justice — those who will kill innocent people in order to deny the establishment of a Palestinian state — there will be violence," Bush said.

"The mission of the free world, those who care for peace, is to deny the people like Hamas of the ability to destroy and kill," he said.

The remarks were Bush's first on the surge in Mideast violence since he arrived in Maine for a long Father's Day weekend with his family.

"I believe that the agents of peace, the people who love, those who care about a decent future for the suffering Palestinian people, and those who live in Israel will prevail, but it's going to take a lot of work," Bush said.

"I'm confident we can achieve peace. It's going to be a tough road, but I am determined to continue to lend the weight of this government to advance peace."

The first contingent of U.S. monitors who will supervise implementation of the U.S.-developed peace plan headed to the region Saturday. The team is led by Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf (search).

Secretary of State Colin Powell and representatives of the United Nations, Russia and the European Union — which helped work out the peace blueprint — plan talks in Jordan this week.

The difficulty of ending the violence was apparent earlier Sunday by a firefight between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in a Gaza town that killed one Palestinian and wounded seven others.

Bush, at a June 4 summit in Jordan with Israeli and Palestinians leaders, helped launch the peace plan. The plan, known as the road map (search), calls for an end to 32 months of violence and the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Since that meeting, renewed violence — capped by a bus bombing by Hamas and a string of Israeli helicopter raids aimed at Hamas leaders — has killed 63 people.

Before his trip, Powell pledged that the United States "will not waver" in its determination to push for peace.

"The United States will not get weary, we will not waver, we will not stop, we will not step aside," he said Saturday night at a meeting of an Arab-American group in Arlington, Va.

"The parties must turn these courageous commitments into peace on the ground. This is no time for parsing promises. The two sides must now perform," he said.

"We must not let this new momentum toward peace lag," said Powell, acknowledging that "there will be bumps along the road."