Obama: Resolving Gaza Conflict Begins with No Missiles Fired at Israel

Posted November 18th, 2012 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama says efforts to resolve the latest fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas must begin with militants firing no more missiles into Israeli territory.

Mr. Obama made the comment Sunday while on a visit to the Thai capital, Bangkok. He reiterated U.S. support for what he called Israel's right to defend itself from missiles being fired from Gaza onto people's homes.

Mr. Obama also said it would be “preferable” to end the missile fire without Israel escalating its five-day old air and sea offensive against Gaza militants. He said he has had several conversations with the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Turkey in recent days to try to achieve that goal.

Israel carried out more air strikes Sunday on what it called militant targets in Gaza, while militants fired more rockets including two that targeted Tel Aviv, triggering air raid sirens in the city for a fourth day. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted those rockets.

Gaza officials said an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City killed at least 10 civilians, including women and children – the deadliest incident since the start of the fighting. There was no immediate comment from Israel on why it targeted the home. Israeli media said an air strike on another house in Gaza killed the head of Hamas' rocket-launching operation.

Gaza militants also fired dozens of rockets into southern Israeli communities, hitting residential areas and wounding several civilians, including five whose car took a direct hit in the town of Ofakim.

Palestinian medics said the death toll from the Israeli offensive has risen to about 60 Palestinian civilians and militants. Palestinian rocket attacks have killed three Israeli civilians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is prepared to “significantly expand” operations against militants in Gaza. His government has massed thousands of troops on Israel's border with Gaza in preparation for a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run territory.

An Israeli official arrived in Cairo for Egyptian-mediated talks on a potential truce with Hamas. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement has ideological ties to the Palestinian group. Cairo also maintains a peace agreement with Israel.

In his Bangkok remarks, Mr. Obama said that supporters of the Palestinian cause should recognize that a further escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict would mean that efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be “pushed way into the future.”

In Sunday's strikes on Gaza, Israeli warplanes also attacked two adjacent buildings housing media offices, wounding eight journalists, one of whom lost a leg. Israel's military said it attacked communications equipment used by Hamas and urged reporters to stay away from militant positions and operatives.

Israel began its offensive with a November 14 air strike that assassinated Hamas' military leader in Gaza. It said the attack was in response to weeks of rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israeli communities.