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

Posted November 18th, 2012 at 10:45 am (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 on what it called militant targets in Gaza on Sunday, while militants fired more rockets including two that targeted the Israeli commercial capital of 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 the death toll from the Israeli offensive has risen to at least 53, including Palestinian militants and civilians. 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.

Gaza medical officials said the Israeli warplanes killed at least six people including several children on Sunday. They said the children were killed in missile strikes on homes in a Gaza City refugee camp and in the town of Beit Lahiya. There was no immediate comment from Israel on why it targeted the homes.

Israeli warplanes also attacked two media centers in Gaza City, 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.

In his remarks Sunday, Mr. Obama also 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.”

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.