WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Friday that he encouraged Israel’s leader to minimize civilian deaths in its ground push into Hamas-ruled Gaza, while letting him know that the U.S. supports Israel’s right to self-defense.
“No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders or terrorists tunneling into its territory,” Obama told reporters at the White House, while across the globe Israeli troops advanced into Hamas-ruled Gaza. Obama said he spoke by phone to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day over the sounds of sirens going off in the background in Tel Aviv and told him Secretary of State John Kerry is prepared to travel to the region.
“I also made clear that the United States and our friends and allies are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life,” Obama said. “And that’s why we’ve indicated although we support military efforts by the Israelis to make sure that rockets are not being fired into their territory, we also have said that our understanding is the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels. And we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties.”
Israel’s ground movement followed a 10-day campaign of more than 2,000 airstrikes that had failed to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on Israeli cities. Israel stepped up its campaign after the Islamic militant group refused to accept an Egyptian truce offer.
Netanyahu said he told his military to prepare for a possible “significant” expansion of the operation.
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