Obama Backs Israel's 'Right To Defend Itself'
November 18, 2012
Palestinian medics say 10 civilians have been killed by an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza on November 18. Medics said three women, six children, and one man were killed by the attack on a three storey building.
Meanwhile, also on November 18, Israel's military says its "Iron Dome" missile-defense system shot down two incoming rockets over Tel Aviv as air-raid sirens wailed across the city.
Speaking in Bangkok on November 18, U.S. President Barack Obama blamed Palestinian militants for the "precipitating event" of the Gaza crisis -- a series of rocket attacks on Israeli territory.
"[T]here is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," he said. "So we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on people's homes and work places and potentially killing civilians."
However, Obama also suggested it was "preferable" for the crisis to be resolved without "ramping up" Israeli military activity.
"Those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future," he said.
Obama's remarks come after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on November 18 that Israel is ready to "significantly expand" its operation against militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
On November 18, Israel continued with its bombardment of Gaza from the sea and air for a fifth successive day.
Thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks have also massed along the border for a possible ground offensive into the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu told reporters that Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense had attacked more than 1,000 terror targets and caused "significant damage" to Gaza’s missile arsenal.
"We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations," he said. "And the Israel Defense Forces are prepared to significantly expand the operation."
Reports say the military carried out dozens of attacks on November 18.
Two media buildings were among the targets, including one housing a Hamas television station and several foreign broadcasters. Several journalists were reported injured by the strikes.
Iran’s Press TV says its Gaza office was hit twice.
The Kremlin-funded international television broadcaster Russia Today said its Gaza office in the building was also damaged.
Russia Today correspondent Saed Swerky said the broadcaster's office was "not directly hit," but was separated by only a "thin wall" from the offices of the Palestinian TV channel Al-Aqsa, which was destroyed.
An earlier raid on another building struck the offices of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds-TV.
Rockets Over Tel Aviv
The Israeli military says it was aiming at antennas on buildings being used by Hamas to communicate with its forces.
It also says three rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel’s territory.
Sirens sounded in Tel Aviv for a fourth day as Israeli police said two rockets were intercepted over Israel's commercial capital by the Iron Dome defense system.
Palestinian officials now say more than 60 people have been killed since the Israeli bombardments began with the killing of Hamas's military chief on November 14.
Rockets fired from Gaza have killed three Israeli civilians.
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reportedly spoke by phone on November 18 with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who has been trying to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Haniyeh's office quoted him as telling Morsi that he supports such efforts, provided Hamas receives "guarantees that will prevent any future aggression" by Israel.
Israel says it is not prepared to enter into a truce without guarantees that the Gaza rocket attacks will not resume.
In Iran, parliament speaker Ali Larijani urged Islamic countries to send weapons to Palestinians.
State radio quoted Larijani as telling parliament: "Why can the United States and the West hand over weapons to the Zionist regime, or Israel, but weapons should not be given to Palestine?"
Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby said on November 18 that he and a group of Arab foreign ministers will visit Gaza on November 21.
Other Arab League officials said the visit would show solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli attack.
On November 17, the Arab League said a delegation of Arab ministers led by Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby would visit Gaza in the coming days.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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