Speaking at a press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Sunday, the U.S. president urged to put an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”
Obama also warned that any ground offensive would lead to greater Israeli casualties.
“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” he said.
“If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that’s preferable. That’s not just preferable for the people in Gaza, it’s also preferable for the Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded.”
As ABC News reports, the president reiterated America’s unwavering support for Israel.
“We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” he said.
Obama, who has already called leaders in the region for de-escalating the violence, said “if we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory and that then gives us the space to try and deal with these long-standing conflicts that exist.”
“We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours, but what I’ve said to [Egyptian] President Morsi and [Turkish] Prime Minister Erdogan is that those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza than 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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that he was ready to “significantly” expand its airstrikes into Gaza and he mentioned that Israel could invade Gaza with ground troops.
“The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place,” he said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
Israel had launched its offensive in the region on Wednesday. During the attacks 51 Palestinians, including 14 children, have been killed. In Israel, three civilians have been killed.
Israeli military officials said they are satisfied with their progress on Nov. 17, claiming they have inflicted heavy damage to the Egypt region.
“Most of their capabilities have been destroyed,” Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, Israel’s southern commander, told reporters. Asked whether Israel is ready to send ground troops into Gaza, he said: “Absolutely.”
“Most of their weapons are stored in civilian’s homes, they launch rockets from residential areas. We do not want to hit civilians in Gaza but we do want to hit the hornets’ nest of terror in Gaza,” he added.
According to reports, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that the goal of the offensive was to “send Gaza back to the middle ages.”
Israel’s “Iron Dome” rocket-defense system has intercepted 250 Gaza-launched rockets aimed for Tel Aviv, the Israeli government said, CBS News writes.
Israeli officials have already been in Egypt for negotiations considering a cease-fire, and Palestinian officials had arrived in Cairo for discussions.