U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, and emphasized U.S. support for Israel's military efforts against Hamas.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama said that he underscored U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself in the call.
Obama said that he was hopeful that Israel would continue to approach the process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties. He told reporters after the call that he expressed his support for Israel's Gaza ground incursion, saying, "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."
His use of the word support is unusual, and limited. The U.S. traditionally uses the term "understands" rather than "supports." However, Obama stressed that his support does not equate a blank check.
A rocket alert siren went off during the call between the two leaders, and the prime minister told Obama that this is the reality that millions of Israelis are living in. Rocket fire across central and southern Israel continued Friday, after Israel began its incursion into the Strip Thursday. The death toll had reached 270 Palestinians by Thursday night, with one Israeli soldier killed by friendly fire.
The president said his support was based on Israel's claim that the operation's primary goal was to neutralize the tunnel threat, adding that any further escalation would lead to a steep increase in civilian casualties. A rocket alert siren went off during the call between Netanyahu and Obama, and the prime minister told Obama that this is the reality that millions of Israelis are living in.
Obama also said the U.S. and allies are concerned about risk of escalation in Gaza conflict, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry is prepared to return to the region if needed.
Netanyahu told Obama that Hamas use Gaza residents as human shields, as was shown yesterday when weapons were found in an UNRWA school in Gaza, meaning that Hamas is reponsible for hurt Gazan residents.
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