President Barack Obama on Sunday reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and said any “serious” Middle East peace effort “starts with no more missiles being fired” into Israel.
“There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said during a news conference in Bangkok, his first public remarks about the latest round of violence. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes.”
But Obama also said he hoped Israel’s objectives could be accomplished without a “ramping up of military activity in Gaza.”
“It’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded,” Obama said.
Sunday marked the fifth day of heightened conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. World leaders are said to be working on crafting a ceasefire, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated his country is prepared for a possible ground invasion if the rocket attacks don’t stop.
Israel launched air and naval attacks against terror targets in Gaza on Sunday, the Jerusalem Post reported, including striking the offices of an Arab media outlet and wounding three journalists from a television station Israel sees as pro-Hamas.
The Israeli military said Sunday 846 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza in the last four days, more than 500 of which have hit.
Obama’s comments came one day after a top White House aide also declared Israel has a right to defend itself and would make its own decisions about military tactics.
Obama is on a three-country tour of Asia.
This post has been updated since it was first published.