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White House Asserts: 'Israel Has a Right to Defend Itself


"They’ll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use."

The White House said Saturday that Israel "has a right to defend itself" from attack and "they'll make their own decisions" about military tactics and operations.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling on Air Force One that the U.S. wants "the same thing the Israelis want, which is an end to the rocket fire coming out of Gaza," according to the White House pool report.

"We believe Israel has a right to defend itself and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics that they use in that regard," Rhodes said.

He blamed Hamas, the ruling militant Islamic group in Gaza, for the current conflict, not the Israeli strike that killed a top Hamas military commander.

"These rockets had been fired into Israeli civilian areas and territory for some time now," Rhodes said. "So Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rockets for far too long and that is what led the Israelis to take the action that they did in Gaza."

Rhodes said President Barack Obama has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu every day since the situation began and both agree that de-escalation is preferred, provided that Hamas ceases its rocket attacks. He said Obama has also spoken with Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan -- both critics of Israel -- about how they could help bring an end to the violence.

The Israeli military said Saturday that more than 730 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Wednesday, 492 of which hit and 245 of which were intercepted by the "Iron Dome" missile defense system.

Two rockets were reported aimed at Tel Aviv Saturday, the third straight day the heavily-populated city was targeted.

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