“The United States is prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone today. “No, thanks. A ceasefire is not even on the agenda,” answered Netanyahu.
JPost In the call, Obama “reiterated the United States’ strong condemnation of continuing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks,” the White House said in a readout of the conversation.
But Netanyahu has ruled out a ceasefire with Hamas in the short-term. On the contrary, the Israeli leader has vowed a series of additional stages to Operation Protective Edge— his government’s response to continued rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities, after Hamas, a terrorist organization, stockpiled tens of thousands of rockets in the coastal territory over the last several years.
A ceasefire is “not even on the agenda,” Netanyahu told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, just hours before his call with the US leader.
The president also expressed concern, the press secretary’s office continued, “about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm.”
“I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday, facing a series of accusatory questions from a Palestinian journalist for al-Quds TV in Washington.
Israeli military activities— targeting infrastructure and known terrorist operatives, taking practiced precautions to forewarn Palestinian civilians in advance of an air strike— differ fundamentally from Hamas tactics, Psaki continued: “indiscriminately” firing projectiles, without precision, in the general direction of populated civilian areas.
Leadership in Congress from both parties joined the administration’s public support for Israel’s continued operation in Gaza on Thursday, with all parties urging caution while reinforcing that Israel’s military actions, thus far, fall within the country’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism.
Proposing official support, some members of Congress asserted that Hamas’ actions constitute terrorism, and not a right of Palestinians to defend themselves.
“There is no moral equivalency between the self-defense actions of Israel and the barbaric actions of Hamas,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), said on Thursday. Along with Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Graham is now proposing a resolution that would “reaffirm the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens” and “ensure the survival” of the Israeli state.
The resolution also calls on the Palestinian Authority, funded in large part by Congress, to end its unity government with Hamas, and condemns the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israel as “unprovoked.”
“Israel is entitled to take the steps necessary to protect itself from destructive rocket attacks from Hamas that are aimed at all Israeli civilians, regardless of their religion,” said Schumer. “This resolution supports Israel as it protects itself in a manner that values the safety of Palestinian civilians even as its own civilians face indiscriminate attacks from terrorists.”
GLOBAL REACTION: ‘NOBODY WANTS TO SEE A GROUND INVASION’
- United States: The U.S. President told Netanyahu by telephone on Thursday that the United States was willing to help negotiate a ceasefire, the White House said. A spokeswoman for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said: “Nobody wants to see a ground invasion.”
- United Nations: The UN’s top human-rights official said on Friday she had serious doubts that Israeli’s military operation against Gaza complied with international law that bans the targeting of civilians and their homes. “We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement that also called on Palestinian armed groups to uphold international law.
- Turkey: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Israeli bombardment of Gaza was blocking efforts to patch up relations undermined by a 2010 attack by Israeli commandos on a Turkish ship that had been challenging its blockade of the Palestinian territory. “We cannot normalise [relations]. First, this cruelty must end,” Erdogan said during a speech in the central Turkish city of Yozgat late on Thursday, calling for a ceasefire.
- France: French President François Hollande voiced his concern at the civilian deaths and called for a truce. Hollande and Kerry both spoke to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank and entered a power-sharing deal with Hamas in April after years of feuding.