ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — White House: Israel has right to defend itself, make decisions about military operations
The White House on Saturday defended Israel's right to defend itself against attack and decide how to respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, blaming the ruling Islamic militant Hamas group for starting the conflict.
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in agreement that a de-escalation of the violence is preferred, provided that Hamas stops sending rocket into Israel, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters during the president's flight on Air Force One to Asia.
Israel launched the offensive on Wednesday by assassinating Hamas' military commander, but Rhodes said the U.S. believes "the precipitating factor for the conflict was the rocket fire coming out of Gaza. We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they'll make their own decisions about the tactics they use in that regard."
He added, "These rockets have been fired into Israeli civilian areas and territory for some time now. 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."
The Israeli government has called up thousands of reservists and massed troops, tanks and other armored vehicles along the border with Gaza, signaling a ground invasion could be imminent.