WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Israel has been told to avoid civilian casualties in air raids and to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, a spokesman for U.S. President Bush said Friday.
"What we have talked to the Israelis about is the need to be mindful that any of the actions that they're taking in Gaza avoid unnecessary civilian casualties and also to help continue with the flow of humanitarian goods," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said during a news briefing.
Any steps Israel takes in its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza "are part and parcel" to the operation "Israel has decided to undertake because they were no longer willing to put up with the barrage of rockets that Hamas has been raining down on them for the last few days, since they refused to renew the cease-fire," Johndroe said.
The spokesman said he would not comment on whether a potential ground operation was justifiable, explaining, "Those will be decisions made by the Israelis."
When asked about Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni's comment that a humanitarian crisis doesn't exist in Gaza, Johndroe said, "We we want to make sure that there isn't a humanitarian crisis."
He said Israel has allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza, but Israeli officials said Hamas leaders hoard supplies, while Hamas leaders allege humanitarian aid isn't moving into the strip fast enough. Johndroe noted neither statement could be verified independently.
"There is obviously a problem with the ability of the citizens of Gaza to be able to access everything as quickly and easily as they want, whether it's medical supplies or food," he said.