Obama stresses Israel right of self-defese

Nov. 18, 2012 at 9:51 PM

BANGKOK, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on his Asia trip said the "precipitating event" for the current situation in the Gaza Strip was the firing of missiles on Israel.

Answering a question during his media session in Bangkok Sunday, Obama expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on people's homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.

"And we will continue to support Israel's right to defend itself," said the U.S. president, who was accompanied by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, at the podium.

Tensions in the volatile Middle East have escalated since last week with the death of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari in an Israeli airstrike in the Hamas-controlled Gaza. Hamas reportedly responded by firing dozens of rockets into Israel.

"Let's understand what the precipitating event here was that's causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles; they were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated," Obama said. "And there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."

The president also said his administration is "actively working with all the parties in the region to see if we can end those missiles being fired without further escalation of violence in the region."

He said he has spoken to leaders of Israel, Egypt and Turkey and "my message to all of them was that Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory."

Obama also urged those who championing the cause of the Palestinians to recognize "that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future." He said the way to creating a genuine peace process "starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel's territory ...."

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