Israel has 'a right to defend itself,' WH says

 

The White House voiced support for an Israeli military offensive targeting Hamas, saying Israel had "a right to defend itself" against "vicious" rocket attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip.

"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians."

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The Israeli military struck some 100 sites in Gaza and was mobilizing troops for a ground invasion, according to The Associated Press. At least 15 Palestinians were killed in the violence.

The Israeli operation was launched in response to a flurry of rocket fire from Gaza. Officials there estimated at least 130 rockets had been shot into Israel in recent days.

Earnest expressed concern "about the safety and security of civilians on both sides."

"This means both the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes and the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas's violence," he said.

The surge in violence was apparently motivated by the recent killings of teenagers on both sides of the conflict.

Over the weekend, the Israel government arrested six Jewish suspects in the killing of a Palestinian teen thought to be a revenge killing, motivated by the kidnapping and death of three Israeli teenagers.

In an op-ed published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Tuesday, President Obama said peace between the Israelis and Palestinians remained “possible."

Obama called on all parties to “protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution” during what he acknowledged was a “dangerous moment.”

"As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now. Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel," Obama wrote.