President Obama on Sunday said he was “fully supportive” of Israel’s right to defend itself, but said he hoped Israel could accomplish its military objectives without "ramping up" its operation in Gaza.
In his first public remarks on the ongoing violence in the Gaza strip, Obama placed pressure on Hamas to resolve the escalating conflict, saying that a solution begins with “no missiles being fired into Israel’s territory.”
The president said that “no country on earth would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” according to multiple media reports.
Speaking in Thailand, his first stop on a three-country Asia tour, Obama also expressed a wish that Israel could accomplish its military goals "without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza," according to AFP.
"That is not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it is also preferable for Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they are much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded," he said.
The president said the next 2 days would be critical. "We're going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours," he said.
Israel launched air attacks on Gaza last week following a rise in the number of rockets fired by Hamas into Israeli territory.
The White House has publicly offered support for Israeli’s actions against Hamas, with Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes telling reporters Saturday that “the Israelis are going to make decisions about their own military tactics and operations.”
“What we want is the same thing the Israelis want, which is an end to the rocket fire coming out of Gaza,” Rhodes added.
Obama has reached out to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer his support and has also spoken to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Rhodes on Saturday said the president hoped Morsi and Erdogan could play “constructive role in engaging Hamas and encouraging a process of de-escalation.”
The conflict entered its fifth day on Sunday, as Israeli officials refused to rule out a ground war in the Gaza Strip.
“We do not want to escalate. We do not want to have ground action, but we'll take whatever measures are necessary to defend our citizens,” said Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren on Friday.
Reports on Sunday said Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system had intercepted a rocket fired by Palestinian militants at Tel Aviv.
This story was updated at 9:09 a.m.