US: Israel has 'right to defend itself' against rocket attacks
White House: No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians • State Department: We want Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks • French ambassador to Israel visits Ashdod • Arab League seeks emergency Security Council meeting.
Shlomo Cesana, Yoni Hirsch, Eli Leon, Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
An Israeli airstrike in Gaza
Photo credit: Reuters
Following the first day of Operation Protective Edge, the White House voiced its support for Israel on Tuesday.
"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing on Tuesday. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks."
With that, Earnest added that the White House was "hopeful that even as Israel exercises their right to self-defense that they'll leave open a channel for diplomacy to prevail and for a cease-fire, or at least a de-escalation in the violence, to commence."
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a press briefing: "We want [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas to do everything in his power to prevent rocket attacks and to condemn violence. But I would remind you, as you know, Hamas ... continues to control Gaza."
She said the U.S. strongly condemns the continuing rocket fire into Israel and that "we also support Israel's right to defend itself against these attacks."
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said that Ban "condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza" and that "these indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop."
Ban "reiterates his call on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further civilian casualties and overall destabilization," Dujarric said.
French Ambassador to Israel Patrick Maisonnave, who visited Ashdod on Tuesday, said: "When one is here, 30 kilometers [19 miles] from Gaza, you can feel up close the constant anxiety and fear which the families in the south live with, who find themselves yet again hostage to the violence. I would like to say to these families that we are not forgetting them and that France stands alongside them."
Maisonnave added, "I ask to reiterate that we completely condemn any form of terrorism and violence. I hope the sides will be able to reach a compromise."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "The missile attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip has created a situation which threatens a spiraling process of violence and violent counter measures. Israel of course has the right to protect its citizens from rocket attacks." He said he hopes all parties recognize that "a military confrontation that is beyond control must be avoided."
The Arab League on Tuesday called for the U.N. Security Council to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the Israeli military operation, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said.
Elaraby denounced the "dangerous Israeli escalation" and warned against its humanitarian consequences in Gaza.
Abbas on Tuesday demanded that Israel halt its offensive.
According to a statement from his office published shortly after midnight and published by the PA's official WAFA news agency, "Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas demanded Israel immediately stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza."
Abbas also asked the international community "to immediately intervene to halt this dangerous escalation which would lead the region to more destruction and instability."
He added that the Palestinian leadership was making "intensive and urgent calls" to numerous Arab leaders in the hope of pressuring Israel to defuse the situation.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Tuesday that Israel was "playing with fire." Hamas officials also warned that if Israeli troops entered Gaza, Hamas operatives would try to kidnap them.