White House says Israel has right to defend itself

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WASHINGTON – The White House has said Israel has the right to defend itself against attack and decide how to respond to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The White House has blamed the ruling Islamic militant Hamasgroup for starting the conflict.

“We believe Israel has a right to defend itself, and they’ll make their own decisions about the tactics they use in that regard,” deputynational security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters during the president’s flight on Air Force One to Asia.

Israel on Saturday hit Gaza with nearly 200 airstrikes, expanding an aerial assault to include the prime minister’s headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels, the Daily Mailreports.

US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in agreement that a de-escalation of the violence is preferred, provided that Hamas stops sending rocket into Israel, Rhodes said.

The Israeli Government has called up thousands of reservists and massed troops, tanks and other armored vehicles along the border with Gaza, signalling a ground invasion could be imminent, the report said.

Israel launched the offensive on Wednesday by assassinating Hamas’ military commander, but Rhodes said the U.S. believes ‘the precipitating factor for the conflict was the rocket fire coming out of Gaza.’

“These rockets have been fired into Israeli civilian areas and territory for some time now. So Israelis have endured far too much of a threat from these rockets for far too long, and that is what led the Israelis to take the action that they did in Gaza,” he added.

“They have the ability to play a constructive role in engaging Hamas and encouraging a process of de-escalation,” Rhodes said.

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