US, Britain warn about risks of Israel expanding ariel assault into ground war in Gaza
The United States and Britain have warned about the risks of Israel expanding its air assault on the Gaza Strip into a ground war.
The Jewish state could expand its assault while vigorously defending its right to protect itself against rocket attacks.
The remarks by President Barack Obama and Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague were part of a diplomatic balancing act by the West, as it desperately seeks an end to the escalating violence without alienating its closest ally in the region.
"Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory," Obama said at a news conference in Bangkok at the start of a three-nation visit to Asia.
"If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable," Obama said.
"It's not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It's also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded," he added.
According to Fox News, Obama spoke shortly before an Israeli airstrike leveled a home in a residential neighborhood.
Palestinian medical officials said at least 11 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed. The attack was the single deadliest incident of the 5-day-old Israeli operation, the report said.
The Israeli military said the target was a top rocket mastermind of the Islamic Jihad militant group.
Hague said Hamas, Gaza's militant rulers 'bears principal responsibility' for initiating the violence and must stop all rocket attacks on Israel, the report said.
"A ground invasion is much more difficult for the international community to sympathize with or support, including the United Kingdom," he said.
According to the report, Israeli officials say the airstrikes are aimed at ending months of rocket fire out of the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel began the offensive with an unexpected airstrike that killed Hamas' military chief, and since then has targeted suspected rocket launchers and storage sites, it added.