US backs Israeli ‘right to defend itself,’ UN chief condemns rockets

US backs Israeli ‘right to defend itself,’ UN chief condemns rockets

PA, Arab League, Turkey and Egypt demand halt to Israeli airstrikes against targets in Gaza Strip

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Montreux, Switzerland, in January 2014 (photo credit: AP/Gary Cameron)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Montreux, Switzerland, in January 2014 (photo credit: AP/Gary Cameron)

The US and UN condemned ongoing rocket fire into Israel Tuesday, amid calls for both sides to pull back escalating violence between Gaza-based Hamas and Israel on Tuesday.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza and called on both sides of the conflict to halt aggressions.

Ban “reiterates his call on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further civilian casualties and overall destabilization,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

He added that Ban “condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza” and that “these indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop.”

Israeli strikes on Gaza Tuesday killed 15 people and wounded around 100, local emergency services said, as the military launched an aerial campaign against Hamas and other groups in the Strip.

Army figures showed that Gaza-based terror groups fired 130 rockets at southern Israel since midnight without causing any casualties, while the air force struck 150 “terror targets” in Gaza.

The United States Tuesday condemned Hamas rocket and said it was concerned for civilians on both sides after Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed 15 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a diplomatic channel open with Palestinians to resolve the crisis sparked by the murders of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian youth.

“We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza,” Earnest said.

The spokesman also backed the Jewish state’s right to respond to the attacks.

“No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks,” he said.

At the same time, Earnest said Washington was mindful of the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas.

“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’ violence,” he said.

In Cairo, Egypt’s foreign ministry condemned the Israeli raids. The country, which has brokered cease-fires between Israel and Hamas in the past, has thus far not gotten involved, according to reports.

Turkey called on Israel on Tuesday to “immediately” halt its strikes against Hamas.

“We are calling on Israel to immediately halt its attacks on Gaza,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It urged the international community, especially the United Nations, to step in and warn the Jewish state to abandon its policy of “collective punishment,” and called on all parties concerned to take lessons from the past and act with “restraint and common sense” to prevent an escalation of violence.

The Arab League called Tuesday for the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the Israeli air campaign, Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said.

An official from the pan-Arab bloc told AFP Arabi had “instructed the Arab League’s UN representative to initiate urgent consultations within the Arab group calling for an emergency security meeting of the Security Council.”

Arabi said he had been “in touch with [Palestinian Authority] president [Mahmoud] Abbas to follow the latest developments in the Gaza Strip” while also continuing “consultations with Arab foreign ministers on this subject.”

He denounced the “dangerous Israeli escalation” and warned against its humanitarian consequences in Gaza.

“The continued attacks on Palestinian civilians by Israel is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, the Geneva Convention and international resolutions on occupied Palestine,” said the Arab League chief.

Meanwhile, the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), announced it would hold an “extraordinary” ministerial meeting Thursday in the Saudi city of Jeddah to discuss the “intensifying and fierce Israeli campaign against Palestine.”

Abbas on Tuesday demanded Israel immediately halt its latest offensive.

“Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded Israel immediately stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza,” said a statement from his office published shortly after midnight (2100 GMT), early Tuesday, by the official WAFA news agency.

He also asked the international community “to immediately intervene to halt this dangerous escalation which would lead the region to more destruction and instability.”

Abbas said the Palestinian leadership was making “intensive and urgent calls” to many Arab leaders in the hope of exerting pressure on Israel to deescalate the situation.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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