Obama: Missile fire from Gaza must stop first

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama told the Egyptian and Turkish leaders that a resolution to the Gaza-Israel violence must begin with an end to rocket fire into Israel.

“If we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory, and that then gives us the space to try to deal with these longstanding conflicts that exist,” Obama said Sunday at a news conference in Bangkok, the first leg of his tour of Asian countries.

Obama said he had spoken multiple times with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who happened to be visiting Egypt during the current crisis.

Both leaders are among a handful of nations that have close ties with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip.

Obama repeated his assertion that Hamas and other terrorist groups were responsible for the recent intensification of the violence.

“Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles,” the U.S. leader said. “They were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.

“So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Obama said he was “actively” working with all parties to end the missile fire, and he wanted to see progress in the next 48 hours.

“What I’ve said to President Morsi and Prime Minister Erdogan is that those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future,” he said. 

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