WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama backed Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, offering Washington’s full diplomatic support.
Obama said that while he and the world were “heartbroken” by the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip, US ally Israel had the “right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize” its population.
“We’re going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the ceasefire, and we support Egypt’s continued efforts to bring this about,” Obama told reporters in a wide-ranging foreign policy statement.
“Over the next 24 hours, we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a ceasefire.”
Israel agreed earlier to a United Nations request to halt its bombardment of Gaza for five hours on humanitarian grounds, after its naval strikes killed four children on a beach.
Israel’s campaign, now in its ninth day, has killed 220 Palestinians so far, with a Gaza-based human rights group saying over 80 percent of them were civilians.
In the same period, militants have fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel. They claimed their first Israeli life on Tuesday — the same day that Egypt’s efforts to broker a ceasefire collapsed.
Obama said the Jewish state has “a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people.”
“There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets,” he added, praising Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, built with US help.