US Blames Hamas for War, Cautions Israel on Civilian Casualties

Hamas terrorists are to blame for Israel launching its wide-ranging military operation against terror targets in Gaza, says the United States.

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Hana Levi Julian,

Rocket victims in Barzilai Hospital's shelter
Rocket victims in Barzilai Hospital's shelter
Israel News Photo: Flash 90

The United States has come out with a statement expressing strong support for Israel's need to carry out "Operation Cast Lead" against Gaza-based terrorist organizations, but cautioned the Jewish State to avoid civilian casualties.

In a statement issued Saturday by White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe, the Bush administration said "Hamas's continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people."

That having been said, however, Johndroe went on to caution Israel to avoid wounding civilians, as did U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a separate statement issued by her office late Saturday night.

"The U.S. strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," read the terse statement from Secretary Rice. "The ceasefire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza," it concluded.

Israel's Preparations Aimed at Minimizing Civilian Casualties
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed reporters and the nation in a news conference Saturday night that Israeli intelligence had worked assiduously to avoid civilian casualties. "We worked very hard over the recent months to ensure that our intelligence would enable us to attack terrorists while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum," he said.

Olmert added, "Israel's war is with Hamas. We are not at war with the Palestinian people." He noted, however, that Israel intended to "restore quiet to the south. We intend to take care of our citizens as any other country would."

The IDF also said in a statement of its own that it had selected its targets with great care, focusing solely on Hamas targets and infrastructure facilities.

"The targets that were attacked were located by intelligence gathered during the last months and include Hamas terror operatives that operated from the organization's headquarters, training camps and weaponry storage warehouses," said the IDF statement.

However, the army spokespersons' unit warned that any person engaging in any form of terrorism in Gaza will be considered a fair target in the current military campaign.

"The IDF Spokesperson wishes to emphasize that anyone sponsoring terror, hosting terror in his house, housing terror in his basement and sending his wives and children to serve as human shields – is considered a terrorist."

"The IDF will continue its activity against terror activities according to operational assessments held by the Chief of the General Staff. The IDF is ready to widen and deepen its activity against all terror organizations… as long as it is necessary," read the statement.

Almost as an afterthought, the IDF pointed out, "In addition, the Home Front Command and emergency authorities took all necessary measures for preparing the civilian population."

The statement was no idle boast. The public instructions and bulletins issued in the past by the IDF to prepare the civilian populace have never been as detailed as those sent out to the media upon the start of Operation Cast Lead on Saturday.