US Warns Israel Against Ground Offensive in Gaza

White House statement defends Israel's right to self-defense, but also stresses caution in preventing more deaths in Gaza.

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AFP and Arutz Sheva Staff, | updated: 21:18

IDF armor
IDF armor
Flash 90

The United States on Monday warned against any Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, saying it would put even more civilians at risk than are currently in the crossfire of attacks on Hamas.

But the White House stopped short of criticizing Israel over the civilian toll so far in Gaza, saying the government had a "right" and "responsibility" to defend their citizens against the overwhelming barrage of rocket attacks on Israel's major population centers.

"Nobody wants to see a ground invasion because that would put more civilians at risk," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during his daily press briefing. 

Earnest said that Washington remained concerned about civilian casualties and called on both sides to minimize them.

But he declined to answer a question as to whether Israel, which has used the US-built Iron Dome system to shoot down Hamas rockets, was using appropriate force, given the rising casualty figures among civilians in Gaza.

He put the onus on Palestinian Arab terrorists to take steps that would lead to an alleviation of the misery of civilians in Gaza.

"We need Hamas to stop launching rockets that are putting Israeli citizens in harm's way," he said. "At the same time, the United States is also very concerned about those Palestinian civilians who are in harm's way.

"That's why we've been urging Israeli political leaders and Palestinian leaders to do everything necessary to try to safeguard the safety and well-being of civilians on both sides of the border."

President Barack Obama later reiterated similar comments. 

The Security Cabinet approved an order to call up 40,000 soldiers for reserve duty ahead of a possible ground offensive last week. 

As of Sunday morning, roughly 33,000 reserve soldiers were estimated to have been called up, as preparations to deepen the offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad continues. 

The statements surface just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry announced a visit to Egypt, reportedly to broker a cease-fire - despite the fact that neither Israel nor Hamas have expressed interest in such a deal. 

On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated that Washington supports Israel’s right for self-defense and pointed out that Hamas was responsible for the death of civilians.

“Civilians have been killed, and certainly that’s of concern to us, and that’s one of the reasons that we have been certainly calling for all sides to de-escalate tensions on the ground,” she said, when asked by a reporter if she thought that “the utility of an F-16 to bomb a home and kill five civilians was appropriately done.”

Psaki continued, “It’s tragic and our condolences go out to the families, but I would remind you who is at fault here, and that is Hamas and the indiscriminate attacks that they have launched against Israel.”

It should be noted that a Hamas spokesperson called for Gaza residents to act as human shields on live television earlier this week, calling the move "an effective strategy" in the PR war against Israel and encouraging Palestinian Arabs to stay in their homes despite IDF warnings to prevent casualties.