International

Israeli Ambassador: 'We Hope It Doesn't Come To Ground Operations'

Family and friends of Aaron Smadja, one of the three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza, mourn during his funeral at a cemetery in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday. i i

Family and friends of Aaron Smadja, one of the three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza, mourn during his funeral at a cemetery in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday. Tsafrir Abayov/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Tsafrir Abayov/AP
Family and friends of Aaron Smadja, one of the three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza, mourn during his funeral at a cemetery in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday.

Family and friends of Aaron Smadja, one of the three Israelis killed by a rocket fired from Gaza, mourn during his funeral at a cemetery in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday.

Tsafrir Abayov/AP

In an interview with All Things Considered's Melissa Block, Israel's Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said that Israel's calling of 30,000 reservists "signals a preparation for possible land action, which we may need to defend our citizens."

As we reported, the situation between Hamas and Israel has escalated, during a second day of heavy firing. Part of its operation "Pillar of Defense," Israel has ordered airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip and Hamas has responded by increasing its rocket fire into Israel. At least 13 are dead in Gaza and three are dead in Israel.

Oren told Melissa that the military attacks were provoked by more than 1,000 rocket attacks in the past month.

Ambassador Michael Oren On All Things Considered

"Israel will take whatever measures are necessary to defend its citizens," Oren said. "We hope it doesn't come to ground operations but we have to be prepared for that possibility."

Oren said that the attacks will stop if Hamas agrees to a cease fire.

Melissa showed Oren a picture of a father holding the body of his 11-month-old son. She asked if images like that would turn public opinion against Israel, because their attacks might be seen as disproportionate.

"First of all we regret any loss of life, any injury to civilian life," Oren said. "Our military takes immense precautions to minimize, if not eliminate civilian casualties."

He said their soldiers have called off air strikes when civilians were in the vicinity.

But, understand, he said, "Hamas hides behind civilians."

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