19 Nov 2012

Obama urges Israel to avoid ground war in Gaza

11:05 am on 19 November 2012

US president Barack Obama has urged Israel to avoid a ground war in the Gaza Strip, as attacks and counter attacks by Israel and Hamas continues.

Sixty-nine Palestinians are reported to have died since Israeli bombardments began last Wednesday following the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. Three Israelis were killed by Palestinian rocket attacks the following day.

Sunday saw further missile fire and Israeli strikes in Gaza. Two buildings used as a media centre were hit by Israeli bombs and a strike on a residential building has reportedly killed 10 people.

Hamas fired numerous rockets at southern Israel and its commercial capital Tel Aviv was targeted for the fourth straight day, the ABC reports.

Mr Obama is travelling to Myanmar on Monday in the first visit by an American president, but the significance of the historic trip is threatening to be drowned out by the crisis in the Middle East.

The president says a ground war would be a dangerous escalation of the conflict for Hamas and Israel, but supports Israel's right to defend itself from rockets launced by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in Thailand before flying to Myanmar, Mr Obama said America is playing a role behind the scenes in trying to secure a ceasefire, but did not hide his administration's sympathy to Israel's cause.

Mr Obama said no country would tolerate missiles being fired at its territory.

Meanwhile, Egyptian president Mahamed Morsi is presiding over talks in Cairo on Monday to try to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.