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US condemns Gaza rockets

Nov. 15, 2012 12:07 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2012 4:47 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The United States on Wednesday condemned rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel and expressed "regret" over the deaths and injury of innocents.

"We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately," he said.

"Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause.

Toner added: "Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self determination."

The United States provides Israel about $3 billion per year in assistance, much of it for weapons.

Washington suspended civilian aid to the Palestinians in 2011.

Peres briefs Obama

Earlier, Israeli President Shimon Peres briefed US President Barack Obama about Israel's killing of a Hamas military commander in Gaza, saying the man was a "mass-murderer".

Peres told Obama that the killing of Hamas' Ahmad al-Jaabari was Israel's response to a surge in cross-border Palestinian rocket and mortar salvoes from Gaza.

"Israel is not interested in stoking the flames, but for the past five days there has been constant missile fire at Israel and mothers and children cannot sleep quietly at night," Peres was quoted as telling Obama.

"There is a limit to what Israel can absorb," said Peres, who visited the Israeli border town of Sderot on Wednesday.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama came to Sderot and voiced sympathy with residents under threat of rocket attack from nearby Gaza. He raised that visit during his successful campaign for re-election this month, after being accused by Republican rival Mitt Romney of being soft on Israel's security.
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