Israel sent a “clear message” to Hamas through the killing of its top military commander and is ready to “expand” its operation in Gaza if necessary, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
“Today we sent a clear message to to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, and if it becomes necessary we are prepared to expand the operation,” AFP reported Netanyahu saying in a televised address.
Israeli cabinet also gave preliminary authorization on Wednesday for the mobilization of military reserves if required to press an air assault against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Ministers convened in Jerusalem agreed “to allow the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to enlist reserve forces in accordance with the need and the authorization of the defense minister,” a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.
The U.N. chief on Wednesday called on Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants to prevent an escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls, and urged both sides to ensure civilians will be protected, Reuters reported a U.N. spokesman saying.
“The Secretary-General calls for an immediate de-escalation of tensions,” U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said, adding that it was a reiteration of Ban’s already-stated position.
“Both sides should do everything to avoid further escalation and they must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Wednesday for an urgent Arab League meeting on Israel’s strikes on Gaza, Egypt’s news agency MENA said, quoting a Palestinian official in Egypt.
“Barakat al-Fara, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo and the Palestinian representative in the Arab League, announced that based on instructions from President Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian state had asked for an urgent meeting of the Arab League to discuss the Israeli offense on Gaza strip,” MENA said.
U.S. defends Israel
The United States said Wednesday it supported Israel’s right to self-defense after it launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip, and condemned militant rocket attacks on southern Israel.
But U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement that “we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties” as it unveiled an operation targeting militant groups in the Palestinian territory.
Egypt condemns attack
Egypt’s foreign ministry condemned the attack and called for an immediate halt to the attacks.
The attacks came despite signs that Egypt had managed to broker a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants after a five-day surge in violence which saw more than 100 missiles fired out of Gaza and repeated Israeli strikes on the enclave.
“Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr condemned the series of air strikes that Israel is currently conducting against Gaza Strip and which led to the killing of Ahmed Al-Jaabari,” AFP reported the statement released by Egypt’s foreign ministry.
The statement said the Egyptian minister considered the “Israeli escalation to be very dangerous.”
Syria condemned Israel’s “atrocities” in the Gaza Strip where a series of air raids on Wednesday killed the Hamas military chief and at least six other Palestinians, calling for action from the international community.
“The Syrian government condemns the heinous atrocities committed by the enemy Israeli army against the Arab Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement carried by the official news agency SANA.
It urged the international community to “pressure Israel to stop the sinful aggression on our people in the defiant Gaza Strip.”
“Despite the risks of aggression, Syria will always remain faithful to its national and historical duty to the Palestinian people to recover their stolen lands and establish a free Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” it added.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani condemned the Israeli attacks.
“I condemn in the name of Qatar... This filthy crime must not pass without a punishment,” Sheikh Hamad told journalists after a meeting in the Saudi capital between Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Foreign Ministers and their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss Syria.
“The U.N. Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities in preserving peace and security in the world.”
Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi was preparing on Wednesday to organize an emergency Arab foreign ministerial meeting to respond to Israel air strikes on Gaza, a league official said.
Arabi had contacted Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, whose country temporarily heads the League, to prepare to convene the meeting following a request from Mursi, the official said.
Britain calls for restraint
Britain called for restraint, saying that further violence was in no one’s interests.
“We are aware of reports of the death of the senior Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari,” AFP reported the Foreign Office saying in a message posted on Twitter.
“We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one's interests.”
British Foreign Secretary William had warned at an EU-Arab League meeting in Cairo on Tuesday that the world was “in danger of sleep walking into a serious crisis” if there was no progress on the stalled Middle East peace process.
The Israeli military said his death marked the start of a military operation against armed groups in Gaza. Hamas’s military wing vowed to retaliate, warning that the killing had “opened the gates of Hell.”