Israel has called up thousands of reservists and massed troops at the Gaza border as fighting escalated Friday in what Israel’s ambassador to the United States called an armed conflict that could become a full-scale war. Speaking with reporters in Washington, Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said Israel “will take any and all measures to protect our citizens.”
Oren did not rule out the possibility that Israel could appeal for U.S. assistance.
“Right now we have the military means at our disposal that we need to meet this threat, and we are not asking for anything beyond that,” Oren said. “But we are in constant consultation and communication with our American counterparts about the situation on the ground.”
In the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Israel waited several days to request U.S.-made cluster munitions. The State Department later found that Israel had probably violated U.S. ground rules for the use of the controversial munitions in civilian areas.
While traveling in Singapore, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Friday with the Israeli foreign minister and made her second call in as many days to the Egyptian foreign minister, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. The United States is urging Egypt to use its influence with Hamas to dial back the conflict. Clinton also spoke Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
“In all cases, her message has been the same — that we are urging a de-escalation of this conflict,” Nuland said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, returning from an Asia trip, spoke by telephone with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday. Defense officials said that it was the second call in recent days between the two leaders and that they discussed prospects for de-escalating the conflict in Gaza.
The advent of longer-range rockets could hasten an expanded Israeli response, including a ground invasion of Gaza. No rockets have hit Jerusalem in four decades, but Friday’s launches confirmed that militant groups have the capacity to fire munitions much deeper inside Israel.
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, said it had developed the two “M-75” rockets that were fired toward Jerusalem on Friday. The rocket type, with a range of approximately 46 miles, had not been previously used by Hamas, although the group was known to have some longer-range rockets.
Hamas has also been amassing longer-range Iranian-built Fajr-5 rockets and appears to have used one in a fatal attack in Kiryat Malakhi on Thursday. The rocket also has a range of up to about 46 miles, posing a threat to half of Israel’s population.