Israel has right to defend itself, says US

By Time of article published Dec 3, 2001

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Washington - The White House said on Monday that Israel had the right to defend itself after Israeli missiles struck Palestinian-ruled Gaza City in apparent retaliation for recent Palestinian suicide bombings.

Witnesses said missiles struck different sites in the hub of the Gaza Strip, with some falling near Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

Arafat was not there at the time, said Palestinian officials.

"Obviously Israel has the right to defend itself and the president understands that clearly," said White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer.

The Israeli missile strike appeared to be in retaliation for three Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel over the weekend that killed at least 25 people and wounded about 200.

Fleischer said the burden was now on Arafat to show that he will act to stop such attacks.

"This is a real opportunity for Chairman Arafat to show in actions, not words, that he stands for peace and that he will take action that is enduring and meaningful against the terrorists," said Fleischer.

The White House in recent days has abandoned its standard call for Israel to show restraint.

However, Fleischer echoed recent comments by US Secretary of State Colin Powell urging both sides to consider the consequences of their actions.

"It's important that, whatever actions are taken, that all parties need to consider the repercussions of the actions so that peace can still be achieved," he said.

Fleischer declined to say whether US President George W Bush was told of any planned Israeli retaliation when he met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday.

- Reuters

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