Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak with several world leaders today to secure international support one day after Israel launched a ground offensive into Gaza, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Anti-Israel protests broke out in Jordan, the West Bank and Turkey where Israel reduced its diplomatic presence after rioters threw stones at the consulate, covered its walls with graffiti, and draped Palestinian flags at the ambassador's residence. The United Nations said that the ground offensive has driven at least 40,000 people from their homes in Gaza to 34 U.N. shelters. One Isreali soldier and 24 Palestinians have been confirmed dead, according to the BBC.
During a telephone call with President Barack Obama Friday, Netanyahu thanked the United States for its support, specifically referencing Washington's recent funding increase of the Iron Dome program, a missile defense system largely credited with shielding Israel from thousands of rockets being fired from Gaza.
Obama spoke to reporters in the White House briefing room shortly after the call, reaffirming American support for Israelis military operation against Hamas' tunnels in Gaza, while expressing concern for the growing number of civilian casualties.
[I] made clear that the United States and our friends and allies are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life... And we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties... all of us are working hard to return to the cease-fire that was reached in November of 2012. Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt's initiative to pursue that outcome."
As infantry, tanks, artillery, combat engineers and intelligence units continue to cross into the Gaza strip with the mission of taking out Hamas' terrorist tunnels, Netanyahu told the military to prepare for a possible expansion of the operation. The Islamist militant group attempted to use the tunnels to break into Israel, but were stopped by Israeli Defense Force troops outside of a kibbutz in the south.
Israel waited 10 days to launch their ground offensive, relying on missile defense and targeted rocket strikes against weapons sites to force Hamas into a ceasefire. Israel last invaded the Gaza strip in a bloody three-week offensive in January, 2009. That war saw a death told in the thousands, hundreds of whom were children.