Conflict & Justice

Palestinian militants fire rockets at southern Israel as Barack Obama heads to West Bank


President Barack Obama (L) listens during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel.


Lior Mizrahi

JERUSALEM — The serene atmosphere of friendship and reconciliation that has reigned in the 24 hours since President Barack Obama landed here for his first presidential trip was punctured this morning by the launch from Gaza of two missiles aimed at Israeli civilan targets.

One crashed into the backyard of a family home in Sderot, the southern city Obama mentioned in remarks yesterday, when he said he had seen the damage wrought by missiles on a previous visit to the region.

In describing his hopes for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, the presdent said he hoped "for Palestinians to feel a sense that they too are masters of their own fate; for Israel to feel that the possibilities of rockets raining down on their families has diminished."

No one was hurt by the Thursday rockets, two of which landed, with almost poetic precision, back in Gaza, whereas two were found in Israel. This is the third launch of rockets from Gaza in the last month, after a period of quiet following Israel's Gaza incursion in November.

Sderot is frequently targeted by rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Palestinian group Hamas.

Rocket alert sirens went off in Sderot before the rockets hit.

The BBC wrote that Obama would spend only a few hours in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, talking mainly about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Obama's declaration that the United States was Israel's strongest ally was likely to add tension at the meeting, the BBC said.

In talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday after his arrival on Air Force One, Obama gave his personal commitment that the United States would stand by Israel were it to act to protect its people.

Within minutes of arriving at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Wednesday, Obama said of the US-Israel relationship that "our alliance is eternal," later adding that:

"The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend."

On the other hand, the BBC pointed out, Obama said in a 2009 speech in Cairo that the situation for Palestinians was "intolerable." 

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