Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Tel Aviv is ready to escalate its offensive in the Gaza Strip, where the death toll has hit 140.
Netanyahu made the remarks in al-Quds (Jerusalem) on Tuesday night during a brief press appearance with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the two entered closed-door talks.
“If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this (Gaza) problem with diplomatic means, we prefer that,” he said.
“But if not, I’m sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people,” Netanyahu told Clinton.
Israeli airstrikes, shelling, and artillery fire have left at least 140 Palestinians, including many women and children, dead and over 920 others injured since November 14. Some of the injured are in critical condition.
According to reports, Israel has called up about 75,000 army reservists and is now preparing to launch a ground invasion in the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli blockade for the past five years.
The US secretary of state advised Tel Aviv to de-escalate the military campaign in Gaza.
“The American commitment to Israel’s security is rock solid and unwavering. That is why we believe it is essential to de-escal1ate the situation in Gaza,” Clinton said at the press appearance.
“In the days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region toward an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza, and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region,” she added.
Israel has conducted more than 1,450 aerial and sea attacks against the Gaza Strip since November 14.
Gaza has been blockaded since June 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.
The apartheid regime of Israel denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, such as freedom of movement, jobs that pay proper wages, and adequate healthcare and education.