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Middle East

Obama blames Hamas's missiles for conflict

President Barack Obama cautiously waded into the first major foreign policy challenge of his second term at the weekend by saying it would be "preferable" if Israel avoided a ground invasion of Gaza, even has he reaffirmed American support for its ally.

The President said rocket attacks by Hamas, which the US considers a terrorist organisation, were to blame for the latest round of hostilities.

He also made pointed remarks against Egypt and Turkey, where leaders have been critical of Israeli air strikes.

"Let's understand that the precipitating event here … was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated, and there's no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," Mr Obama said, speaking in Thailand at the start of a three-day tour of Asia.

The United States, he said, was "fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself". But he said he would prefer that this happen without "a ramping up of military activity in Gaza".

At a press conference in Thailand, Mr Obama issued a rebuke to Egypt and Turkey. "What I said to President [Mohamed Morsi of Egypt] and Prime Minister Erdogan [of Turkey] is those who champion the cause of the Palestinians should recognise that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future."