Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said during a conference call this morning that the long-range missile fired by Hamas into Jerusalem today was an “escalation” of the conflict and that Israel was prepared for a possible ground invasion.
“We are prepared to take any and all measures to defend our citizens, including measures in the air and on the ground,” Oren said. “Israeli ground forces have been moved to the border. There has been no crossing of the border to date, but those forces are deployed and ready to act, be there a need.”
Israel’s response will depend on whether Hamas continues to escalate the conflict, Oren added. In addition to the Qassam rocket that hit near Jerusalem today, one missile was fired into Tel Aviv yesterday, and another killed three Israelis in Kiryat Malachi.
“We are not seeking to prolong this war, or this conflict. We are not seeking to escalate. But the ball is truly in Hamas’s court here,” said Oren. “If they stand down, we stand down. If they do not stand down, again, we will take any and all measures to defend our citizens.”
When asked by a reporter whether his use of the word “war” was a slip of the tongue, Oren said: “It is a conflict…We hope it doesn’t become [a war]. Right now it is an armed conflict.”
The ambassador said Israel has destroyed many of Hamas’s long-range missiles in its first-stage air strikes, but that they couldn’t be completely successful “because of considerations of collateral damage.” In one case, an Israeli pilot refrained from striking a long-range missile because the pilot noticed children in the vicinity, Oren said. That missile was later launched into Tel Aviv.
“We know that Hamas has not only a military strategy, it has a media strategy,” the ambassador said, adding that Hamas wants to push Israel “into a situation where we’re causing civilian damage, which will in turn impair or limit our maneuverability on the diplomatic front.”