Mayor Michael Bloomberg expressed solidarity with Israelis threatened by Hamas rockets on Sunday in a daylong trip to Israel that included visits to two towns targeted by the Islamic militant movement in recent weeks.
During the visit to the embattled town of Sderot, Bloomberg and his party, which included Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat, were briefly hustled to a bomb shelter when a missile warning went off.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Bloomberg said he fully understood Israel's actions. "You should rest assured, if anyone in New York was being threatened, my instruction to the NYPD would be to use all the resources at their disposal to protect civilians," Bloomberg said.
"I think as a New Yorker, we've been attacked twice by al-Qaida itself," said the mayor, who is Jewish. "We've seen enormous devastation and courage and after that you sort of feel you have a bond, if you will, for those who live in a dangerous world and subject to someone trying to kill them."
Israel is in the ninth day of its strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which have killed more than 500 Palestinians. Ground forces pushed into Gaza Saturday night amid widespread world condemnation.
Bloomberg blamed the current situation on the militant Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip and began launching rockets against Israeli towns in the south after its six-month truce with Israel lapsed last month.
"All Hamas has to do is stop sending rockets over to kill people and agree on the accords that were negotiated earlier and come to an agreement that is verifiable, durable and effective to stop people from being killed," he added.
Ghazi Khankan, a spokesman for the New York chapter of the American Muslim Alliance, said Bloomberg isn't speaking for all New Yorkers.
Bloomberg "was elected as mayor of New York City and not of Tel Aviv. He should represent all New Yorkers, not one segment of the population," he said.
"He should call for peace negotiations, not for supporting the Israeli side against the Palestinian side," Khankan added. "He should be wise enough to realize that there is no military solution. There must be a political solution."
International criticism of Israel has centered on the civilian deaths that have accompanied the attacks on Hamas and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where food, water and electricity are in short supply.
Ackerman, who accompanied Bloomberg to the southern Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Sderot, said the onus of the civilian deaths was on Hamas for using them as human shields.
"They have been the main victimizers of the innocent Palestinian people by inviting these kinds of attacks," said Ackerman, who chairs the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.