STATE DEPARTMENT —
The United States is working with Egypt and Turkey to de-escalate violence between Israel and Hamas.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the rocket attacks in a Friday telephone call. White House officials say both men share concerns about the dangers to civilians and agreed that the violence jeopardizes prospects for a durable, lasting peace in the region.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Jordan's King Abdullah and the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland addressed the seriousness of the conflict.
"We have an extremely dangerous and volatile situation. We have a dangerous situation inside Gaza. We have a dangerous situation inside Israel," said Nuland.
The two sides have exchanged hundreds of aerial bombardments, leaving three Israelis and at least 20 Palestinians dead since a Wednesday airstrike killed the Hamas military chief.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil met with Hamas leaders in Gaza Friday, condemning the Israeli attacks as a "disaster" and saying Cairo is working to achieve a truce and an "equitable peace" that establishes a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
While supporting the prime minister's intervention, State Department spokeswoman Nuland said Washington does not endorse his comments.
"We are encouraging Egypt to use its influence on Hamas. Egypt made the decision that it would be helpful to send the prime minister to see what he could do," said Nuland. "We've been in contact with them before. We've been in contact with them afterwards. That does not in any way indicate that we endorse public statements that were made in the context of that visit."
Israeli is deploying tanks along the border with Gaza and has activated 30,000 mostly infantry reservists. Analysts say the moves could be in preparation for a ground incursion, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying his government is "prepared, if needed, to broaden the operation in a significant way.''
Nuland would not say whether the United States considers a potential ground assault on Gaza to be part of self-defense.
"Israel has a right of self-defense. I am not going to get into our private messages with any of the parties that we have been speaking to, beyond saying that we are seeking a de-escalation. We are seeking a peaceful settlement of this," said Nuland.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told VOA he hopes that in striking back, Israel "can minimize civilian deaths that are likely to occur."