— 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.
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, November 21, 2012.
A Palestinian man reacts as flames and smoke rise from a smuggling tunnel after an Israeli strike along the border between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 21, 2012.
Israelis look at a blown up bus at the site of a bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 21, 2012.
Israeli rescue workers and paramedics carry a wounded person from the site of a bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 21, 2012.
Palestinian children stand in rubble after an Israeli strike on a house in Gaza City, November 20, 2012.
An Israeli soldier stands on a tank at a staging area near the Israel-Gaza Strip Border, November 20, 2012.
A Palestinian inspects the damage to a soccer stadium after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, November 19, 2012.
Smoke and fire rise up from an explosion in Gaza City, November 19, 2012.
A Palestinian man waves the national flag during a protest against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the city of Ramallah, November 18, 2012.
An Israeli police officer gestures in front of a burning car after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in the southern city of Ashkelon, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)
Members of the Palestinian Civil Defense help a survivor after he was pulled out from under the rubble of his destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, November 18, 2012.
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern city of Ashdod, Israel, November 16, 2012.
A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012.
An Israeli soldier runs with his weapon during a drill simulating a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip, at a base south of the West Bank city of Hebron, November 17, 2012.
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."