U.S. offers to leverage contacts in search of Gaza ceasefire

Israeli aerial assaults have killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza

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The United States said Friday that it was ready to leverage its relationships in the Middle East to try to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The U.S. offer came a day after President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to offer to facilitate an end to Hamas rocket fire and Israeli aerial assaults that have killed 100 Palestinians in Gaza.

"There are a number of relationships the United States has that we are willing to leverage in the region to try to bring about an end to the rocket fire that's originating in Gaza and, as we saw this morning, in Lebanon," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

"We are interested in taking the kinds of steps that we did about a year and a half ago in November of 2012 to facilitate a ceasefire and to try to get this situation back on the path of de-escalation."

On that occasion, the United States worked with Egypt to broker a deal to end eight days of fighting between Israel and and the Islamist movement Hamas.

It is unclear, however, whether such an approach would work again.

Then Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi, who had contacts with Hamas, has been deposed, and the new government has cracked down on the Palestinian militant group.

Washington's own influence may also have eroded, given the failure of a U.S.-brokered peace effort between Israelis and Palestinians.

Earnest reiterated that Israel had a right to defend itself from rocket attacks, and said all sides should try to safeguard civilians.

"It is evident that civilians have been killed, including children. That's tragic, and we offer our condolences to the families," Earnest said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon and delivered a similar message.

"We made it clear, both President Obama last night, as well as in my conversation with Minister Yaalon, that we want to do everything we can to help stop what's going on and encourage all sides to not escalate and not let these hostilities get out of control any more than they are," Hagel told reporters.

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