Israel must take `even greater steps` to protect civilians: White House

Israel must do more to protect civilians caught up in the crossfire of its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the White House said Monday.

AFP| Last Updated: Jul 22, 2014, 01:56 AM IST

Washington: Israel must do more to protect civilians caught up in the crossfire of its assault on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the White House said Monday.

"We would like the Israelis to take even greater steps to ensure the protection of civilians," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. His comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to the region to push for a ceasefire.

Reaffirming Israel`s right to defend itself, Earnest said it was "unacceptable" for Hamas "to continue firing rockets squarely at Israeli civilians."

"At the same time, we also want to make sure that Israel is doing everything that they can to live up to their own standards related to protecting the welfare and well-being of innocent civilian bystanders," he added.

US President Barack Obama said earlier that he had dispatched Kerry, who was en route to Cairo, to push for an "immediate" ceasefire in a conflict that has so far left more than 570 Palestinians dead.

On the Israeli side, 27 people -- all but two of them soldiers -- have been killed in the Israeli offensive, now two weeks old.