Washington: The United States on Monday warned against any Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, saying it would put even more civilians at risk than are currently in the crossfire of attacks on Hamas.
But the White House stopped short of criticising Israel over the civilian toll so far in Gaza of the offensive, saying the government had a "right" and "responsibility" to defend their citizens against rocket attacks.
"Nobody wants to see a ground invasion because that would put more civilians at risk," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during his daily press briefing.
It was the first time that the White House has specifically warned in a public forum against a full Israeli invasion of Gaza, though other US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have previously said Washington would not like to see such a step.
The comments apparently reflect growing US concern over a possible escalation of the conflict, which Washington has offered to use its regional leverage to mediate.
Earnest said that Washington remained concerned about civilian casualties and called on both sides to minimise them.
But he declined to answer a question as to whether Israel, which has used the US-built Iron Dome system to shoot down Hamas rockets, was using appropriate force, given the rising casualty figures among civilians in the Gaza Strip.
He put the onus on Palestinian radicals to take steps that would lead to an alleviation of the misery of civilians in Gaza.
"We need Hamas to stop launching rockets that are putting Israeli citizens in harm`s way," he said.
"At the same time, the United States is also very concerned about those Palestinian civilians who are in harm`s way.
"That`s why we`ve been urging Israeli political leaders and Palestinian leaders to do everything necessary to try to safeguard the safety and well-being of civilians on both sides of the border."