WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House says President Barack Obama has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi about rocket attacks being launched from Gaza into Israel and escalating violence in the Gaza Strip.
Israel carried out a blistering offensive of more than 50 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, assassinating Hamas' military commander in the most intense attack on the territory in nearly four years. Israel said the airstrikes, launched in response to days of rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza, were the beginning of a broader operation against Islamic militants.
The White House said Obama spoke to Netanyahu and Morsi Wednesday night and reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to self-defense from attacks against civilians. Obama urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in its response.
Palestinians ask Security Council to stop Israel
Palestinian officials are asking the U.N. Security Council to act to halt Israel's military operation in Gaza.
In a closed-door meeting of the Council on Wednesday night, U.N. observer Riyad Mansour said Israel is "vulgarly and publicly boasting about its willful killing of Palestinians" after an air strike killed Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari.
In the text of his statement, Mansour said "War crimes are being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people."
Israel said the airstrikes were launched in response to days of rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor said earlier that no one complained when Palestinians were raining rockets on Israeli civilians, and said no nation would tolerate that.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released statements saying he had spoken to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about "the worrisome escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza and the need to prevent any further deterioration."
He also said he had talked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express concern about "an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza."