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Israel-Gaza conflict: Barack Obama warns Benjamin Netanyahu against escalating civilian deaths in Gaza

The US President says that while he respects Israel's right to self defence, he is concerned about the growing number of civilian casualties

US President Barack Obama has said that he is deeply concerned about the number of civilian deaths in Palestine and has called on Israeli Prime Minister to ensure that the number of casualties does not escalate.

While Obama said that the US respected Israel’s “right to self-defence”, he stressed that he was “deeply concerned” about the civilian losses incurred and the threat of the conflict intensifying further.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Obama said: “No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders”, but said that Israel's military should conduct its operation “in a way that minimises civilian casualties.”

On Thursday night the Israel Defence Forces launched their first ground offensive, mobilising units of soldiers and tanks into the Gaza strip.

Since the offensive was launched, a reported 60 Palestinians have been killed.

Following the operation on Friday, Netanyahu announced that the IDF would be looking to “widen their invasion” of the Gaza strip saying that without ground offensives Israel could pay a “higher price”.

In reaction, Obama has put pressure on Netanyahu to rethink his decision and, instead, pursue, a more peaceful resolution to the current conflict.

Obama said: “The US and our friends and allies are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.”

The news comes as world leaders attempt to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict that has claimed the lives of over 300 hundred people.

On Friday, Pope Francis called Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urgie both men to make a concerted effort to promote a truce and encourage reconciliation between both sides.

In a statement released by the Vatican, they said the pope told both leaders that the saying that the “growing hostility, hatred and suffering” both nations were experiencing needed to stop.

Today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is set to travel to the area to speak to leaders from both sides in a bid to agree on a ceasefire.

Following an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday, a spokesman for the UN said that the  UN chief was travelling to the region to meet with officials from both sides to secure a “lasting resolution”.