In a phone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu late Thursday night, US Secretary of State John Kerry affirmed his "strong support for Israel's right to defend itself" against terrorist acts, but he also emphasized avoiding further escalation.

Kerry further highlighted US support for the "restoration" of the 2012 cease-fire with Hamas, the US's commitment to the Egyptian initiative as the way to do so, and the importance of Hamas agreeing to a cease-fire proposal.

Kerry's comments echoed those of US President Barack Obama, who released a similar statement Wednesday.

"As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people.  There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets," Obama said. "We are going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire, and we support Egypt’s continued efforts to bring this about."

Israel launched a ground offensive Thursday night after an infiltration attempt made by Hamas via tunnel was thwarted.

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