The United States called Thursday on Egypt to use its sway with the Palestinians to try to end the violence from Gaza, adding that Hamas must stop its rocket attacks on Israel.
"We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation," deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner told journalists.
But he insisted "the onus was on Hamas" to stop rocket attacks into southern Israel after the Jewish state on Wednesday launched Operation Pillar of Defense, its biggest military campaign against Gaza in nearly four years.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil will visit the Gaza Strip on Friday as Israel presses a major air campaign against the territory, the ruling Hamas government said on Thursday.
“The Egyptian leadership informed us that Prime Minister Hisham Qandil will visit Gaza tomorrow, accompanied by a number of ministers. We welcome this visit and appreciate this courageous stand,” Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu told AFP.
The visit “confirms the support of the Egyptian leadership, government, and people for the Palestinian people in the shadow of the Israeli war against them in Gaza,” he added, saying Qandil would meet Hamas premier Ismail Haniya.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr called on the United States to “immediately intervene” to end “Israeli aggression on Gaza, Reuters reported Thursday.
But the United States on Thursday blamed Hamas for an explosion of violence in Gaza after salvoes of rockets were fired into Israel in retaliation for the killing of the group's military chief.
Expressing regret for the victims on both sides of the conflict, White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was "no justification" for the violence on the part of Hamas, saying it "does nothing to help the Palestinians."
On Thursday, France has also said Israeli has the right to self-defense.
Mursi says attack ‘unacceptable’
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip were “unacceptable” and would destabilize the region, in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.
It was the Islamist leader’s starkest rhetoric targeting the Jewish state since he took office in June following Egypt’s first free leadership election.
Looking more subdued and downcast than in previous public addresses, Mursi repeatedly looked away from the camera as he listed steps he had taken to recall Egypt’s ambassador in Israel and reach out to the United Nations Security Council.
“We are in contact with the people of Gaza and with Palestinians and we stand by them until we stop the aggression and we do not accept under any circumstances the continuation of this aggression on the Strip,” Reuters reported Mursi saying.
“The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region,” he said.
It was the first time Mursi mentioned Israel by name in a public address. Ties between the two neighbors were never warm but have cooled further since Mursi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak, a staunch U.S. ally, was deposed in a street revolt last year.
The Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported on Thursday that Mursi called King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss regional developments.
The King and Mursi underlined the need to use all possible diplomatic means to stop Israeli aggression and escalation of the conflict in Gaza and serve the Palestinians' interests, Petra said.
Egypt also officially requested on Thursday a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss what it described as Israeli “aggression” on Gaza, Reuters reported the Foreign Ministry saying in a statement.
It said Egypt’s representative to the United Nations had sent formal requests to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and to the current head of the council, India’s representative.
The U.N. Security Council held a late night emergency meeting Wednesday on escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
The 15-nation council held closed talks with the Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors to the United Nations. The major powers and United Nations have all urged both sides to pull back from all-out conflict.
Egypt had urged the Security Council meeting after Israel carried out more than 20 air strikes and sea artillery attacks on Gaza, killing the military commander for Hamas, which controls the territory. Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said at least nine people were killed on Wednesday.
Arab ambassadors said they wanted the council to condemn Israel.
The Arab group of nations want the council “to condemn that barbaric attack” and “to send a strong message to call for a cessation of hostilities,” AFP reported Sudan’s U.N. envoy Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, current chairman of the Arab bloc, saying.
“We want the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility and to find an immediate way to stop this aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip,” said Mansour.
The Arab League said on Wednesday that it will hold a meeting on Gaza on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the military operation could be expanded and the country’s U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor said that “indiscriminate” rocket fire from Gaza had forced Israel’s hand.
Gaza “is a strategic threat against the state of Israel, missiles flying in to major cities in Israel,” Prosor told reporters.
“This is not finished yet,” added the Israeli envoy. “We have shown restraint but if this continues, Israel will do everything that it takes to defend its own citizens, like any other country would do.”
Rockets killed three people in Israel Thursday soon after three Palestinian fighters died in an air strike, as Israel pressed a vast Gaza operation which began with a hit on a Hamas chief.