Joe Biden has appeared optimistic about violence between Israelis and Palestinians coming to an end soon.
In comments to reporters after speaking with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president said: "My expectation and hope is this will be closing down sooner than later, but Israel has a right to defend itself.”
The UN has warned of the possibility of an ‘all-out war’ as Israel and Hamas continued to trade air strikes and rocket attacks amid fears the situation could yet escalate further.
The death toll in the conflict has reached 74 people, including Israel’s first military fatality. Sergeant Omer Tabib “was killed as a result of anti-tank missile fire” fired by Hamas on Wednesday morning, the Israeli military said.
The announcement of Tabib’s death came shortly after Hamas confirmed that its Gaza City commander, Bassem Issa, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday.
At least 67 Palestinians have been killed, including 17 children and six women and an elderly person, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. A further seven Israelis have been killed in rocket fire from Gaza, including three women and two children.
Meanwhile, Mr Netanyahu has declared an emergency in the town of Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, following what police called “wide-scale riots” by supporters of the Palestinians.
The two sides have returned to the brink of war following weeks of confrontations, including a heavy-handed police response to worshippers gathering for Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.