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Obama tells Netanyahu he has concerns about casualties

Israeli soldiers fired toward the Gaza Strip from their position near the border.

AFP/Getty Images

Israeli soldiers fired toward the Gaza Strip from their position near the border.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — President Barack Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that he had “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides in Gaza.

In his second phone call with the Israeli leader in three days, Obama also told Netanyahu that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel soon to Cairo to press for an immediate cessation of hostilities, a White House statement said.

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The United States would work closely with Israel and regional partners to help bring a cease-fire into force, and it emphasized the need to protect civilians in both Gaza and Israel, according to the White House statement.

After weeks of escalating conflict in Gaza, both sides reported death tolls that made clear Sunday was the deadliest day so far in the war. The Palestinian Health Ministry reported that 87 Palestinians had died, and the Israeli military said 13 soldiers were dead.

The fighting signaled that what had begun as a limited ground invasion by Israel on Thursday night had moved into a more extensive and costlier phase for both sides.

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Most of the Palestinians were killed in an eastern neighborhood of Gaza City called Shejaiya, just outside the downtown of the densely populated city. For the Palestinians it was the deadliest episode since Israel began its offensive July 8 with airstrikes it says were aimed at curbing rocket fire against its cities. Since July 9, 417 people have been killed in Gaza, among them more than 100 children, and more than 3,000 have been injured.

Sunday’s death toll for the Israeli soldiers surpassed the number of soldiers killed in the past two Gaza offensives. In the 2008-09 war, 10 died, four of them from “friendly fire.”

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