US condemns rocket fire from Gaza into Israel

The United States Tuesday condemned rocket fire by Hamas militants into Israel, and said it was concerned for civilians on both sides, after Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed 15 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a diplomatic channel open with Palestinians to resolve the crisis sparked by the murders of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian youth.

"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," Earnest said.

The spokesman also backed the Jewish state's right to respond to the attacks.

"No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks," he said.

At the same time, Earnest said Washington was mindful of the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas.

"This means both the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes and the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas' violence," he said.

Emergency services in Gaza said that Israeli strikes Tuesday killed 15 people and wounded around 100 others, as the military began an aerial campaign against militants in the Strip.

Israeli army figures showed that militants fired 130 rockets at southern Israel without causing any casualties, while the Israeli air force struck 150 "terror targets" in Gaza.