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Obama: US Willing to Negotiate Israel Cease-Fire

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WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 05:  In this handout photo from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk along the Colonnade of the White House on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed peace in the Middle East and Israel's growing concerns with Iran producing nuclear weapons.  (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 05: In this handout photo from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk along the Colonnade of the White House on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed peace in the Middle East and Israel’s growing concerns with Iran producing nuclear weapons. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is telling Israel’s leader that the United States is willing to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, as Israel was intensifying an bombardment of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to thwart rocket fire targeting Israel.

The White House says Obama condemned the rockets and said Israel has the right to self-defense. But Obama also urged both sides not to escalate the crisis and to restore calm.

Obama also relayed concerns about a Palestinian-American teenager who was detained and apparently beaten by Israeli authorities. Obama says Israel has worked to resolve that situation.

The two leaders also discussed Iran. Obama says the U.S. won’t accept any deal that doesn’t ensure Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

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