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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel warned on Friday it could "significantly widen" a Gaza land offensive but was cautioned by its main ally, the United States, about the risks of further escalation as Palestinian civilian deaths mounted. Palestinian officials said 58 Palestinians, at least 15 of them under the age of 18, have been killed since Israel sent ground forces on Thursday into the densely-populated enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians. U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday he had spoken to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, underscoring Washington's support for Israel to defend itself but raising concerns about "the risks of further escalation" and additional loss of innocent lives. "We are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimises civilian casualties," Obama told reporters at the White House.
Israel warned Friday it could broaden a Gaza ground assault aimed at smashing Hamas's network of cross-border tunnels, as intensifying tank fire hiked the Palestinian death toll to 285. With diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire gathering pace, US President Barack Obama said he had telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to voice concerns about the crisis. In the face of Israel's land, sea and air offensive, the Islamist movement Hamas remained defiant and warned the Jewish state it would "drown in the swamp of Gaza"
A U.S. judiciary agency passed an amendment on Friday that will make more than 46,000 drug offenders eligible for early release from federal prison, unless Congress moves to block it. The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously on an amendment to the guidelines consulted by federal judges that will cut current sentencing terms by an average of 25 months for eligible offenders. If it does not, eligible drug offenders will have their sentences commuted by November 2015.