European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday that Israel had the right to protect its people against Gaza rocket attacks but urged it to stick to a "proportionate" response.
Deploring the loss of civilian lives on both sides, Ashton said in a statement that "the rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza which began this current crisis are totally unacceptable for any government and must stop."
"Israel has the right to protect its population from these kinds of attacks. I urge Israel to ensure that its response is proportionate," she added.
Ashton said she had spoken to leaders in the region to stress the need to prevent more escalation and loss of life. She also voiced hopes that Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, who crossed into Gaza for a brief visit amid Israel's massive military campaign, "will be able calm the situation."
Israeli warplanes carried out relentless sorties over the Gaza Strip through the night while Palestinian militants fired more rockets into the Jewish state.
The escalating conflict has drawn expressions of deep concern internationally and sparked anger in the Arab and Muslim world.