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EU "very concerned" over Gaza escalation, urges ceasefire

The European Union said it was "very concerned" over the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and reiterated a call for an immediate ceasefire.

BRUSSELS: The European Union (EU) on Friday said it was "very concerned" over the escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip and reiterated a call for an immediate ceasefire.

"We are very concerned about the escalation in the Gaza Strip including the resumption of rocket fire into Israel and the Israeli ground operation," said a testament issued on behalf of the 28-nation bloc.

Welcoming the humanitarian pause agreed on Thursday, EU nations regretted it was not followed by a lasting ceasefire, and said:

"We call on all parties to immediately agree to a ceasefire. We underline the obligation to allow full and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance."

Deploring the many civilians deaths, including numerous children, the EU nations said that "we strongly deplore such incidents and we call for them to be investigated swiftly".

The statement condemned Hamas for firing rockets into Israel but said that while "Israel has the right to protect its population... it must act proportionately".

"We reiterate our call on both sides to de-escalate the situation, to end the violence and to end the suffering of the civilian populations."

Thirty-three Gazans were killed on Friday as Israel pressed a major ground offensive in the coastal enclave, raising the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 to 274, medics said.

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