The European Union has underlined Israel's right to protect its citizens from rocket fire and called for a “cessation of hostilities.”
In a statement to the media on Monday, the EU expressed its “grave concern” over the slowly escalating war between Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations.
Israel warned the terrorists Monday morning in a statement broadcast on IDF Army Radio that if the missile and mortar attacks against its citizens did not cease by Tuesday night, the government would expand its Pillar of Defense counter terror offensive to the next level.
"An immediate cessation of hostilities is in everyone's interest, particularly at a time of instability in the region," the European Union urged in its statement. "The current situation underlines once more the urgent need to move towards a two-state solution allowing both sides to live side-by-side in peace and security.
"The European Union strongly condemns the rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip which Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza must cease immediately. There can be no justification for the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians. Israel has the right to protect its population from these kinds of attacks; in doing so it must act proportionately and ensure the protection of civilians at all times,” the statement continued.
It stressed the need for all sides to fully respect international humanitarian law.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met last week in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr at the presidential palace over the issue.
The IDF has made thousands of automated phone calls to targeted regions in Gaza prior to surgical air strikes, delivering recorded warning messages in Arabic to residents telling them to leave the area so they would not be harmed. Likewise, Israeli fighter pilots have been dropping leaflets written in Arabic warning civilians to stay away from rocket launchers and those who are operating them, since those are the targets that will be struck.
More than one million Israelis have spent nearly a week in bomb shelters under constant rocket fire from Gaza. Tens of thousands of Israeli school children have spent nearly a week out of school due to the rocket attacks. More than 80 percent of Israeli children living in the south suffer from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.