Israelis take cover in Tel Aviv bomb shelter
Israelis take cover in Tel Aviv bomb shelterFlash 90

European Union (EU) leaders on Wednesday condemned the firing of rockets into Israel while urging the Israel to "act proportionately" and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire, AFP reports.

Voicing "great concern" over continued violence in Israel and Gaza, EU leaders said the bloc "condemns the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians."

"Israel has the right to protect its population (but) in doing so it must act proportionately and ensure the protection of civilians at all times," a European Union statement added.

Issued at a summit, it said the 28-nation bloc "deeply deplores the loss of innocent lives and the high number of wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli military operations."

"The European Council calls on both sides to de-escalate the situation, to end the violence, to end the suffering of the civilian populations notably by allowing access to humanitarian assistance, and return to calm," said the statement.

Welcoming regional efforts to broker a truce, notably by Israel, the EU "calls on Hamas to agree on such a ceasefire," it added.

Earlier on Wednesday, four children died in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza, an incident which the IDF Spokesman confirmed was the result of Hamas using civilians as human shields.

"Hamas is hiding among civilians targets," Spokesman Moti Almoz told Channel 2. "Hamas continues to make cynical use of civilian casualties and we will continue to operate within a civilian environment."

"As demonstrated numerous times in recent days, the IDF has no intention to harm civilians caught in the reality of fighting between Israel and Hamas," he continued. 

During the current escalation, Hamas has openly boasted about the "success" of its strategy of using civilians as human shields, and the IDF has published extensive evidence of the practice.

Meanwhile on Wednesday night, Hamas agreed to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, but not before firing another salvo of rockets towards Israel.

Israel had earlier accepted a request by UN envoy Robert Serry to enact a "humanitarian ceasefire" for several hours starting Thursday morning.

The IDF Spokesman said the ceasefire will be a “window of opportunity” for Palestinian Arabs in Gaza to get supplies and evacuate.