European Union flag flutters outside of the
European Union flag flutters outside of theReuters

The European Union on Sunday urged Israel's military and the Palestinian group Hamas to "immediately stop" their hostilities over Gaza, and condemned the large loss of life in the conflict.

"The bloodshed needs to stop," said a statement signed by the EU and European Commission presidents on behalf of the bloc's 28 member states.

"We deplore the terrible loss of lives, including innocent women and children," it said, condemning the "intolerable violence" being suffered by Gaza residents under Israeli bombardment.

The EU statement also called the continued rocket fire by Hamas over Israel "an unacceptable threat" to Israeli citizens.

But it noted that "legitimate defense needs to maintain proportionality".

The death toll from Israel's three-week military campaign on Gaza has reached 1,766 according to medics. The United Nations says more than 80 percent of that number were civilians, including 329 children.

On the other side, 66 Israelis have been killed, including 64 soldiers, most of whom died in fighting in southern Gaza.

The EU statement said that, based on past cycles of violence, "we know that there are limits regarding what military operations can achieve".

It called for a negotiated solution that would result in two peaceful states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side, and said the EU was "ready to support actively negotiations".