BRUSSELS: Gaza and Israel are “dangerously close” to a new conflict after a flare-up of violence in recent days, the European Union warned today, adding that an urgent “de-escalation” was needed to keep civilians from further risk.

“The rocket fire from Gaza towards communities in Southern Israel as well as other violent actions and provocations against Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian militants are totally unacceptable,” an EU foreign affairs spokesperson added in a statement.

The EU warning comes amid heightened tensions, a day after a deadly flare-up between the Israeli army and the territory’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Yesterday Israel launched extensive air strikes on Gaza in retaliation for the launching of more than 180 rockets and mortar rounds by Hamas and its allies on Wednesday night.

An unofficial ceasefire agreement between the two foes came into effect around midnight on Friday, (2100 GMT) yesterday.

The EU statement added: “While having the right to defend itself, Israel is expected to continue to exercise restraint and do everything to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.

The death of a pregnant Palestinian mother and her child in this latest escalation is a tragic loss.

“The European Union reiterates its full support to the efforts by Egypt and the UN to reduce tensions and to alleviate the situation in Gaza, including by enhancing the international response to the current crisis and easing movement and access.

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