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Published: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 7:55:02 AM
Updated: Thursday July 17, 2014 MYT 7:56:11 AM

EU leaders call on Israelis, Palestinians to end violence

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders on Wednesday called on Israelis and Palestinians to end violence and said they welcomed efforts, particularly from Egypt, to broker a cease-fire following more than a week of warfare.

The leaders, meeting in Brussels, urged 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."

In a statement, the EU leaders welcomed Egypt's efforts to mediate and called on the Islamic Hamas, which rules Gaza, to agree to a cease-fire.

U.S. President Barack Obama also said on Wednesday he supported Egypt's attempt to achieve a Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire.

The EU leaders condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.

Israel has a right to protect its population from these attacks, but it must act proportionately and ensure the protection of civilians, they said.

The EU "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 and is deeply concerned about the rapid and dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation," the statement said.

Gaza health officials said 207 Palestinians, most of them civilians, had been killed in air and naval barrages, in the worst flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence in two years.

One Israeli has been killed by shelling from Gaza that has made a race to shelter a daily routine for hundreds of thousands in Israel.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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