European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana appeared shocked by the brutality of the Israeli air strikes.

"I am concerned at the military action in Gaza and strongly deplore that it led to several civilians being killed and many more injured.

"The EU fully recognises Israel's right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. But I urge the Israeli government to exert maximum effort to avoid civilian casualties.

"Military actions of the type led in the Gaza Strip yesterday ... not only bring added suffering to populations, they also contribute to increasing tensions and putting at risk security in the region."

"I am concerned at the military action in Gaza and strongly deplore that it led to several civilians being killed and many more injured"

Javier Solana
European Union foreign policy chief

Solana called on both sides of the conflict "to live up to their commitments and implement policies conducive to dialogue and negotiations".

Deadly military operations

In Paris, a spokeswoman for the French foreign ministry also denounced the raids, saying the "deadly military operations only feed the cycle of violence" and "run contrary to what is needed for the roadmap process to be relaunched."

The latest violence has deepened gloom over the prospects of progress with respect to the Middle East "roadmap", a peace plan sponsored by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

Meanwhile in Gaza thousands of mourners lined the streets as the funerals of the first seven of those killed in Israeli assaults were held.

Mourners carried the bodies of seven Palestinians during their funeral in Nusayrat refugee camp on Tuesday. A tide of grieving people flooded the streets of this impoverished Gaza Strip refugee camp for the funeral of those killed the night before in an Israeli air raid