"I call on the Israeli authorities to respect their international obligations and ensure a 'humanitarian space' for the delivery of vital relief," he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, plans to embark on a two-day four-nation tour of the Middle East on Monday, hoping to rally key players behind a French initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza.

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International outcry

Russia on Sunday said it was "extremely concerned" by Israel's land operation in Gaza and said it was sending a special envoy to the region to help bring about a ceasefire by both sides.

Thousands of demonstrators in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, denounced the Jewish state as a "terrorist" force and called on the government to send troops to fight Israeli forces.

"Indonesia's military must go to war against Israel, not just as peacekeepers. We ask the government to send troops there, not just medicine," Farid Wadjdi, the local head of the Hizbut Tahrir movement, was quoted as saying by news website Detikcom.

Iran, which has seen angry protests since Israeli raids began last week, also added its voice to the discussion. Ali Larijani, parliament speaker, praised Palestinian resistance against the ground invasion.

"Zionists should know that Gaza will become their cemetery," he said on Sunday.

A 'very dangerous moment'

Shoes litter Whitehall in London in protest against Israel [AFP]

In Britain, where one of the world's largest demonstrations against the Israeli incursion took place on Saturday, Gordon Brown, prime minister, took a more measured approach, saying that Israel's ground offensive had created a "very dangerous moment" before calling for increased efforts on both sides to secure a ceasefire.

"First we need an immediate ceasefire, and that includes a stopping of the rockets into Israel. Secondly, we need some resolution of the problem over arms trafficking into Gaza and, thirdly, we need the borders and the crossings open and that will need some international solution."

For its part, the US state department said it told the Israeli government that any military action should be "mindful of the potential consequences to civilians".

It also condemned Hamas, saying the group was holding the people of Gaza "hostage" and contributing to a "very bad daily life" for the coastal territory's residents.