THE Australian government has urged Israel and Palestine to exercise restraint and step back from the brink of full-scale war.
Israel has launched a major offensive on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, assassinating military commander Ahmed Jabari and striking more than 100 militant targets.
It says it has been forced to act due to mounting rocket attacks on towns in its south.
The offensive has killed at least ten Palestinians and wounded about 100 more. Three Israelis were killed by a rocket attack on the town of Kiryat Malahi on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he did not want to see the conflict escalate further.
“All we can do is urge both sides to exercise restraint,” he told Sky News.
Senator Carr called on Hamas to cease its rocket attacks on Israel’s south but also called on Israel to ensure its response was proportionate.
“But rather than attacks and responses, let’s set that aside and have mutual restraint and have both sides – Palestinians and Israelis – commit to resuming negotiations to get that two-state solution.”
Senator Carr said he hoped the United Nations Security Council could push both sides towards restraint.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott condemned the rocket attacks on Israel.
“We of course regret the escalation of conflict, but Israel has every right to defend itself against the threat while continuing to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” he said in a statement.
Mr Abbott’s deputy, Julie Bishop, said the extremists behind the attacks on Israel’s south were seeking to terrorise and kill Israeli civilians.
“The first step towards resolving this latest conflict is for Hamas and other armed groups to halt the attacks on Israel and to commit to peaceful negotiations,” she said.
Australia-born Israeli diplomat and spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, said Israel’s operation was “fundamentally defensive”.
“Israel is acting to defend our people, as I believe the Australian government would if Australian citizens were being rocketed by terrorists,” he told ABC television.
“We have to deal with this threat and we have to try to neutralise this threat.”
He conceded the situation “could get worse before it gets better.” –AAP