Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Inga Williams

Gillard joins world leaders in condemning attacks on Israel

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has condemned Hamas for launching rocket and mortar attacks on parts of Israel, including Tel Aviv.

With tensions in the region escalating, Ms Gillard joined a chorus of world leaders in criticising Hamas and called for its attacks to cease immediately.

As the death toll on both sides continued to climb, Ms Gillard said Australia was "gravely concerned" with events in the region and urged both Israel and Hamas to "exercise restraint" in a bid to protect the lives of civilians.

Rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip intensified earlier this week following the assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari.

There have been reports of more than 300 rocket attacks since his death.

Israel responded to the rocket attacks with an intense bombing campaign this week across Hamas-controlled Gaza.

It has also called on 30,000 reservists to be called up as the likelihood of an all-out war increased.

"Australia supports Israel's right to defend itself against these indiscriminate attacks.

"Such attacks on Israel's civilian population are utterly unacceptable," Ms Gillard said in a statement.

"Further escalations in rocket attacks from Gaza, such as those seen overnight, will not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or their cause for self-determination and statehood."

Ms Gillard urged Egypt to use its clout in the Middle East to help find a peaceful resolution to the violence.

"The only way forward is a two-state solution based on direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis," she said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott agreed as he joined Ms Gillard in condemning Hamas.

He said Israel had "every right to defend itself".

"The latest escalation of conflict highlights the importance of Israel and the Palestinians reaching compromise including the recognition of Israel by the Palestinians and their renunciation of violence - necessary preconditions to achieving a lasting two-state peace settlement," Mr Abbott said.

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