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Hollande calls for restraint on both sides but Gaza ceasefire broken

media Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a Gaza factory, which Palestinians … Reuters/Ahmed Zakot

France is working “intensively” to prevent an escalation of the Gaza conflict, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday. President François Hollande called for restraint on both sides in a phone call to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi but a Friday morning ceasefire failed to hold.

The ceasefire declared while Egyptian prime minister Hisham Qandil visited Gaza on Friday appeared to have been broken by both sides, with Israeli bombs killing two Palestinians and rockets fired from Gaza hitting Israel.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

Dubbing Israel’s actions an “aggression”, Qandil, who had just visited victims of air strikes at Gaza City's Shifa hospital, said that his country will “intensify its efforts” to achieve “a lasting truce".

Over 20 Palestinians and three Israelis were reported to have died by mid-morning Friday, following Wednesday's killing of Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari.

Hollande expressed France’s “great concern” over the latest violence in a phone call to Morsi late Thursday and called for “restraint” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

Hollande “stressed the role that Egypt could play in reducing tension”.

“All the international community’s efforts should converge on avoiding any unilateral initiative and any provocation that could worsen the situation,” he said according to a presidential communiqué.

Hollande has embarked on “intensive diplomatic activity” and has also contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, currently campaigning for an election he has set for 22 January, Ayrault said while on a two-day visit to Germany.

“It’s time to stop this dangerous escalation both for Israel’s security but also for the Palestinians,” he said.

Hollande said he was "seriously concerned  ... both by the rocket attacks on Israel and the reprisals that this escalation may bring" during a visit to Poland on Friday. 

He had told Netanyahu that France is "keenly aware of Israel's need for security but
that it was also a question of not giving in to provocation which could degenerate further", he said.

He had told Mohsi to "use his influence to help avoid further acts", he said.

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