U.S. State Dept. spokesperson Philip J. Crowley said Friday that although Israel has a right to defend itself, military action would not solve the Middle East conflict, therefore Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to engage in direct negotiations.

"The Israelis have a right to self defense, "Crowley said during a press conference in the wake of a recent bout of violence, after Israel war planes struck the Gaza Strip in retaliation to rockets fired into Israeli territory.

"At the same time, as we have said many times, we don't ultimately think there is a military solution to this," he said, adding that "this is why we have been pressing the Palestinians and the Israelis to get into proximity talks that can lead to direct negotiations."

"We are always concerned that steps taken by either side, legitimate or otherwise, can be misconstrued, can be twisted and end up causing turbulence that can be an impediment to progress," Crowley added.

"Our message remains to the Israelis and Palestinians that we need to get the proximity talks going, focus on the substance, move to direct negotiations and ultimately arrive at a settlement that ends the conflict once and for all," Crowley said.

Earlier, both France and Britain issued condemnations against Israel's attack on Gazan targets on Friday.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said Friday that France was concerned about the rising tension in the Gaza strip and called Israel and the Palestinians to show restraint and act responsibly, Israel Radio reported.

Valero said that bold steps need to be taken to return security to the region and added that any action which could escalate the tension would be condemned by the French government and was unhelpful.

A spokesman for the U.K. Foreign Office said that London was "concerned by today's strikes and the escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel over the past week."

Talking to the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, the official called "on all parties to show restraint," adding that Britain encouraged "Israelis and Palestinians to focus efforts on negotiation and to engage urgently in US-backed proximity talks."

Earlier Friday, a Qassam rocket was reported to have been fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, a report which the IDF Spokesman's Office said was the result of a false alarm.

At least 35 rockets were fired at Israel over the course of March.

Also Friday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on the international community must intervene in the latest cycle of violence between Gaza and Israel in order to avoid a possible escalation.

Haniyeh urged the world must stop "the escalation and aggression," according to a Channel 10 report. He was likely referring to the Israel Air Force strikes, which destroyed what an Israel Defense Forces spokesman described as Palestinian munitions sites.

"We are contacting the other factions in order to reach an internal consensus as to the measures we may take in order to protect our people and strengthen our unity," Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza.

Friday's IAF air strikes were Israel's response to a Palestinian short-range rocket that was fired across the border into Israel on Thursday, an IDF spokesman said. The attack, which went unclaimed by any Palestinian faction, caused no damage.

Four air strikes blew up two caravans near the town of Khan Younis, witnesses and Hamas officials said. There were no casualties.

A fifth missile hit a cheese factory in Gaza City, setting it on fire, witnesses and Hamas officials said. Hospital officials said two children were slightly wounded by flying debris.

Helicopters struck twice in the central refugee camp of Nusseirat, destroying a metal foundry. There were no casualties.

An IDF spokesman confirmed the attacks, saying they had targeted two weapons-manufacturing plants and two arms caches.

Last Friday, Major Eliraz Peretz and Staff Sergeant Ilan Sviatkovsky were killed while pursuing a group of Palestinian militants trying to lay mines near the border fence. Two other soldiers were wounded in the incident, and two militants were killed.