EU, U.S. Condemn Gaza Rocket Fire on Israel Amid International Mediation Efforts

International outcry comes as Egypt and other international officials work to mediate a cease-fire

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the opening ceremony of the new Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, headquarter in Berlin, Germany, February 8, 2019.
REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

The European Union is condemning the barrage of rocket attacks reaching deep into Israel after Israeli airstrikes targeted senior Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza and Syria.

The 28-nation bloc said in a statement that "the firing of rockets on civilian populations is totally unacceptable and must immediately stop."

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The rockets are a result of an Israeli strike early Tuesday that killed Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife and in eastern Gaza. Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for the attack.

The EU called for "a rapid and complete de-escalation" and stressed that it "is now necessary to safeguard the lives and security of Palestinian and Israeli civilians."

Vice President Mike Pence condemned the rocket fire, writing on Twitter:  "The United States condemns the barrage of rockets on Israeli civilians. It's clear Hamas & Palestinian Islamic Jihad put violence ahead of bettering the lives of the people of Gaza. America strongly affirms Israel's right to defend itself.

President Donald Trump's special envoy to the Middle East Avi Berkowitz took to Twitter to express his support for Israel and its "fight against terrorism and the terrorist group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)."

The international outcry comes as Egypt and other international officials are working to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the ruling faction in Gaza.

Earlier Tuesday Germany also condemned the rocket barrage, calling for de-escalation and saying there could be no justification for violence against innocent civilians.

"We condemn this rocket fire in the severest terms," the German foreign ministry said in a statement. "We call for restraint and for an end to the violence. We strongly support Egypt's and the United Nations' mediation efforts."

The U.K. also issued a statement, saying: "We are deeply concerned by the escalation of hostilities in Gaza. The U.K. condemns the firing of rockets at civilian populations. Any attacks targeted against civilians are unlawful and unjustifiable. We call on all sides to rapidly de-escalate the situation, and support the UN and Egyptian efforts to achieve that objective."

The Associated Press and Yaniv Kubovich contributed to this report.