Gaza 'war not an option,' France's Fabius says in Israel

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza militants was an urgent necessity and France was willing to help broker a truce.

"War is not an option, it is never an option," he told journalists in Tel Aviv. "There are two key words: urgency and ceasefire," he said yesterday.

"The situation in the Gaza Strip, as in Israel, is very difficult, with many deaths," he told a press conference at the end of a one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"France would like to be a facilitator in a ceasefire," he said adding that Paris had no direct contacts with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip.

"I think that the Egyptian president could have an important and useful role in this crisis," Fabius said.

His remarks came on the fifth day of Israeli air strikes on Gaza which have killed more than 70 people, while militants from Gaza have fired hundreds of rockets at the Jewish state, one of which killed three civilians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that Israel was ready to "significantly expand" its operation against Gaza militants even as he prepared to receive Fabius, who was on a whirlwind tour of the region.

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