The European Union chief Caroline Ashton called on Friday for a complete "cessation of violence" between Gaza and Israel after the IDF carried out retaliatory strikes for the terrorist attack on a school bus in the Negev, AFP reported.

"I strongly condemn yesterday's mortar and rocket attacks out of the Gaza strip, which once again hit the innocent civilian population and which must stop immediately," she said, adding that she was also "deeply concerned by the current escalation of violence."

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According to AFP, the EU chief said that she also deplored "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and call on Israel to show restraint." Ashton added that "only an immediate cessation of all violence can bring back the calm necessary to allow for a lasting truce in the Gaza Strip."

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the anti-tank missile attack on a childrens' school bus in the Negev, calling it a "despicable" and "cowardly" act.

“I unreservedly condemn today’s attack from Gaza on a bus carrying school children in southern Israel. The initial reports we have received suggest the bus was deliberately targeted and that a 16-year-old boy has been critically injured," Hague said.

"This is a despicable and cowardly act that stands in stark contrast to people’s desire for peaceful reform across the region.  Violence will never deliver peace," Hague continued.

"I reiterate that Hamas must halt these strikes immediately, and rein in other militant factions in Gaza. This attack further highlights Israel’s legitimate security concerns. As I have made clear, Israel has every right to protect its people."

The White House also condemned the attack.

“We condemn the attack on innocent civilians in southern Israel in the strongest possible terms, and on-going rocket fire from Gaza,” a State Department official said. “As we have reiterated many times, there is no justification for the targeting of innocent civilians, and those responsible for these terrorist attacks should be held accountable.

“We are deeply concerned about reports that indicate the use of an advanced antitank weapon in an attack against civilians, and reiterate that all countries have obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.”

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