German Foreign Minister Steinmeier has pressed Muslim nations to use their influence to help secure an end to Hamas militants' rocket attacks on Israel, saying it was the only way to clear the path for a ceasefire.
A Palestinian stands amid the rubble of his house in Gaza after an Israeli air strike
A statement from the German foreign ministry on Saturday said Frank-Walter Steinmeier had spoken with his Turkish counterpart before a meeting in Saudi Arabia of ministers from the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The statement said Steinmeier called for the OIC to exert its influence to secure an end to Hamas rocket fire. The German foreign minister sees that as the only way to clear the path for a cease-fire after a week of air strikes by Israel on Gaza aimed at Hamas, the statement said.
Steinmeier, left, and Merkel have both called on Hamas to end rocket fire
According to the ministry, Steinmeier also reiterated his support for a "humanitarian cease-fire" that would make it easier to get supplies to Gaza's civilians and pave the way for diplomacy.
Steinmeier has telephoned with Arab leaders as well as with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in recent days to seek ways to end the violence.
The German foreign minister has however stressed that the pre-condition for any truce had to be the cessation of missile attacks against Israel by the radical Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also come out in strong support of Israel during the recent conflict, accusing Hamas of terrorism in her New Year's address.
UN warns of humanitarian crisis in Gaza
Israel killed a top Hamas militant in the Gaza Strip early Saturday as its aircraft continued to pummel the territory on the eighth day of attacks against the Islamist movement.
Gaza militants, for their part, continued to launch rockets and mortar shells at Israel, with around five attacks reported on Saturday.
Earlier the Hamas leader-in-exile, Khaled Meshaal, warned Israel of a "black destiny" if it began a threatened ground offensive on Gaza.
Palestinian officials say at least 436 people have been killed and more than 2,200 injured since Israel launched its bombing campaign in response to Hamas rocket fire eight days ago. The UN said it believed 25 percent of more than 400 Palestinians killed by Israeli action so far were civilians.
An injured Palestinian is helped from the rubble
Four Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets fired into Israel since the campaign began last Saturday.
Israel has now carried out more than 700 strikes on Gaza since launching the offensive last Saturday, AFP news agency said.
The United Nations warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Earlier, chief UN aid co-coordinator for the territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said Gaza residents were cut off from food, medicine and other supplies.
Bush blames Hamas for violence
Protests and growing international outrage about the killing of civilians raised the pressure on world leaders to end the bloodshed.
US President George W Bush on Friday called for a "meaningful ceasefire" to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
In his weekly radio address, Bush blamed the situation on Hamas' violation of a ceasefire, calling it "an act of terror that is opposed by the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, President (Mahmoud) Abbas."
Bush has blamed the violence on Hamas
He stressed that any newly brokered ceasefire must be upheld by both parties.
"The United States is leading diplomatic efforts to achieve a meaningful ceasefire that is fully respected. Another one-way ceasefire that leads to rocket attacks on Israel is not acceptable," Bush said. "And promises from Hamas will not suffice -- there must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end."
EU to send mission to Mideast
The escalating violence has prompted the European Union to send a mission to the region to push both sides to declare a ceasefire.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, will lead the delegation which includes EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the French and Swedish foreign ministers.
The delegation will arrive in Cairo on Sunday, Jan. 4, for talks, the Swedish government said Friday, Jan. 2. The group will then move to Jerusalem for further discussions before meeting with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah in the West Bank.
"There are also plans to meet (Palestinian President Mahmud) Abbas in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday, Jan. 6," the Swedish government said.