France Thursday condemned Israeli army strikes on Lebanon as a "disproportionate act of war".
"We obviously condemn this disproportionate act of war which also has two consequences," Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Europe 1 radio.
"The first is to force anyone wanting to now enter Lebanon to go either by sea or by Syria," he said.
"The second consequence is to run the risk of plunging Lebanon back into the worst years of war with the departure of Lebanese who will want to flee while they were in the process of rebuilding their country," he said.
The French foreign minister's reaction came after Israeli warplanes struck Beirut international airport and air raids, in which dozens of Lebanese civilians were killed in more than 50 Israeli air strikes across the country on Thursday, according to local police.
Israel began a land, sea, and air assault on Lebanon following Wednesday's abduction of two Israeli soldiers by the Shiite Hezbollah militia.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, meanwhile, described the situation as "extremely worrying", adding it must not go on "for local reasons as for world reasons".
"We must move towards a dialogue, recognising each other and permitting the civilian population to live in peace," she said on France Inter.
Alliot-Marie noted the region was the scene of local instability, but added: "That goes much further since what happens in the Middle East serves as a pretext for terrorism too."
And she added that the Israeli soldiers must be freed and that the violence stop.
France's "position of balance" allowed it to talk with both sides, she added. "It's a considerable asset for peace. But we cannot be alone."
EU: Avoid civilian casualties
The European Union called on all sides to halt the renewed violence in the Middle East and take care to avoid more civilian casualties.
"Every effort must be taken not to harm civilians," said EU spokeswoman Emma Udwin. "All parties must respect their obligations under international law to protect civilians from the effects of conflict."
She restated the EU's condemnation of the seizure of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah militants and expressed shock at the deaths of civilians in Israel's strikes in Lebanon. Udwin said EU foreign ministers will discuss a further EU reaction to the escalation at their regular monthly meeting Monday.
Russia slams Israeli offensive
Meanwhile, in a strongly worded statement Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin condemned the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and in Gaza, called for Israel to respect Lebanon's sovereignty and also called for the release of Israeli hostages.
"The continued destruction of civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and the disproportionate use of force by Israel, which causes suffering to the civilian population, can be neither understood nor justified," he said. "Equally unacceptable are any manifestations of terrorism and the taking of hostages, who must be released immediately and unconditionally," he said.
US: Israel has right to self-defense
Meanwhile, US President George W. Bush said on Thursday that Israel had a right to defend itself against terrorist acts but it should not weaken the Beirut government.
"Israel has the right to defend herself," Bush told a news conference after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "Secondly, whatever Israel does should not weaken the...Government in Lebanon."
For her part, Merkel urged a de-escalation of the conflict.