Three days into Israel's air assault on Gaza, Britain's Foreign Secretary warns of a very dark moment in the Middle East peace process. David Miliband is calling for an urgent, immediate ceasefire. His is just one of many concerned voices in Europe and the Middle East.

Miliband, who says the region is now in a very dangerous position, told British television that the problem in Gaza had been building for a long time, especially over the past year. And he says peace is - for now - the casualty. 

"It has been a festering wound while the political negotiations have been going forward too slowly. And there has been a race really between political negotiation on the one hand and the crisis in Gaza on the other," Miliband said. "The tragedy is, the crisis in Gaza has erupted before the political process has delivered real gains either for Israelis or for Palestinians. That is the heart of this problem."

The foreign secretary is calling for an immediate ceasefire by Israel and Hamas. Although he admits the air strikes have dealt peace efforts a tough blow, he still refuses to lose hope.

"I think it is far more difficult today than it was a week ago to argue with optimism about the next year," said Miliband. "But it is even more urgent and that is why diplomats around the world are so busy to ensure that the phone lines remain open, the meetings keep going and that the precious links that exist are not lost."

Elsewhere in Europe, France's foreign minister says the European Union is prepared to increase its humanitarian support for Gaza.

Pope Benedict Urges Diplomacy as Protests Erupt

Pope Benedict is urging the international community to redouble efforts to help Israel and the Palestinians break free from what he calls this dead end of violence.

In the Arab world, thousands attended protest rallies Sunday. An estimated 50,000 demonstrated in Egyptian cities.  Demonstrators in Damascus waved green Hamas flags above their heads.

Protests were also held in Jordan, Sudan and Yemen.