The French Foreign Ministry on Friday expressed its "deepest concern" over the Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip and called on Israel to "exercise utmost restraint." "It is crucial to protect the civilian populations and avoid further casualties," the ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would be visiting the region on Saturday "in order to support sustained efforts for an immediate cease-fire and a lasting truce that meets Israel’s security needs and Palestinian humanitarian and economic needs."