Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu agreed during phone talks on Wednesday to closely communicate in dealing with the situation in the Gaza Strip, amid Israel's war with the militant group Hamas.

In their first talks since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which triggered retaliatory strikes on the Palestinian enclave, Kishida told Netanyahu that a further increase in civilian casualties must be avoided and called for efforts to calm down the situation as soon as possible, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

In response, Netanyahu explained Israel's position on the military operation in Gaza, the ministry said in a press release, without elaborating.

A building heavily damaged by Israeli attacks in Gaza is pictured on Nov. 27, 2023. (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

Concerns have been growing over increasing civilian casualties in Gaza as warfare resumed last Friday following a seven-day pause in the fighting that saw an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

During the phone conversation, Kishida and Netanyahu also shared their concerns over attacks on commercial ships frequently occurring in the Red Sea and other regional waters, the Japanese ministry said. Some of them are believed to have involved the Yemen-based, Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The talks followed Kishida's in-person meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in the United Arab Emirates on Friday on the sidelines of a U.N. climate conference, during which he also expressed hope for an easing of tensions from the Gaza crisis.

The conflict has killed over 16,000 people in the Hamas-ruled enclave, with many believed to be women and children, according to local authorities. Israel says about 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas attack.

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