CAIRO (Reuters) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip were "unacceptable" and would lead to instability in the region, in a televised address to the nation Thursday.
It was the Islamist leader's starkest rhetoric targeting Israel since he took office in June following Egypt's first free leadership election.
Looking more subdued and downcast than in previous public addresses, Mursi repeatedly looked away from the camera as he listed steps he had taken to recall Egypt's ambassador in Israel and reach out to the United Nations Security Council.
"We are in contact with the people of Gaza and with Palestinians and we stand by them until we stop the aggression and we do not accept under any circumstances the continuation of this aggression on the Strip," Mursi said.
"The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region," he said.
It was the first time Mursi mentioned Israel by name in a public address. Ties between the two neighbors were never warm but have cooled further since Mursi's predecessor Hosni Mubarak, a staunch US ally, was deposed in a street revolt last year.
In a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama, Mursi said he discussed "ways to reach calm and end the aggression".
He said he told Obama of "how keen we are (to maintain) relations with the United States but also our absolute rejection of this aggression and the spilling of blood and the blockade of Palestinians".
He said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had promised to relay his demand for an end to the violence to the Israelis.