Israel is rejecting calls for respite in Gaza as its closest allies in the West have coalesced around the idea of "humanitarian pauses," or temporary stops to the bombardment.

Growing international distress at the conditions for 2.3 million people trapped under the heaviest airstrikes Israel has ever unleashed on the Mediterranean enclave led major powers this week to call on Israel to allow such pauses to get aid in and Israeli hostages held by Islamist militant group Hamas out.

The issue has opened the first public split between Israel and backers, including the United States, the EU, U.K. and other Group of Seven members such as Japan over the campaign after tight alignment and support in the nearly three weeks since Hamas militants burst from Gaza into southern Israel on a deadly rampage.