UNITED NATIONS - Top officials from the diplomatic "Quartet", which is searching for peace in the Middle East, have called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and southern Israel, a UN spokeswoman said Tuesday. But the call went unheeded as Israel pressed on with its deadly airstrikes that have resulted in the death of more than 380 Palestinians and millions of dollars in property damage. The Quartet issued its call following telephone talks by the officials of the Quartet - grouping the United Nations, The United States, Russia and the European Union - on four days of Israeli airstrikes that have left more than 393 Palestinians dead. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana were on the conference call. "They called for an immediate ceasefire that would be fully respected," said UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe. Similar calls have been issued by the EU and the UN Security Council. "They called on all parties to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza and to take necessary measures to ensure the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies," Okabe said. "They agreed on the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to continue on the road to peace," she added in what was described as a "readout" of the Quartet discussions but not an official statement by the grouping. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose nation holds the EU rotating presidency until Wednesday, was among other officials on the call. Okabe said earlier Ban had asked the Quartet officials to confer by telephone after he released a statement on Monday urging world leaders to do more to stop the violence. Israel has said its military action into Gaza could last for weeks. During the crisis, semantic differences appear to have emerged between the United States and others on what kind of ceasefire is required. The White House and State Department have in recent days called for a "sustainable and durable" ceasefire that is fully respected by Hamas rather than an immediate one. "We don't just want a ceasefire for the sake of a ceasefire, only for violence to start up immediately, or within the next few weeks," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe. "That serves no one's interest." During the 2006 war between Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel, Rice was criticised for not publicly demanding an immediate ceasefire but a "sustainable" one. That was interpreted as giving Israel a green light to continue pounding Lebanon. A State Department spokesman, who released the same "readout" of the call as the UN spokeswoman, said the emphasis was that such a truce should be "fully respected." "If not, it cannot be called a ceasefire, no matter the time frame," said the spokesman, who spoke on condition he not be named. "A ceasefire that is sustainable and durable is one that is fully respected," he added. Ban issued a similar call yesterday, demanding Israel and Hamas halt acts of violence, avoid civilian casualties, and that Israel keep open all border crossings needed the continued provision of humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Noting that he had repeatedly condemned rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel, he added, "While recognising Israel's right to defend itself, I have also condemned the excessive use of force by Israel in Gaza." WHO underscored the precarious state of Gaza's medical facilities as the wounded poured in. Hundreds of wounded people, including women, children and elderly, lie in hospitals that already lack basic supplies," it said. "The inability of the hospitals to cope with a problem of this magnitude, if the situation continues unchanged, will result in a surge in preventable deaths from complications due to trauma. Civilians are paying the price for the prolonged blockade," it added, referring to the closure of crossing points which Israel has imposed, citing rocket attacks by Gaza activists. "As a top priority, the shortages of essential and life-saving medicines need to be abated without delay. The current escalation of the violence only compounds the health situation and unnecessarily exacerbates the fragile status of the civilians caught up in this conflict." WHO has secured, in collaboration with several Member States, the dispatch of medical kits to cover surgical and trauma interventions and is following up with Palestinian and Israeli authorities to ensure these supplies reach those who need them. Negotiations with the Israelis are ongoing to guarantee the passage of urgent medical supplies, the agency said, adding that it was also coordinating with other UN agencies, donors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure aid arrives to those most in need. "The functioning of hospitals and access to health services is critical in order to respond to the mass casualties," WHO stressed, calling for the removal of blockades to allow in much-needed food, water, fuel, medicines and other humanitarian aid. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) voiced deep concern over the impact of the current violence on youngsters and urged all parties to abide by their international legal obligation to ensure that children are protected and receive essential humanitarian supplies and support. Over half of the population in Gaza are children. "It is critical that humanitarian assistance, including food, medical supplies and equipment be allowed into Gaza to address the urgent needs of children and women," UNICEF said in statement.