A Palestinian man inspects the damage of a destroyed house following an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City. Israeli warplanes struck tens of houses throughout the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Johannesburg - Two delegations appointed by President Jacob Zuma will depart for the Middle East on Friday, the international relations department said.

They would leave for Israel and Palestine on Friday, carrying the president's messages to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.

They would make “a special appeal for an immediate ceasefire and call for calm and restraint by all parties to the conflict”, he said.

One of the teams would be led by former public service minister Zola Skweyiya and the other by former deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad.

On Tuesday International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane announced Zuma's intention to send the delegations.

Since the unrest in the Middle East began, South Africa has expressed concern at the escalating number of casualties.

“South Africa has also expressed her strong condemnation of both actions of the Israeli defence forces and Hamas for their continued rocket attacks that have engulfed the populations of both territories leading to a large number of civilian deaths and untold suffering,” Monyela said.

Friday marked the 18th day of the deadliest violence in the area in five years.

French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that more than 650 Palestinians and 31 Israelis had been killed so far.

South Africa plans to pledge US1 million in humanitarian aid to Palestine, through United Nations agencies.

Zuma has also undertaken to invite Abbas on a working visit to South Africa.