US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Thursday to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as he pressed for a Gaza ceasefire. Kerry -- who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict -- spoke by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a US official said.
The top US diplomat was hoping Qatar and Turkey would use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan, which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official said. Kerry also spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after meeting him for two hours late Wednesday.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal is based in Qatar, while Turkey's Islamist-oriented Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has harshly criticised Israel's assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza as well as Egypt's role in trying to clinch a ceasefire.
The 17-day conflict has killed more than 730 Palestinians, many of them civilians. Hamas has rejected the ceasefire proposal by Egypt's military-backed government insisting that Israel end its eight-year siege on the impoverished Gaza Strip.
But a senior Hamas official acknowledged Wednesday that it was unrealistic to expect the blockade to end in tandem with a ceasefire and instead called for a firm agreement on principles on how to lift the siege.
Israel, which initially accepted a truce, has said it will keep up its military campaign as it eliminates tunnels that infiltrate the Jewish state from Gaza. Officials said Kerry, who briefed President Barack Obama overnight on his efforts to halt the bloodshed in Gaza, would be making more telephone calls from Cairo. CAIRO, July 24: (AFP)