The UN chief and Washington’s top diplomat were holding a flurry of meetings in Cairo on Tuesday to push for an end to violence in Gaza that has killed more than 600 Palestinians.
As the conflict entered its third week, neither side showed any sign of willingness to pull back, with Israel pursuing a relentless campaign of shelling and air strikes, and militants hitting back with rocket fire and fierce attacks on troops operating on the ground.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza and begin negotiating.
“My message is the same for Israelis and Palestinians: Stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year,” he said at a news conference in Tel Aviv.
Gaza medics say the Palestinian dead include many women and children, while 27 of the 29 Israeli victims were soldiers killed since a ground assault began late on July 17.
On Tuesday morning, civil defence crews with a crane parked outside the Salam building in Gaza City, which was hit in an Israeli air strike on Monday.
The tower block’s top five floors had collapsed onto its bottom four floors. The leg of a person was visible from the street, lying on a piece of rubble caked with streams of dried blood.
World powers have urged Hamas to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and stop raining rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, demands it has so far resisted.
Kerry opened talks with Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukri and later met the president, former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Washington’s top diplomat, who has invested much of his tenure in an unsuccessful bid for a lasting Middle East peace agreement, said he would discuss the Egyptian proposal, which calls for a ceasefire followed by negotiations.
There was no halt to the bloodshed in Gaza, with at least 20 people killed in fresh Israeli strikes on Tuesday, raising the death toll since Israel launched its operation on July 8 to 593, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Nine of Tuesday’s dead were women, one of whom was pregnant, and the toll also included a four-year-old girl, and five members of the same family, who died in a strike on Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
Another 3,640 people have been wounded.
Israel has said Operation Protective Edge is to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza, and on July 17 it sent in ground troops to destroy cross-border tunnels used by Hamas militants to infiltrate southern Israel.
Since the offensive, more than 100,000 Gazans have fled their homes, seeking shelter in 69 schools run by the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.
Source: Prothom Alo