Gaza City (Palestinian Territories): Washington`s top diplomat is to head to the Middle East tomorrow to throw his weight behind diplomatic efforts to end a devastating week-long conflict between ally Israel and its Islamist foe Hamas.
With Israel`s punishing air campaign in its seventh day, the death toll in Gaza hit 184, prompting growing calls for a ceasefire which have so far showed little sign of progress.
Ahead of an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, the Islamist Hamas movement shot down hopes of a deal to end the violence in and around its Gaza stronghold, saying no serious moves had been made.
"Talk of a ceasefire requires real and serious efforts, which we haven`t seen so far," Hamas MP Mushir al-Masri told AFP in Gaza City.
"Any ceasefire must be based on the conditions we have outlined. Nothing less than that will be accepted," he said, in a show of defiance in the face of the deadly Israeli bombardment.
Israel has said that it is not ready to countenance a ceasefire either, as it seeks to deal ever harsher blows to Hamas and stamp out its capacity to fire rockets deep into the Jewish state.
In a bid to add Washington`s weight to truce efforts, US Secretary of State John Kerry is to fly into Cairo on Tuesday, Egyptian state media reported.
"Kerry will visit Egypt tomorrow, Tuesday, to conduct talks with senior officials," the official MENA news agency reported, saying the US diplomat had spoken with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri by phone about the raging conflict in Gaza.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department, with Israeli press reports suggesting Kerry would also visit Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Although Arab states have demanded an immediate halt to Israel`s military campaign, with Jordan`s King Abdullah II urging Israel to "stop targeting civilians," Germany`s top diplomat said Hamas should "immediately" halt its rocket fire.
"Firing rockets on Israel by Hamas should stop immediately," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference in Amman, ahead of a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories to add Berlin`s voice to the truce efforts.
In Gaza City`s Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood, relatives of a retired economics professor in his 80s looked at the damage to his home, clearly bemused as to why it should have been targeted by an Israeli missile.