Kerry says `some progress` in Gaza truce efforts
Washington: Washington`s top diplomat said global efforts to end 17 days of bloodshed in Gaza were progressing as the Palestinian death toll rose to 718 Thursday and airlines kept flights to Israel suspended over rocket fears.
A family of six, including a five-year-old girl and boy of three, were among 21 killed in Israeli airstrikes Thursday as a flurry of intensive diplomacy efforts by world leaders pressed on in the region. Another two died from wounds sustained earlier.
The Islamist Hamas movement rejected any truce without the lifting of Israel`s eight-year blockade on Gaza.
"We will not accept any initiative that does not lift the blockade on our people and that does not respect their sacrifices," Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said.
Hamas hailed the suspension of Tel Aviv flights by many world airlines as a "great victory."
"The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel`s failure," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said as traffic to Tel Aviv`s Ben Gurion airport slowed to a trickle after a rocket hit close to runways on Tuesday.
As US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon held talks in Jerusalem, they said they had pooled their efforts in the hope of boosting the quest for a truce.
"We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done," Kerry said as he met the UN chief for the second time this week.
"We are now joining our forces in strength to make a ceasefire as soon as possible," Ban said, warning there was no time to lose as concern mounted over the rising civilian body count.
The US diplomat offered a similar message to the Palestinians as he met president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
"We have in the last 24 hours made some progress in moving toward that goal," he said before heading to Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The men met for about two hours but made no statements after their talks. Kerry then left for Cairo and Netanyahu opened a meeting of his security cabinet.
Britain joined the truce efforts with new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond holding late-night talks with Abbas, saying a ceasefire was not enough.
"We will work for a stable solution that allows Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace together," Hammond said.
Ban also brought up the Gaza conflict in a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah in Jeddah, according to the official SPA news agency.Palestinian medics said Israeli attacks on Thursday hiked the death toll to 718 with a Gaza-based rights group saying more than 80 percent of them were civilians.
Thursday saw 21 killed, and 66 died in bombardments on Wednesday, medics said -- most of them in Khuzaa on the Israeli border, close to the southern city of Khan Yunis.
In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian died Wednesday after being shot by Israeli troops, Palestinian officials said.
The Israeli army said three more soldiers were killed in combat inside Gaza on Wednesday, raising the total number of soldiers killed since the start of a ground operation on July 17 to 32.
A Thai farm labourer also died when a rocket fired from Gaza struck the greenhouse where he was working in southern Israel, police said.
On the ground, the fighting was briefly suspended in several flashpoint areas to allow ambulances to extricate the wounded, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
A spokeswoman said seven ambulances had entered Shejaiya near Gaza City and another nine ambulances had entered Khuzaa, while a third convoy had entered Beit Hanun in the north.
In Gaza City, hundreds of people, mostly women and children, packed into the pews of Saint Porphyrios Greek Orthodox church seeking shelter from the violence outside.
Kerry`s arrival in Tel Aviv came a day after a Gaza rocket struck close to the main international airport, prompting the US Federal Aviation Authority to ban commercial flights to and from Israel for at least 24 hours.
It renewed the ban for another 24 hours on Wednesday, citing the "potentially hazardous situation."
And its European counterpart advised all carriers to avoid Tel Aviv "until further notice" in a move mirrored Wednesday by Royal Jordanian and Turkish Airlines, prompting Hamas to hail a "great victory."Kerry began his regional mission in Cairo, discussing ceasefire proposals with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, that he said provided a "framework" to end the fighting.
An initial Egyptian proposal calling for a halt to hostilities ahead of talks was accepted by Israel early last week but rejected by Hamas, which wants agreement on a comprehensive package before holding its fire.
A senior Hamas official in Cairo told AFP the militants wanted detailed guarantees that Israel would ease its blockade of the enclave.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to talk about the negotiations, said he hoped they would bear fruit "in a few days".
"The atmosphere in the talks is positive," he told AFP in a telephone interview.
As the violence raged on, UN rights chief Navi Pillay condemned both Israel and Hamas at an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
She said Israeli attacks which had killed civilians, among them children, "could amount to war crimes" but also denounced Hamas for its "indiscriminate attacks" on Israeli civilians.
The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said 81.5 percent of the dead were civilians, 24 percent of them children.
The UN Human Rights Council voted to launch a probe into Israel`s Gaza offensive.
The United States was the sole member to vote against, while European countries abstained.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- PM Modi speaks at Golden Jubilee celebrations of poet Dinkar’s works
- Vadodara: Policemen seen dancing with bar girls
- Coal scam: Naveen Jindal, Madhu Koda and others get bail
- DNA: IAF Mirage 2000 fighter plane lands successfully on Yamuna expressway
- Zee Media Exclusive: Kangana, Madhavan talk about their film 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns'
- One year of Modi govt: Arun Jaitley addresses press conference
- DNA: Osama documents show 'Indian brother in Madinah' financed al Qaeda
- DNA: Harmful chemicals found in Maggi, Nestle India still in denial mode
- ISIS executes Syrian fighter using anti-tank rocket launcher
- CM Kejriwal shortlists 39 'unwanted' IAS officers in Delhi
- Zee Media Exclusive interview with Congress leader Kamal Nath
- Columbia student takes rape-protest mattress to graduation
- Mumbai: One injured in shootout at Film City
- DNA: Modi-led NDA govt's hits and misses in one year
- Delhi: Car catches fire after crash, one dead
- Jayalalithaa makes public appearance, meets Governor: As it happened
- IPL 2015, Qualifier 2: CSK vs RCB - As it happened...
- India to soon have its own space shuttle!
- Kejriwal slams notification on LG's powers, says Modi running Delhi govt through back door
- Tanu Weds Manu Returns movie review: Brilliant execution, superb performance!
- Manohar Parrikar meets troops at Siachen base camp
- Wbbse.org 10th Madhyamik Pariksha Results 2015: West Bengal Board (wbresults.nic.in) Class 10th, WB MP Results 2015 to be announced today shortly
- Businessman shot next to Amitabh Bachchan's shooting location in Mumbai Film City
- Rahul Gandhi to pressurise govt to act on one-rank-one-pension issue
- PM Narendra Modi graces Digvijay Singh's son wedding reception
- West Bengal Board (wbbse.org & wbresults.nic.in) Class 10th Madhyamik Pariksha (MP) Results 2015 to be announced today at 10 AM
- Rajasthan Board RBSE 12th Inter Results 2015: BSER Ajmer (rajeduboard.nic.in & rajresults.nic.in) Senior Secondary Class 12th Science & Commerce Exam Results 2015 to be declared today at 2 PM
- RBSE 12th Results 2015 (rajeduboard.nic.in & rajresults.nic.in): Rajasthan Board BSER Ajmer Senior Secondary Class 12th XII Intermediate Science & Commerce Exam Results 2015 to be declared today on May 22
- After land bill, net neutrality, Rahul Gandhi to fight for ex-servicemen now
- SC asks Haryana Police to quickly finish AIPMT paper leak probe