UN, US press Gaza truce efforts as death toll soars

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The UN chief and the US top diplomat were to meet leaders of Egypt — lead player in Gaza truce efforts — Tuesday, as the death toll from a blistering Israeli offensive soared.

Fresh air strikes early Tuesday killed seven people in Gaza, at least four of them women, taking the Palestinian death toll to 583, many of them civilians.

A total of 29 Israelis have been killed, almost all of them soldiers, in the army’s biggest loss of life in nearly a decade.

US Secretary of State John Kerry put the onus firmly on the Islamist Hamas movement, which dominates Gaza, to forge a truce with its Israeli foe as he flew in to Cairo late on Monday.

“Only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence,” Kerry said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for the violence to “stop now”.

Kerry pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid for the battered Gaza Strip where tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes.

He and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi later as the Israeli offensive entered day 15.

A first truce proposal that Egypt made early last week was accepted by Israel but snubbed by Hamas, which said it was not consulted and demanded a raft of changes.

The Islamist movement wants Israel to agree to an end to its blockade of Gaza and the release of scores of prisoners before it will cease fire.

It has received support from two regional powers Qatar and Turkey, both Western allies that also have close relations with the Islamists.

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