As fighting raged in Gaza, US Secretary of State John Kerry said efforts to secure a truce between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas had made some progress, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, a ban on US flights to Tel Aviv has been extended for a second day amid heavy rocket firing out of the Gaza Strip, while many other international airlines avoided the Jewish state, the report said.
In Qatar, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal praised his fighters, whom he said had made gains against Israel. He said he supported a humanitarian truce but a ceasefire would only be acceptable in exchange for easing Gazans’ plight.
“Let’s agree first on the demands and on implementing them and then we can agree on the zero hour for a ceasefire… We will not accept any proposal that does not lift the blockade… We do not desire war and we do not want it to continue but we will not be broken by it,” Meshaal was quoted as saying.
Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. He later returned to Egypt, which has mediated with Hamas.
“We have certainly made some steps forward. There is still work to be done,” Kerry said.
An Egyptian official said he expected a humanitarian truce to go into effect by the weekend, in time for the Eid al-Fitr festival, Islam’s biggest annual celebration that follows the fasting month of Ramadan.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was “a strong possibility” that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 692 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting, the report said.
She also assailed indiscriminate Islamist rocket fire out of Gaza. The UN Human Rights Council said it would launch an international inquiry into alleged violations.
Israel has denied any wrongdoing.
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