US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday spoke to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as he pressed for a Gaza ceasefire.
Kerry -- who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict -- spoke by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a US official said.
The top US diplomat was hoping Qatar and Turkey would use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan, which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official said.
The 17-day conflict has killed more than 740 Palestinians, many of them civilians.
Hamas has rejected the ceasefire proposal by Egypt's military-backed government insisting that Israel end its eight-year siege on the impoverished Gaza Strip.
But a senior Hamas official acknowledged Wednesday that it was unrealistic to expect the blockade to end in tandem with a ceasefire and instead called for a firm agreement on principles on how to lift the siege.
"There needs to be an agreement on the principles, the schedule (for ending the blockade) and the mechanism," the official said.
Hamas's chief Khaled Meshaal on Wednesday again insisted on a ceasefire only after an end to the siege, in force since militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier in 2006.
The official, who works closely with Meshaal, said however that they understood that the blockade would be eased only after the ceasefire, but they required a schedule in place first.
Israel, which initially accepted a truce, has said it will keep up its military campaign as it eliminates tunnels that infiltrate the Jewish state from Gaza.