Gaza conflict deaths pass 800 as Kerry pushes ceasefire

JERUSALEM. Efforts to secure a ceasefire between Israel and the militant Hamas movement are intensifying as the death toll in the 18-day conflict continues to climb.

JERUSALEM. Efforts to secure a ceasefire between Israel and the militant Hamas movement are intensifying as the death toll in the 18-day conflict continues to climb.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has been in Cairo meeting Egypt’s foreign minister and the UN secretary general.

Gaza faced more Israeli shelling and air strikes overnight, while Israeli towns raised the alarm over Hamas rockets on Friday morning.

More than 800 Palestinians have now been killed, as well as 35 Israelis.

Most of the Palestinian deaths have been civilians, while 33 of Israel’s dead have been soldiers - the latest on Friday during an operation in northern Gaza, Israel’s military said.

One Thai worker has also died in Israel. There has been a huge Israeli security operation around Muslim Friday prayers in the old city, involving more than 2,000 Israeli police. Palestinian men under the age of 50 were forbidden from praying at the al-Aqsa Mosque.

It follows a night of violence in the West Bank. Outside Ramallah, more than 10,000 Palestinians marched towards Jerusalem and clashed with Israeli soldiers. Two Palestinians were killed and more than 200 were wounded, while 29 Israeli police officers were injured.

There is much anger here about the mounting casualties in Gaza. As ever, there is talk about the possibility of a third Palestinian intifada - or uprising. That may or may not take place. But the situation is as tense in the West Bank as at any time in the last five years. Hopes rose for at least a limited deal on Friday as it emerged that Mr Kerry, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were planning a news conference for later in the day. Mr Kerry is expected to leave the region on Friday, whether or not a deal is agreed.

The plan is thought to include provision for a temporary pause in hostilities that could begin as soon as this weekend. Israel wants to keep its military in Gaza and continue disabling Hamas tunnels.