Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and pledged to work for a truce in the Gaza Strip “in the days ahead”.
As the two began late-night talks in Jerusalem, Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes continued. Netanyahu said he would prefer a “long-term” diplomatic solution but repeated his readiness to step up an offensive against Gaza’s rocket crews.
Clinton’s outline of further days of negotiation, notably in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, may dampen talk of an immediate end to a week of violence that has killed over 140 people, most Palestinians but including two Israelis on Tuesday.
Gaza’s rulers, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, revised a statement that a truce would start overnight, saying it was still waiting for an Israeli response to proposals and did not now expect an announcement until Wednesday.
An official in the Egyptian government, whose new, Islamist leadership has been playing peace broker in Cairo, had also said a ceasefire could begin on Tuesday. But Israeli officials continued to say that discussions were still continuing.
Israel pressed on with its strikes in the coastal enclave on the seventh day of its offensive and Palestinian rockets still flashed across the border as Clinton arrived in Jerusalem. She was due to meet Netanyahu around 11 p.m. (2100 GMT).
One Hamas official had said a truce might start at 9 p.m. But after that moment passed, a senior figure in the movement, Ezzat al-Rishq, told Reuters in Cairo: “The truce is now held up because we are waiting for the Israeli side to respond.
“We … must wait until tomorrow.”
The Jewish state launched the campaign last week with the declared aim of halting the rocketing of its towns from the Palestinian enclave, ruled by the Hamas militant group that does not recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Medical officials in Gaza said 27 Palestinians were killed on Tuesday. An Israeli soldier and a civilian died when rockets exploded near the Gaza frontier, police and the army said.