Netanyahu meets Kerry in Jerusalem on March 3
Netanyahu meets Kerry in Jerusalem on March 3Flash 90

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked for fresh US help in trying to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, top US diplomat John Kerry said Tuesday.  

"Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently," Kerry said.

Netanyahu had said he "would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far."

The US secretary of state also dismissed a torrent of attacks in the Israeli press since his failed mediation attempt during a week-long Middle East trip last week. Many Israelis were enraged after the proposed text of the agreement - which was penned together with Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar - appeared to grant the Islamist terrorist group all of its key demands.

"I've taken hits before in politics, I'm not worried about that. It's not about me - this is about Israel and Israel's right to defend itself," Kerry insisted after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.  

"I'm not going to worry about personal attacks."

Kerry stressed: "We are working very carefully with our Israeli friends in order to be able to find a way to reduce the civilian loss of life, to prevent this from spiralling downwards into a place from which ... both sides have difficulty finding a way forward."  

His comments come on the same day as a spat between Hamas and the PLO, after claims that Gazan Islamists had accepted a unilateral ceasefire were categorically denied by a Hamas spokesperson.

Kerry said if there was an agreement on serious negotiations about the wider issues both Israel and Hamas want to address, it would happen in Cairo, "it would be entirely without pre-conditions and it would not prejudice Israel's ability to defend itself."

"It is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table, than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence ... which will be much more difficult to recover from," Kerry said.

Despite differing reports, at this time, a ceasefire has yet to be reached in Gaza, senior Israeli officials emphasized on Tuesday evening.

During the past few hours, rockets have continued to be fired into Israel and IDF activity in the Gaza Strip has continued as well. IDF forces hung signs on Tuesday afternoon in southern Gaza, calling to the residents of Khan Yunis’ western neighborhoods to evacuate immediately. The residents were also made aware of the evacuation notices via telephone calls.