Kerry Still 'Hopeful' For Ceasefire

On visit to India US Secretary of State John Kerry says he's still optimistic for a truce, though fighting shows no signs of abating.

Ari Soffer ,

Kerry meets with Turkish, Qatari diplomats
Kerry meets with Turkish, Qatari diplomats

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he remained hopeful for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but declined to predict when.

Kerry, on a visit to India, said he had remained in close contact on the telephone with players in the Middle East to try to end the Israel-Hamas conflict.  

"The United States remains hopeful that it is achievable, and the sooner the better," Kerry said of a ceasefire.

"There is no promise in that, but I think everybody would feel better if there was a bona fide effort," Kerry told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.

Kerry has focused much of his tenure on crises in the Middle East, and returned to Washington just Sunday from a gruelling, unsuccessful mission to end the Gaza conflict.

His comments came on the 24th day of Operation Protective Edge, and despite his apparent optimism the conflict has shown no sign of abating.

Terrorists fired more rockets at civilian population centers in southern Israel, as the IDF dug in its heels for a continued offensive inside Gaza to end the rocket fire and locate and destroy Hamas's "terror tunnel" network infiltrating into Israel, calling up 16,000 more reservists. That brings the total number of reservists called up to 86,000 - but most of the latest batch will be replacing those called up at the start of the operation, who will be returning home soon towards the end of their 30-day reserve stint.

Speaking at the start of a special security cabinet meeting on Thursday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed that the army would not end its campaign until it was convinced it had wiped out Hamas's tunnel network, neutralizing the deadliest threat to Israeli citizens presented by Gazan terrorists.

"Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to complete the mission with or without a ceasefire. I will not agree to any proposal that does not allow for this."

The prime minister claimed Hamas had suffered serious damage in the fighting, with hundreds of fighters killed and hundreds more militarypositions, rocket launchers and weapons stockpiles destroyed. IDF estimates have put the number of terrorists killed at around 1,000.

Several senior Hamas commanders have also been killed or captured.

The current military operation is "only the first phase in the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu added, saying that he had communicated that message clearly to American, European and other international leaders.

Hamas has rejected five successive ceasefire offers, and the US's own role in negotiating a truce has been cast into doubt after turning to Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey to draft a proposal which granted Hamas all of its key demands and was rejected by Israel.

Further controversy ensued after a transcript of what was claimed to be an audio recording of a "hostile" conversation between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu was released by Israeli Channel One. The authenticity of the tape has been hotly disputed, however, with both American and Israeli officials denying the accuracy of the transcript.

AFP and Arutz Sheva Staff contributed to this report.