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World pushes for truce as Israel batters Gaza

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories--The U.N. chief and Washington's top diplomat were holding a flurry of meetings in Cairo on Tuesday to push for an end to violence in Gaza that has killed more than 590 Palestinians.

As the conflict entered its third week, neither side showed any sign of willingness to pull back, with Israel pursuing a relentless campaign of shelling and air strikes, and militants hitting back with rocket fire and fierce attacks on troops operating on the ground.

Gaza medics say the Palestinian dead include many women and children, while 27 of the 29 Israeli victims were soldiers killed since a ground assault began late on July 17.

On Tuesday morning, civil defense crews with a crane parked outside the Salam building in Gaza City, which was hit in an Israeli air strike on Monday.

The tower block's top five floors had collapsed onto its bottom four floors. The leg of a person was visible from the street, lying on a piece of rubble caked with streams of dried blood.

World powers have urged Hamas to accept an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire and stop raining rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, demands it has so far resisted.

Kerry opened talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri and later met the president, former military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Washington's top diplomat, who has invested much of his tenure in an unsuccessful bid for a lasting Middle East peace agreement, said he would discuss the Egyptian proposal, which calls for a cease-fire followed by negotiations.

'Very complicated issues'

The talks were on “how we can build on it and hopefully find not only a way to a cease-fire but a way to deal with the underlying issues, which are very complicated,” he said.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, who has also come to the Egyptian capital to push for a truce, was to hold separate talks with Sissi on Tuesday before heading to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry has demanded that Hamas agree to end the fighting to spare further bloodshed, in a call echoed by the Arab League.

“Only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence,” he said on Monday.

As the diplomatic push gathered steam, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas held talks in Doha, pledging to work together for a cease-fire and to lift the blockade on Gaza.

“Hamas and Abbas agreed that all Palestinian factions should work as a team towards a cease-fire,” Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior official in Abbas's Fatah party, told AFP after Monday's meeting.

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Israeli soldiers hug during the funeral of Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, Monday, July 21.

(AP)

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