Talks start in Paris to press for long-term Gaza truce

Photo: Talks start in Paris to press for long-term Gaza truce
 / Arab-Israel Relations

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other top diplomats from Europe and the Middle East began talks in Paris Saturday to press efforts for a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, AFP reported.

Kerry met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and their counterparts from Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Turkey and the European Union as a 12-hour "humanitarian" truce in Gaza entered into force.

More than 900 Palestinians - a large majority of them civilians - have died in a 19-day Israeli offensive on Gaza that was launched in response to rockets fired by Hamas militants into the Jewish state.

The Israeli army meanwhile has suffered 37 casualties and world powers are rushing to try and negotiate a lasting ceasefire to avoid more deaths.

Kerry, who has been leading international efforts to reach a truce, failed to secure a deal in Cairo Friday where he met with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon.

But Israel then announced a unilateral 12-hour ceasefire starting Saturday morning.

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