Kerry seeks Qatari and Turkish help

Photo: Kerry seeks Qatari and Turkish help / Arab-Israel Relations

US Secretary of State John Kerry, fearing an escalation of violence in Gaza, yesterday called on Turkey and Qatar to use their contacts to secure the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier whose abduction came after the collapse of a humanitarian truce between Hamas and Israel, Reuters reported.

Kerry called Qatari Foreign Minister HE Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu soon after being told of the abduction and the killings of two Israeli soldiers by an aide while flying back from a visit to India.

"We have urged them, implored them to use their influence to try to get the release of that soldier," a senior State Department official told reporters travelling with Kerry. "Absent that, the risk of this continuing to escalate, leading to further loss of life, is high."

The official said he understood the ceasefire broke down about an hour after it began.

Hamas accused Israel of breaking the ceasefire. Intensive Israeli shelling killed dozens of people in southern Gaza hours into the truce, which began at 8am (0500 GMT) and was due to last 72 hours.

Another senior official said the US was still working with Egypt, which was to be a venue for talks between the parties during the ceasefire, as to what the next step would be.

Davutoglu later said Turkey would do what it could to help free the captured Israeli soldier, while insisting the priority should be the reinstatement of a truce.

"What is important is that the ceasefire is reinstated. To ensure this, together with others, we can take any step that could resolve this Israeli soldier issue. If Turkey can do anything, we will do our best," Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul.

"But if the ceasefire is stopped because an Israeli soldier is kidnapped, somebody should account for the 70 Palestinians killed (today). In our eyes, all people are equal," he said.

"This ceasefire was something that we built together and we agreed as a matter of principle that we will not let it crumble," Davutoglu said of his discussion with Kerry, adding that renewed talks would now be held involving Turkey, the US and Qatar.

In 2006, resistance fighters from Gaza captured Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

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