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CAIRO, July 24 U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry will soon decide if Hamas and Israel are willing to agree
on a Gaza ceasefire and will not stay in the region
indefinitely, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, in what
appeared an effort to pressure the parties.
"Gaps remain between the parties, so his focus is on finding
a formula that both sides can accept," said the U.S. official in
an emailed comment. "But he isn't here for an indefinite amount
of time and in the near future he will determine whether there
is a willingness to come to an agreement on a ceasefire."
Gazan authorities said Israeli forces shelled a shelter at a
U.N.-run school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least
15 people as the Palestinian death toll in the conflict climbed
over 750 and attempts at a truce remained elusive. The Israeli
military said its troops were fighting gunmen from Hamas, which
runs Gaza, in the area and that it was investigating.
Kerry spent his fourth day in the region talking to world
leaders to try to end the 17-day conflict, in which Israel has
lost at least 32 soldiers in clashes as well as three civilians
killed inside Israel by Palestinian rockets and mortar fire.
"Secretary Kerry will stay in Egypt through at least
tomorrow morning to continue working on achieving a ceasefire,"
the U.S. official said, adding he had spoken by telephone in the
last 24 hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
with the foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany,
Jordan, Norway, Turkey and Ukraine.
He also spoke to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
and was due to meet U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Cairo
later in the evening, the U.S. official added.
"The focus of his conversations is on determining whether
there is a way to stop the fighting and commence negotiations
necessary to achieving a sustainable ceasefire and enduring
resolution to the crisis in Gaza," the U.S. official said.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)