BEIRUT

Middle East

US envoy seeks extension of Gaza truce

A displaced Palestinian boy looks out from a makeshift tent at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City where many Palestinians have have taken refuge after fleeing attacks in the Shejaiya neighborhood of the city, on July 31, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

NEW DELHI: The No. 2 U.S. diplomat will head to Cairo and seek to extend a truce agreed by Israel and Hamas beyond its 72 hour limit, a senior U.S. official said Friday.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns - a veteran career diplomat frequently tasked with delicate missions - will travel to Egypt this weekend to take part in talks as part of the three-day truce that took effect Friday, the official said.

The official said Burns would look to see if the two sides can extend the truce in the deadly conflict, especially as negotiators need time to travel to Cairo. Israeli officials rarely meet during the Jewish Sabbath that starts at sundown Friday.

"There is a hope for an extension because people have to travel and don't want to lose a whole day," a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity in New Delhi, where Secretary of State John Kerry was on a visit.

But the official said an extension also depended on compromises during the talks, which aim to find a more lasting solution to the Gaza crisis after the bloodshed.

"We obviously hope there will be (an extension of the cease-fire) and would encourage that, but obviously to do so there's got to be some sense of serious purpose on the table," the official said.

Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the 72-hour truce after intense diplomacy involving Israel, the Palestinians and key regional players, including Egypt.

 

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