BEIRUT

Middle East

Kerry warns of 'great risks' of more Gaza violence

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

VIENNA: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday of the "great risks" of spiraling violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip and called on Arab nations to push Hamas to accept a cease-fire.

"There are great risks in what is happening there and the potential of an even greater escalation of violence," Kerry told reporters in Vienna, as he wrapped up two days of talks on Iran's nuclear program.

Kerry said he had decided to cancel a planned trip to Egypt and return to Washington in order to give a Cairo-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Gaza time to work.

And he urged Arab nations to push the Islamist Hamas movement to accept the deal, which it has so far rejected despite approval from Israel's Cabinet.

"We are prepared... to do everything in our power to help the parties come together and work to create a climate for genuine negotiations," Kerry said.

"I am prepared to fly back to the region tomorrow if I have to, or the next day or the next in order to pursue the prospects if this doesn't work. But the Egyptians deserve the time and space to be able to try to make this initiative work."

Hamas has so far rejected a proposal to end a week that has seen more than 190 Palestinian killed in the deadliest violence in Gaza Strip for years.

Kerry called on all members of the Arab community "to get Hamas to do the right thing here, which is cease the violence, engage in negotiations and protect the lives of people that they seem all too wiling to put to risk."

 

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