Channel NewsAsia

Kerry in telephone diplomacy to help quell Mideast fire

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in China but that did not stop him from engaging with Mideast leaders and others in a bid to halt escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence.

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry was in China on Wednesday but that did not stop him from engaging with Mideast leaders and others in a bid to halt escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence.

With Hamas rockets raining down on Israel, and the Jewish state launching punishing air strikes in Gaza where the two-day operation has left 57 Palestinians dead, Kerry was leaning on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to exercise restraint on both sides.

"Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning, and he plans to speak with President Abbas over the next 24 hours," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.

It was Kerry's third call with Netanyahu since Friday.

The top US diplomat has also spoken by phone with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as Qatar's foreign minister, as part of what Psaki described as Kerry's "reaching out and having a discussion about the path forward with these regional leaders."

The White House's coordinator for the Middle East, Philip Gordon, was in Jerusalem and the West Bank Wednesday meeting with Abbas and Israeli officials, while Kerry was been phoning world leaders "as we continue to evaluate the situation and look for ways to stop the rocket attack," Psaki added.

"It's important at this point in time to see if all sides can take steps to de-escalate."

She said Kerry would bring the same message to Abbas.

"President Abbas has condemned a range of the attacks, as well as the recent tragic events with the three Israeli teenagers, and the secretary will simply have a discussion about the path forward," Psaki said, referring to the kidnap and murder of three Israeli youths that triggered the latest round of violence.

Psaki said Washington remained deeply concerned about civilian casualties, and that Kerry was calling on the two sides to restore the 2012 ceasefire as soon as possible.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna