Bloody Sunday in Gaza as nearly 90 Palestinians killed
DOHA - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas arrived in Qatar Sunday to discuss a ceasefire with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal for the war raging in Gaza, ahead of a visit by the UN chief.
The diplomatic flurry comes as Israeli forces pounded northern Gaza, killing nearly 90 Palestinians and sending thousands fleeing in the deadliest assault on the coastal enclave in five years.
Israel says its offensive that began on July 8, and which has killed more than 425 people, is aimed at destroying tunnels used by militants from Hamas and other groups to infiltrate Israeli lines, and stop rocket attacks.
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due in Qatar to begin a regional tour to express "solidarity" with Israelis and Palestinians, his office said.
Ban plans to act "in coordination with regional and international actors, to end the violence and find a way forward", a statement said.
In an "effort to encourage a durable ceasefire", Ban will travel to Doha, Kuwait City, Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman, it added.
His timetable in Doha was not immediately clear, but Ban is to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah ah-Sisi in Cairo Monday to discuss proposals to arrange a truce in the deadly Gaza conflict.
Egypt's foreign ministry said their talks would "focus on the deteriorating situation in Gaza and the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire".
Cairo had proposed a halt to the fighting but Hamas rejected this, saying it had not been consulted, and Israel initially accept it.
Hamas has laid out a set of conditions, including the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of scores of prisoners Israel rearrested in recent weeks.
Hamas also wants its Turkish and Qatari allies to be involved in any truce negotiations.
After Hamas rejected the plan, Israel launched a ground offensive on Gaza on Thursday and has warned it will expand its operations even further.
In an effort to end the growing bloodshed, Abbas is to meet later Sunday with Hamas's exiled leader Meshaal, a Palestinian source said.
The Qatari news agency QNA said Abbas would also meet the emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, whose country is hosting Meshaal.
The Hamas leader was on a brief visit to Kuwait for talks on Gaza with its ruler, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, diplomats and the Kuwaiti news agency KUNA said.
Kuwait backs the Egyptian initiative to end the bloody conflict, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It also urged the "international community to put pressure on Israel so that it will stop its aggression" against the Palestinians.
Hamas, meanwhile, has said it has received an invitation to Cairo for ceasefire talks.
Relations between Egypt and Hamas have hit an all-time low since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year and outlawed his Muslim Brotherhood, a key Hamas ally.