WASHINGTON (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked for fresh US help in trying to broker a ceasefire in Gaza, top US diplomat John Kerry said Tuesday.
"Last night we talked, and the prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a ceasefire. He raised it with me, as he has consistently," Kerry said.
Netanyahu had said he "would embrace a ceasefire that permits Israel to protect itself against the tunnels and obviously not be disadvantaged for the great sacrifice they have made thus far."
The US secretary of state also dismissed a torrent of attacks in the Israeli press since his failed mediation attempt during a week-long Middle East trip last week.
"I've taken hits before in politics, I'm not worried about that. It's not about me -- this is about Israel and Israel's right to defend itself," Kerry insisted after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.
"I'm not going to worry about personal attacks."
Kerry stressed: "We are working very carefully with our Israeli friends in order to be able to find a way to reduce the civilian loss of life, to prevent this from spiraling downwards into a place from which ... both sides have difficulty finding a way forward."
Israel intensified its Gaza bombardment leaving scores dead Tuesday, the 22nd day of a devastating conflict, as Palestinian leaders said an offer of a day-long truce was on the table.
Kerry said if there was an agreement on serious negotiations about the wider issues both Israel and Hamas want to address, it would happen in Cairo, "it would be entirely without pre-conditions and it would not prejudice Israel's ability to defend itself."
"It is more appropriate to try to resolve the underlying issues at a negotiating table, than to continue a tit-for-tat of violence ... which will be much more difficult to recover from," Kerry said.