(Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday and pledged to work for a truce in the Gaza Strip "in the days ahead".
As the two began late-night talks in Jerusalem, Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes continued. Netanyahu said he would prefer a "long-term" diplomatic solution but repeated his readiness to step up an offensive against Gaza's rocket crews.
Clinton's outline of further days of negotiation, notably in Cairo with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, may dampen talk of an immediate end to a week of violence that has killed over 140 people, most Palestinians but including two Israelis on Tuesday.
Officials from Egypt and from Gaza's ruling Hamas movement had talked up the chances of an end to hostilities, at least in some interim form, by the end of the day. But a Hamas leader in Cairo later told Reuters there would be no announcement before Wednesday. He blamed Israel for not responding to proposals.
Netanyahu, who faces a general election in two months and had mobilized army reserves for threatened ground invasion of the enclave, stressed his interest in a "long-term" deal to end rocket fire on Israel - a kind of deal that has eluded him and his predecessors in four years since Israel's last offensive.
Clinton, too, who broke off from an Asian tour with President Barack Obama and assured Netanyahu of "rock-solid" U.S. support for Israel's security, spoke of seeking a "durable outcome" and of the "responsibility" for contributing to peace borne by Egypt, Gaza's other neighbor, whose new leaders hail from the Muslim Brotherhood that inspired Hamas's founders.