Kerry returns to Mideast to push for cease-fire

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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a renewed push for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with another trip to the Middle East, as the civilian death toll in the conflict has sharply escalated.

Kerry left Washington early Monday for Cairo, where he will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement offered by Egypt that would halt nearly two weeks of fighting. More than 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in that time.

The Obama administration, including Kerry, is sharpening its criticism of Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel and other provocative acts, like tunneling under the border. It is also toning down an earlier rebuke of Israel for attacks on the Gaza Strip that have killed civilians, including children.

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