Kerry exploring Mideast trip for cease-fire talks

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(CNN) -- Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing for a possible Mideast trip to lay the groundwork for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants, U.S. officials said Monday.

The trip would include a visit to Cairo and Doha, Qatar. The goal would be getting those influential with Hamas, which controls the Palestinian territory of Gaza, to ensure that any cease-fire would last, the officials said.

Kerry will decide by Tuesday, based on his conversations with leaders in the region, State Department officials said.

He was in Vienna on Monday participating in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

A conflict between Gaza and Israel flared after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month, and the subsequent abduction and killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Israel blames Hamas for the Jewish teenagers' deaths, an accusation the group denies.

Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, which has responded over the past eight days with airstrikes in Gaza.

By Monday, the death toll from about a week of Israeli airstrikes had reached 185 -- all of them Palestinians -- with at least 1,385 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

No Israelis have been killed in the rocket attacks, though there have been some injuries.

One rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon on Sunday severely wounded an Israeli teen, the Israeli military said.

Potential role for Qatar, Egypt

Qatar is the country with the most contacts with Hamas and recently served as a broker between the United States and the Taliban over the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The Qatari government is looking to play a similar role in the Hamas-Israel situation, U.S. and Qatari officials said.

Egyptian officials are also in touch with Hamas, and Kerry's diplomacy would in part focus on Egypt's role in helping to prevent Hamas from being rearmed through the Egyptian border.

On Monday, Egypt called for a cease-fire to stop the bloodshed and to project the innocent.

"Egypt shall receive guarantees from both sides of their commitment to implement what has been agreed upon, and shall follow up on its implementation and engage with either side in the case of any action that impinges on its stability," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The U.S. officials said Hamas wants guarantees that Israel will stick to the deal in exchange for any cease-fire. It also demands more aid to Gaza.

Kerry has no plans to go to Israel, although that could change, the officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Kerry in a phone call on Sunday -- and has said publicly -- that he is willing to consider a cease-fire only if he can be assured that it will last.

"Diplomacy has to start with Hamas," one senior U.S. official said. "They are the ones firing the rockets, and from (Netanyahu's) point of view, he is just responding."

When asked about the possible diplomatic mission, State Department officials said that Kerry is looking at options and that it was possible he wouldn't travel in the next few days.

By Elise Labott