GAZA CITY — Diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas intensified Monday as the two sides counted their dead following the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two-week campaign.
The death toll among Palestinians from the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip reached 508 on Monday, Gaza health officials said. Thirteen Israeli soldiers died Sunday in clashes with Hamas, bringing the overall Israeli death toll to 20, including two civilians who died from rocket and mortar fire directed at Israeli towns and villages from Gaza. There were at least 65 Palestinian deaths Sunday.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is pressing ahead with his push for a truce. He is expected in Cairo later Monday. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is also heading back to the region this week in an effort to reach a cease-fire.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council expressed "serious concern" about Gaza's rising civilian death toll and demanded an immediate end to the fighting following an emergency session.
On Sunday evening, Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri in Gaza claimed his group had captured an Israeli soldier. An announcement on Gaza TV of the soldier's capture set off celebration in the streets of West Bank.
Israel denied it. "There's no kidnapped Israeli soldier," Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, said Sunday night.
Two Americans are among the Israeli soldiers reported killed in Gaza during weekend fighting.