CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian mediators pushed Hamas to accept a truce proposal for the embattled Gaza Strip in talks Tuesday, while the United Nations secretary general headed to the region to join the multitrack diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire.

Israel said it will send its top negotiator to Cairo later this week.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has backed the Egyptian truce proposal to halt the fighting, now in its third week. Before leaving New York for the Egyptian capital Tuesday, he urged Israel and Hamas to accept a UN ceasefire resolution and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

"To both sides, I say: Just stop, now," Ban told a news conference Monday. "Too many people have died." He said Hamas fighters who have been firing rockets into southern Israel "must stop, they must look to the future of the Palestinian people."

Ban won't be meeting Hamas officials and has no plans to go to Gaza during his trip, which will also include Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian-controlled West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.

Israel said Tuesday it will send Defence Ministry official Amos Gilad to Egypt on Thursday for the ceasefire talks.

Gilad had put off the trip for days, saying the time was not yet ripe.

Meanwhile, Qatar has called for an emergency summit of Arab League heads of state Friday in Doha to discuss the Gaza crisis.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said 13 members have agreed to a Doha summit. However, in order to call an emergency summit, at least 14 members must agree.

But Egypt and Saudi Arabia have rejected the idea, suggesting instead that Arab leaders hold talks in Kuwait on Sunday ahead of a previously planned economic summit.

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