CAIRO (Reuters) - France has asked Qatar, which has close links with Hamas, to use its influence with the Palestinian Islamist group to reach a ceasefire in the conflict in Gaza, a French diplomatic source said on Friday.
Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could "significantly widen" an operation Palestinian officials said was killing an increasing number of civilians.
Israel briefly held fire on Tuesday after Egypt, which also borders Gaza, announced a truce plan, but Hamas and other militants balked saying their conditions had not been addressed.
Hamas wants Israel and Egypt, whose military-backed government is at odds with the Palestinian Islamists, to lift border restrictions that have deepened Gaza's economic hardship and unemployment.
Qatar emerged as a leading supporter of Islamist groups after Arab Spring protests that began in 2011. It sees the standoff as a chance to play a key role in trying to broker a ceasefire.
Qatar's state news agency said Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah had received a phone call from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Friday in which they "searched for ways to reach an agreement on a ceasefire".
A French diplomatic source told Reuters:
"The minister did just speak to him (al-Attiyah) a few minutes ago and asked him to use his influence on Hamas to reach a ceasefire."
Qatar hosts a number of exiled Islamists across the Middle East, including Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
(Reporting by John Irish in Cairo; Writing by Yara Bayoumy Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)