US President Barack Obama has dispatched his Secretary of State John Kerry to Cairo to meet with Egyptian and other officials on the volatile situation in the Gaza Strip and seek an immediate cessation of hostilities.
The announcement was made by Obama when he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, their second call in three days to discuss the situation in Gaza.
“The President discussed Israel’s ongoing military operation, reiterated the US’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself. The President also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers,” the White House said in a statement.
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Obama informed Netanyahu that Kerry will soon travel to Egypt to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, it said.
“The President underscored that the United States will work closely with Israel and regional partners on implementing an immediate ceasefire, and stressed the need to protect civilians—in Gaza and in Israel,” the White House said.
“The US– and our international partners– are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, adding Kerry is travelling to the region on Monday.
“We believe there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible – one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012,” she said, adding that Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome, and will travel to the region as part of those efforts.
Earlier in the day, Kerry told the CBS news that Israel is responding to an intransigent Hamas that was offered a ceasefire and didn’t want to take it.
“We support the Egyptian effort to have a ceasefire, which Israel joined into, which does not have preconditions, and then there is a promise of sitting down and dealing with those underlying issues that need to be dealt with,” he said.
“But Hamas is trying to insist that as a reward for their terrorist behavior, things be decided ahead of time, and we support Israel and the international community’s right not to be extorted by terrorism,” he added.
Kerry said the US has been working very closely with all of the parties and in touch with them. In another interview to ABC News, Kerry said that what Hamas needs to do is stop rocketing Israel and accept a ceasefire.
“They need to join up and be responsible and accept a unilateral – not a unilateral, but a multilateral ceasefire without conditions, and then we pledge to discuss all the underlying issues, which we’ve been trying to do for the last year and a half,” he added.