The United States pushed on Wednesday for a truce between Gaza’s Hamas militants and Israel as the battle in the Gaza Strip continued to rage. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Israel on an Air Force jet to work on a cease-fire and temporary truce.
Speaking from Jerusalem Wednesday, Kerry stated, “We certainly have made steps forward. There’s still work to be done.” Yahoo! News reports that while the U.S. announced signs of progress, prospects for a quick end to the fighting dimmed and the death toll rose to more than 700 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.
Before traveling to Israel, Kerry spoke in Cairo on Tuesday after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose government proposed a ceasefire last week. Al Jazeera notes that the Palestinian leadership proposed to Egypt a plan for a ceasefire to be followed by five days of negotiations to stop the fighting.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv to talk about how to stop the bloodshed. Afterwards, Ban stated, “My message is the same for Israelis and Palestinians: Stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year.”
In response, Netanyahu stated, “We will do what we need to do to defend ourselves. The Israeli prime minster added that the international community needs to hold Hamas accountable for rejecting multiple ceasefire proposals.
Yahoo! News adds that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told reporters in Doha, Qatar that Gaza’s borders must be opened in order for a ceasefire to happen. He added that Egypt and Israel must end a more than seven-year-long blockade of the Gaza Strip. Mashaal explained that Hamas cannot abandon its terms in a ceasefire agreement. It will accept a humanitarian truce that is supported by a genuine relief program for Gaza.
Mashaal added, “When it comes to the balance of power in this crisis between us and Israel, they are the executioners, the aggressors, the occupiers, the settlers, and we are the true owners of the land. We will not accept anything but the end of the siege.”
While officials worked toward a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, Israeli troops backed by tanks and aerial drones clashed with Hamas fighters near Khan Younis. Hundreds of people fled their homes as the battle raged, flooding into the streets with belongings and carrying children.
Ban and Kerry are jointly lobbying officials in the Middle East to push Hamas and Israel to a ceasefire in Gaza as soon as possible.
[Image by Danny-w]