Kerry to Push for Mideast Cease-Fire 07/21 06:16
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a renewed push for a cease-fire
between Israel and Hamas with another trip to the Middle East after the
civilian death toll in the conflict sharply escalated over the weekend.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a renewed
push for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with another trip to the Middle
East after the civilian death toll in the conflict sharply escalated over the
Kerry left Washington early Monday for Cairo, where he will join diplomatic
efforts to resume a truce that had been agreed to in November 2012.
He will urge the militant Palestinian group to accept a cease-fire agreement
offered by Egypt that would halt nearly two weeks of fighting. More than 500
Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in that time.
The Obama administration, including Kerry, is sharpening its criticism of
Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel and other provocative acts, like
tunneling under the border. It is also toning down an earlier rebuke of Israel
for attacks on the Gaza Strip that have killed civilians, including children.
In a statement Sunday evening, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said
the U.S. and international partners were "deeply concerned about the risk of
further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life."
Two Americans, Max Steinberg of California and Nissim Carmeli of Texas, who
fought for the Israel Defense Forces were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The State Department confirmed the names of the two U.S. citizens Sunday night.
Cairo's cease-fire plan is backed by the U.S. and Israel. But Hamas has
rejected the Egyptian plan and is relying on governments in Qatar and Turkey
for an alternative proposal. Qatar and Turkey have ties to the Muslim
Brotherhood, which is also linked to Hamas but banned in Egypt.
Making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, Kerry said Hamas needs to recognize
its own responsibility for the conflict.
"It's ugly. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen," Kerry told
ABC's "This Week."
Both President Barack Obama and Kerry said Israel has a right to defend
itself against frequent rocket attacks by Hamas from the Gaza Strip. Kerry
accused Hamas of attempting to sedate and kidnap Israelis through a network of
tunnels that militants have used to stage cross-border raids.
He said on CNN's "State of the Union" that Hamas must "step up and show a
level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire."
The nearly two-week conflict appeared to be escalating as U.N. chief Ban
Ki-moon was already in the region to try to revive cease-fire efforts.
Obama, in a telephone call Sunday, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu that Kerry was coming to the Mideast and condemned Hamas' attacks,
according to a White House statement.
The U.N. relief agency in Gaza estimates that 70,000 Palestinians have fled
their homes in the fighting and are seeking shelter in schools and other
shelters the United Nations has set up.
U.S. officials said Hamas could bring relief to the Palestinian people if it
agrees to a cease-fire proposed by Egypt --- a view Netanyahu is pushing as
Netanyahu said in an ABC interview that Israel has tried to avoid killing
Palestinian civilians by making phone calls, sending text messages and dropping
leaflets on their communities. But Hamas doesn't "give a whit about the
Palestinians," Netanyahu said. "All they want is more and more civilian deaths."
The prime minister said his top goal is to restore a sustainable peace, but
he then will ask the international community to consider demilitarizing Gaza to
rid Hamas of its rockets and shut down the tunnels leading into Israel.
Kerry spoke Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," CNN's "State of the Union,"
ABC's "This Week," CBS' "Face the Nation" and "Fox News Sunday."