United States Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday there is a framework to end ongoing violence in Gaza and that framework is the Egyptian ceasefire initiative.
From Cairo, Kerry said in a joint press conference with Egyptian counterpart, Hamas now “has a fundamental choice to make”. He added that this choice would have a “profound impact on the people of Gaza”.
Egypt’s internationally backed initiative, proposed last week to end fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas, was accepted by Israel. However, Hamas rejected it, claiming the Egyptians never approached the group.
Kerry’s remarks came shortly after he held talks with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Al-Sisi also held talks with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Kerry said, “just reaching ceasefire is not enough”, adding that it is imperative to have a serious discussion on underlying issues. Ban and Kerry held talks in Cairo Monday night and both expressed support for the Egyptian proposal, stressing that a ceasefire is not enough and that it should be followed by dialogue.
Kerry said that over the past few days, he has been keeping close touch with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Gaza, which is home to 1.8 million people, has been under siege since 2007 when Hamas seized the strip. Hamas has called for lifting the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and presented this as one of its conditions to support the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
However, Egypt said that its proposal to end the escalating conflict would not be amended.
“For two weeks, we have seen Hamas launch rockets into Israel,” said Kerry, adding that “we support Israel’s right to self-defence,” and “tragically trapped in the middle of this are civilians.”
The death toll from the intense Israeli military operation on the Gaza Strip, which started on 7 July, has topped 600 as of Tuesday afternoon and over 3,700 have been injured. On the Israeli side, at least 27 have been killed, 25 of which are soldiers.
Kerry repeated the US’s announcement of providing $47m in humanitarian aid to alleviate humanitarian conditions caused by the crisis.