US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo Monday night in an attempt to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
The secretary’s trip, which his aides acknowledge does not have a high chance of succeeding, comes after US President Barack Obama strongly urged both sides to end the fighting, citing “serious concerns” about the increasing number of casualties in Gaza.
“It now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting,” Obama said at the White House on Monday. “Obviously it will not be easy.”
According to the White House, Kerry is seeking “an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement” and the protection of civilians “in Gaza and in Israel.”
Kerry’s latest attempt to broker peace in the Middle East is preceded by a controversy sparked by the secretary when he was caught questioning Israel’s methods on an open mic. Prior to an interview with Fox News on Sunday, regarding Operation Protective Edge, Kerry stated, “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.”
John Kerry Caught on Fox News Hot Mic Criticizing Israeli Strike
Kerry appeared to be expressing his frustration over the increasing ground invasion into Gaza, which the IDF has said is focusing on eradicating Hamas’s terror tunnel and weapons infrastructure.
“We’ve got to get over there. Thank you John. I think John; we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around,” Kerry said.
In the interview later with Fox News, Kerry urged Hamas to be “reasonable and understand that if you accept the cease-fire, you save lives.” He told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Hamas’s indiscriminate attacks on Israel are “unacceptable by any standard anywhere in the world” and that Israel has every right to defend and protect its citizens.
“They’ve [Hamas] been offered a ceasefire, and they’ve refused to take the ceasefire. Even though Egypt and others have called for that ceasefire, they’ve just stubbornly invited further efforts to try to defuse the ability to be able to rocket Israel,” Kerry stated.
Kerry’s relationship with Israel has considerably cooled since his last peace-making efforts between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed abysmally. Efforts collapsed completely when PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that he would be joining forces with Hamas in a new Palestinian unity government.
Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren told Channel 2 on Monday that the secretary was “not invited” by Israel to broker any type of cease-fire.
Hamas officials have even expressed their skepticism towards a Kerry cease-fire that would be agreeable to the Gaza-based terror group.
“John Kerry wants to rescue the Israelis. Hopefully he will achieve something towards a cease-fire but it would only be for the Israeli interests, said Ehab Al Ghussain, a Hamas spokesman.
Prior to flying to the Middle East, Kerry announced that the US is pledging $47 million in humanitarian aid in Gaza, AFP reported. The US will provide $15 – $60 million in an emergency appeal fund from the UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.
The UNRWA has come under fire recently by Israel when it supposedly handed back some 20 rockets hidden in one of its locations by Hamas to the terror group.
It is not clear yet whether Kerry will be traveling to Israel. Upon arrival in Egypt, Kerry met with UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon. Moon said that while Hamas “should immediately stop firing rockets,” he criticized Israel for its military response.
“There is a proportionality and…most of the death toll has been Palestinian people,” Ban added. The Secretary General is set to arrive in Israel Tuesday afternoon and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.
Kerry is expected to meet with Egyptian President Sisi and the Secretary General of the Arab League.