US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Hamas’ conditions for a cease-fire in a news conference at the Ettehadiya Presidential Palace in Cairo on Tuesday, where he met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and other Egyptian officials to discuss the crisis in Gaza.
Expressing his support for the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, Kerry said violence must be halted immediately before any demands or conditions could be made. Both sides are incurring losses, but Kerry claimed that Israel is acting in self-defense, as is the nation’s granted right, while Hamas was using its infrastructure of underground tunnels to illegally launch rockets and kidnap and kill Israelis.
Sisi was quoted by the presidential spokesperson as saying that he stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people and reiterated his commitment to the cease-fire proposed by Egypt, with the hope that it would be adopted by both sides.
The Palestinian people are the priority for Egypt, Sisi continued, while preventing any more deaths was the main goal of the cease-fire initiative.
Development is a necessary step for Gaza after a cease-fire is brokered, Sisi added, and an international donor’s conference should facilitate that.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced a cease-fire initiative on July 14 that Israel agreed on initially, but which Hamas rejected.
The proposal called on both Israeli and Palestinian factions to halt all attacks, the former in the form of sea, land and air attacks and the latter in the form of border attacks and rockets targeting citizens, specifically those launched through tunnels in the north of the Gaza Strip. The proposal also included a call to open all border crossings for the passage and movement of persons and goods, conditional upon the restoration of security on the ground.
The Hamas leadership slammed the proposal for being mostly supportive of Israel’s demands and ignoring their own demands, particularly with regards to a swap of prisoners and the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
Kerry already expressed his support of the Egyptian initiative before arriving in Cairo.
“Israel has accepted a unilateral cease-fire, it’s accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support,” Kerry said on Sunday. “It is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a cease-fire, you save lives, and that’s the way we can proceed to have a discussion about all of the underlying issues.”
In Cairo, Kerry met with both Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who said that Egypt remained adamant that no modifications would be made to the cease-fire initiative.
Kerry reiterated his commitment to the long-term solution to the crisis.
“Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point. And that’s what we need to do,” he said in Cairo on Monday in his meeting with Ban.
The US official announced in his meeting that the US would provide US$47 million to Gaza “to try to alleviate some of the immediate humanitarian crisis.”
From his side, Ban emphasized the importance of a cease-fire.
“We must find a way to stop the violence. So many people have died. We have to do all what we can do. That is why I am here in support of the Egyptian mediation proposal,” he said in Cairo on Monday.
“I have been in this country just a few hours, but I have had very good discussions with Minister Shoukry on how the United Nations can help the Egyptian initiative to bring an end to this violence,” Ban added. “I am in support of Mr. Minister and President Sisi’s efforts to stop the fighting in Gaza and the rocket attacks in Israel. I am grateful for the government of Egypt’s leadership in mediating a durable peace.”
But while supporting Egypt’s cease-fire initiative, Ban underscored the problem of proportionality.
“I’m asking that Hamas should immediately stop firing rockets. While I understand why Israelis have to respond militarily, but there is a proportionality. And most of the death toll are Palestinian people,” he said.
As of Tuesday evening, the 14th day of the conflict, more than 600 Palestinians were reported dead, the vast majority of them civilians, according to Gaza’s emergency services. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 121 of the Palestinian victims were children. The Israeli death toll has reached 29, among them two civilians.