US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that he supports the ceasefire proposed by Egypt to end violence between Israeli forces and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at a press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, Kerry said Gaza rulers Hamas have "a fundamental choice to make" that will have "will have a profound impact on the people of Gaza."
"There is a framework available to end the violence and that framework is the Egyptian initiative that has been put forward," Kerry said.
Over 600 Palestinians have been killed since Israeli forces launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza two weeks ago. An ongoing five-day Israeli ground offensive has led to graver losses of Gaza civilians along with the death of 28 Israeli soldiers – the highest Israeli military death toll since its 2006 war with Lebanon.
Last week, Egypt put forth a ceasefire that was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas, who said it would not agree to a truce unless the debilitating 7-year-old blockade on Gaza was lifted first.
The Egyptian initiative was also endorsed by the Arab League.
"The US is highly grateful for Egypt's leadership. I'm here based on [US President Barack Obama's] request to find a way to support the Egyptian initiative," Kerry said.
Kerry said he had talks with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby, as well as Palestinian Authority leader Maged Farrag. He called for an immediate end to fighting and a return to the cease-fire that was reached in 2012.
"We have watched the humanitarian crisis in Gaza go worse day after day, people losing their homes, all of their possessions, their access to food, water and their entire way of life … The loss of lives and the humanitarian impact is really heartbreaking," Kerry said.
The US offered $47 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday.
Kerry also said that his country supports "Israel's right to self defence," describing its response as what "any country has the right to do when it's attacked."
Israel claims it launched the offensive to destroy tunnels that Hamas uses to infiltrate Israel and to hide weapons.
"If Hamas doesn't accept the ceasefire proposal … Israel will have all the international legitimacy to broaden its military activity [in Gaza] in order to achieve the necessary quiet," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, AP reported.
"We also understand the importance of long-term reconstruction and once a cease-fire has been reached, we are certainly ready to discuss and work through the incredibly complicated underlying issues that have led to this crisis," Kerry concluded.