Kerry returns to Cairo for Gaza ceasefire efforts
Ahram Online , Thursday 24 Jul 2014
Washington's top diplomat returned to Egypt after meeting Palestinian President Abbas in the occupied West Bank and Israeli PM Netanyahu in Jerusalem

US Secretary of State JohnKerry arrived in Cairo late Wednesday from Tel Aviv to push ahead with efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the embattled Gaza Strip, state news agency MENA said.

On Wednesday, the top US diplomat left the Egyptian capital to hold marathon talks with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem.

Kerry said global effortsto end 17 days of Gaza bloodshed were progressing. The Palestinian death toll rose to 718 Thursday. Thirty two Israeli soldiers as well as three Israeli civilians have been killed since hostilities between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas began more than two weeks ago.

"We will continue to push for this ceasefire ... and I can tell you that we have, in the last 24hours, made some progress in moving towards that goal," Kerry said as he met the Palestinian president Wednesday.

Egypt has proposed a ceasefire initiative callingfor a halt to hostilities ahead of talks. It was accepted by Israel early last week, but rejected by Hamas, which spelled out conditions on easing Gaza's plight before agreeing to a ceasefire.

These include ending Israel's war on Gaza, an end to the eight-year Israeli blockade of the densely populated enclave, and the release of rearrested Palestinians who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange.

But on Thursday, an Israel cabinet minister made it clear a Gaza truce involving a withdrawal of Israeli ground forces from the occupied Palestinian Strip would be unlikely before next week.

Kerry plans to stay until Friday in Cairo, where he began his diplomatic push for a truce Monday.