Kerry to visit Cairo to forge cease-fire, Obama calls Netanyahu

US president "stressed the need to protect civilians— in Gaza and in Israel," says White House.

July 21, 2014 01:24
1 minute read.
PM Netanyahu and US President Obama tour a technology expo at the Israel Museum, March 21, 2013.

Netanyahu looks at Obama with serious expression 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)

VIENNA -- Secretary Kerry will travel to Cairo, Egypt on July 21 to meet with Egyptian and other senior officials on the situation in Gaza, the State Department confirmed Sunday. "The United States – and our international partners – are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life," read a statement by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. The statement called for a ceasefire "as soon as possible," adding that Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative.

US President Barack Obama expressed "serious concern" to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on Sunday over the growing number of civilian Palestinian casualties in Israel's operation against Hamas in Gaza.

In a phone call between the two leaders, Obama also told Netanyahu that US Secretary of State John Kerry was preparing travel to Cairo in order to "seek an immediate cessation of hostilities" based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement, according to a readout of the call from the White House.

The American president "stressed the need to protect civilians— in Gaza and in Israel," the White House said.

Obama also reiterated American support for Israel's right to defend itself.

"We're sad for every civilian casualty. They're not intended. This is the difference between us," Netanyahu said on CNN of the growing civilian death toll, referring to the actions of Hamas. "They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can."

Earlier on Sunday, the secretary spoke candidly on a hot mic of the urgent need for a trip to the region.

Kerry appeared to express frustration with Israel's operation in Gaza privately while publicly trumpeting the Jewish State's right to defend itself.

According to Politico, he told an aide over the phone prior to an interview with Fox News Sunday, "It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation.” Staff contributed to this report.

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