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News Analysis: Way to Gaza peace unclear as U.S. Secretary Kerry pushes for ceasefire

English.news.cn   2014-07-22 07:03:33

A man inspects the damage of a house, following a rocket attack by militants from Gaza, in Sderot, southern Israel bordering Gaza Strip, on July 21, 2014. Earlier on Monday, a rocket hit the house here, causing fire and no injuries. (Xinhua/Li Rui)

by Matthew Rusling

WASHINGTON, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. is pushing for a ceasefire as war rages in Gaza, but hurdles to peace abound, experts here said.

The United States on Sunday began to push for a ceasefire in Gaza amid an Israeli ground war aimed at halting rocket attacks against Israel's civilian population, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveling Monday to Egypt to discuss the pressing situation with senior officials there.

The sudden outbreak of violence came just months after Kerry's failed attempt to broker a peace deal, and after U.S. President Barack Obama's offer earlier this month to negotiate a ceasefire between the two sides before the ground war began. So far the fighting has caused around 500 Palestinian deaths, spurring an urgent push for peace.

But a number of factors must coalesce in order for a ceasefire to take place -- both sides must agree to stand down; the right mediators must be in place; and a deal must be clearly defined, experts said.

Right now, however, neither side shows signs of standing down, as Israel views halting Hamas rocket fire into its civilian centers as crucial, and Hamas appears to be galvanized by its alleged capture Sunday of an Israeli soldier, and does not see a ceasefire as urgent, experts said.

Secretary Kerry will have to take on the task of cobbling together a coalition of third-party mediators, with some experts having reservations about the credibility of Egypt. While some say Egypt's participation is crucial because of Cairo's close involvement in previous peace negotiations, others say Egypt has lost credibility with Hamas for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's virulent opposition to Islamic militancy.

Indeed, while ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi could engage Hamas with great credibility, current President al-Sisi, a dogged opponent of Islamist militant groups including Hamas, has no such access, Wayne White, former deputy director of the State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, told Xinhua.

"Hamas doesn't trust Egypt even though it needs it," Wilson Center Middle East Program scholar Aaron David Miller told Xinhua, referring to Hamas' dependency on Egypt for access to the most important crossing from the Gaza strip to Egypt.

Then there is the question of what kind of deal will be hammered out, if one is even struck.

"You've got to find a deal that does not appear to give either side a victory and yet meets their needs, or at least gives them a victory while not being too costly to the other side, and that's going to be a tricky balance to find right now," Miller said.

Meanwhile, President Obama on Monday called on the international community to push for an end to the battle in Gaza, adding that Israel has the right to self-defense but arguing that Israel has already significantly damaged Hamas.

Speaking from the White House's south lawn, the U.S. president said the U.S. had "serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives."

He added the U.S. and international community should focus on " bring(ing) about a ceasefire that ends the fighting and can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel."

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Death toll passes 500 in Gaza, efforts for ceasefire ramps up

GAZA/JERUSALEM, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Israel's large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip since July 8 has killed 548 Palestinians and wounded around 3,300 others, medics said on Monday, as the international efforts for brokering a ceasefire also ramped up.

A new round of Israeli airstrike on a building in the center of Gaza city on Monday afternoon killed 11 Palestinians, including four children, medics and witnesses said.Full Story

ICRC slams shelling of hospital in Gaza

GENEVA, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) condemned in the strongest terms the shelling of the Al Aqsa hospital in Gaza, which killed at least four people and injured scores of others on Monday.

ICRC said the hospital, located in the city of Deir El Balah in central Gaza, came under direct fire at least four times. The surgical ward, the intensive care unit and pieces of life-saving equipment were all severely damaged, disrupting essential medical services.Full Story

Israeli military releases photos of Gaza rocket launchings

JERUSALEM, July 21 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli military on Monday published aerial photographs that it said attest to Islamist group Hamas' use of civilian sites in the Gaza Strip to fire rockets into Israel.

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Editor: Mengjie
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