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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