U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon are in Cairo for talks Tuesday with Egyptian and Arab League officials on finding an end to the fighting in Gaza.
President Barack Obama said he sent Kerry to Cairo to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
"The work will not be easy. Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved," Obama said. "Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities. We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed."
On arrival, Ban called for a truce "without any condition."
Senior State Department officials traveling with Kerry said it is that "growing concern" in Washington about rising civilian casualties that prompted this trip.
Restoring the 2012 cease-fire is more difficult because of the change of government in Cairo.
Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood negotiated that deal, in part, on the strength of long-standing ties with Hamas.
Egypt's new leader, the former general Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is far less sympathetic to Hamas, meaning Kerry needs to include Hamas backers such as Qatar and Turkey.
But Qatar and Egypt are at odds over the treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood since the coup against Morsi.
And acrimony between Turkey and Israel has grown since Israeli troops entered Gaza, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Israel a terrorist state that is attempting a "systematic genocide" against Palestinians.
Senior State Department officials said getting back to a cease-fire also will be harder because the conflict itself is further along than it was in 2012, and because Hamas believes some of what it was promised two years ago was never delivered, so the group will need more convincing this time.
Last week, Hamas rejected an Egyptian cease-fire as "not worth the ink it was written with" because it offered no relief from the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
A senior State Department official said "there may be an effort" to address border crossings in a renewed cease-fire push, stressing that Washington is looking to "find a more robust solution" to the conflict beyond a cease-fire.
In Cairo late Monday, Kerry announced $47 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance for Palestinians, including shelter, food and medical supplies for Gaza.
The Obama administration said it remains committed to addressing the humanitarian needs of Palestinians and will continue to monitor that situation closely.