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July 23, 2014

Kerry Pushes for Gaza Truce

by Scott Stearns

 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is having separate talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on ending violence in the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 600 people.  

With Israeli and Hamas forces continuing to fight in Gaza,  Kerry says there has been "some progress in moving towards" a cease-fire during the past 24 hours, but did not specify the nature of that progress.

​​More than two weeks into a battle that shows no signs of easing, Kerry met again with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who says they agree a cease-fire alone is not enough.

"Stop fighting.  Start talking," Ban urged. "And take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year.  We must address these underlying issues including mutual recognition, occupation, despair, and denial of dignity."

The secretary was up much of the night in telephone diplomacy with Palestinian President Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Qatar, Turkey, France, and Egypt.

He came to Israel and Ramallah to meet face-to-face with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to press an Egyptian cease-fire plan that Hamas rejected last week because it offers no guaranteed relief from the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

As the leader of a Fatah/Hamas reconciliation government, Abbas appears to have little influence over Hamas fighters firing rockets into Israel, despite positioning his Fatah faction as standing united against Israel.

American University professor Guy Ziv believes Palestinian divisions will only grow wider.

"The differences between Hamas and Fatah are deep.  The mistrust is significant.  And I do not expect the reconciliation to last," Ziv said.

Following their talks in Ramallah, Secretary Kerry said the Palestinian leader is committed to non-violence and creating a sustainable way forward for everyone.

"I am very grateful to President Abbas for his leadership, for his deep engagement in the effort to try to find a cease-fire.  He has traveled tirelessly," Kerry said.  "He has been working with all of the interested groups and parties and encouraging people to do the responsible thing, which is to come to the table, not only have a cease-fire, but then negotiate the immediate issues and the underlying issues."

Asked about a possible "demilitarization" of Gaza as part of a negotiated settlement, Kerry said "all of the issues of Gaza will be on the table."

WATCH: Related video by VOA's Zlatica Hoke

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