CAIRO: World efforts to end two weeks of deadly violence in and around Gaza stepped up a gear yesterday as the UN chief and top US diplomat arrived in Cairo to press for an immediate truce. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon demanded the violence “must stop now” as the death toll in the 14-day conflict hit 572 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, with US Secretary of State John Kerry arriving to lend his weight to truce efforts.
Egypt, which had brokered past conflicts between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, had put forward a ceasefire accepted by Israel and spurned by the Palestinian militants, who demand an end to the blockade of the enclave.
In a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Ban said urged “all parties to stop violence unconditionally and return to dialogue”.
The “violence must stop, it must stop now,” Ban said at a news conference.
Ban urged Israel to “exercise maximum restraint” saying: “Too many innocent people are dying.”
Shoukry said his government was still unwilling to concede to Hamas’s demands to alter the proposal. Egypt has condemned Israel’s bombardment of the coastal strip, but also blamed Hamas for rejecting the truce last week.
The United States will provide $47m in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians hit by Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State John Kerry pledged yesterday.
Of the funding, the US will provide $15m to the UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee agency, to meet part of its $60m appeal for assistance due to the crisis.
The remaining $32m will come from the US Agency for International Development, including $10m that was already directed toward the Palestinians but will be rechanneled to meet immediate needs, the State Department said.
Kerry arrived late yesterday and headed straight to consult Ban. US officials said that Kerry would meet the Egyptian leadership including President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi today and had no set date to leave the region as he works to broker a ceasefire.
But US officials acknowledged that diplomacy could prove more difficult than in past Gaza bloodletting in part because Egypt, long the key regional broker, had little leverage with Hamas after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last year.