Obama calls Egyptian, Israeli leaders over Gaza violence
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu respectively to discuss the ongoing violence in Gaza, the White House said.
In his phone conversation with the Egyptian president, Obama, who is on an Asian tour, discussed with Morsi ways to "de-escalate the situation in Gaza," said a White House statement, adding that Obama underscored the "necessity" of Hamas ending rocket fire into Israel.
After that, Obama called Netanyahu and received an "update" on the situation in Gaza and Israel, according to the statement.
During both calls, Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives, and agreed to stay in close touch with both leaders, said the statement.
Israel launched a military offensive against Gaza on Wednesday, having killed 104 Palestinians so far. Meanwhile, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of missiles and rockets into Israel, reaching the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and killing three Israelis.
Washington has been asking Cairo to use its regional influence to help de-escalate the situation in Gaza. Media reports, citing an Egyptian security source, said on Monday that a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant groups might be reached on Monday night or Tuesday.
Egypt pushes for Israel-Hamas truce, as UN's Ban arrives
An Egyptian official said Monday that his country is seeking a truce deal between Hamas and Israel and that the arrival of UN chief Ban Ki-moon will contribute to a solution of the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip.
At a press conference, President Assistant for Foreign Relations and International Cooperation Essam Haddad, said that signals of agreements between Israel and Hamas on a cease-fire are awaited by the end of the day.
"President Mohamed Morsi is holding talks with the Israeli officials and Hamas to reach a truce as soon as possible," Haddad said, noting that both sides have put some conditions forward to guarantee the cease-fire.
If they fail to reach a truce, the Rafah crossing will be kept open, Haddad said, referring to the gateway enabling the wounded in Gaza to be transferred to hospitals in Egypt.
"Egypt can't be a part from a crime practiced against the 1.7 million Gazans, so the crossing should be open as long as the Gazans under shelling," he said.
On a two-day visit, UN's Ban arrived in the Egyptian capital late on Monday and is expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Egypt's senior officials.
"Ban Ki-moon is coming to reinforce the settling efforts between Israel and Hamas, his visit will help the Egyptian efforts finding a way to end the conflict," Haddad said.
The Israeli military continued pounding Gaza for the sixth day, killing by now 28 Palestinians Monday, putting the death toll in Gaza since Wednesday at 104.
UN chief in Cairo, meets Egyptian FM on Gaza truce bid
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived Monday evening in Cairo for a two-day visit to push for an early ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, official MENA news agency reported.
Ban has met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr, discussing the efforts to put an end to the ongoing Israeli attack on Gaza and reach a ceasefire, as well as the Syrian crisis.
During the visit, Ban is also scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and Prime Minister Hisham Qandil on regional and international issues, topped by the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Ban will also meet with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al- Arabi on Tuesday to discuss the Gaza escalation, before the latter heading for the Gaza Strip in a solidarity visit.
According to Palestinian medics, the death toll in the Hamas- ruled Gaza Strip has climbed to 104 Palestinians since Wednesday.
UN chief to meet with Israeli, Palestinian leaders to push for Gaza truce
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, who is currently on a visit to the Middle East, will meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to support the Egyptian- led goal of an early cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said on Monday.
"The secretary-general is in the region to support Egyptian-led efforts and he will be speaking to (Palestinian) President ( Mahmoud) Abbas in Ramallah and with the Israeli leadership in Jerusalem," Nesirky, who is with the secretary-general on his visit to Egypt, told reporters here by telephone from Cairo.
However, Ban "is not going to Gaza," the focus of recently escalated violence between the Israelis and Palestinian militants, the spokesman said. "I'm not going to give you a precise itinerary. "
Nesirky was asked if Ban would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin and Abbas, he replied, "He will. That's the plan. I can't tell you exactly when but that is certainly the plan."
Saying the secretary-general, his advisers and aides "are literally just off the airplane," Nesirky said they were on their way to a "working dinner" with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr.
Amr was to head a delegation of Arab foreign ministers to Gaza on Tuesday.
Ban was scheduled to meet Egyptian President Mohamed Morsiand Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil also Tuesday, Nesirky said.
Israeli airstrikes in Gaza were reported to have killed since Wednesday more than 90 Palestinians and wounded as many as 700 more. Three Israelis were killed by rockets fired from Gaza.
"I think the violence that we've seen, the depth of and injuries to civilians that we've seen both in Gaza and in Israel just underscores the reason why he's (Ban) come, which is to support efforts to really reach a cease-fire that will hold as soon as possible," Nesirky said. "Obviously what we've seen in the last 24-36 hours is further bloodshed, further rockets coming out and further airstrikes and other kind of strikes that entered into Gaza."
"There have been civilian casualties, and all of that is regrettable and all of that is precisely why the secretary-general wishes to push this diplomatic effort, give his, lend his support, his diplomatic weight to these efforts that involve obviously the Egyptian president and others and of course Israeli interlocutors, " the spokesman added.