WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama called his Secretary of State John Kerry, who flew into Tel Aviv from Cairo despite warnings over airline safety, to take stock of the efforts to halt the bitter fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Obama, during his call aboard Air Force One yesterday, asked about the developments to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities which has led to the deaths of nearly 700 Palestinians and 32 Israeli soldiers, the White House said.
Over the last few days, Kerry has been engaged with the Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians, Europeans, the UN, the Arab League, and others to achieve an end to the violence and build a process that can create a sustainable path forward, White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said.
Obama sent Kerry to the region to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas.
"Our bottom line is, as Secretary Kerry has articulated both in public and in private, that no country can live with rockets raining down on it by terrorists or having terrorist tunnels underground to facilitate the killing or kidnapping of its citizens," Schultz told reporters travelling with Obama.
"So Israel is doing what it must to end that threat. But right now, given the civilian toll, there's an urgency to bring this entire episode to a close," he said.
Meanwhile, State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters that the US opposed the UNHRC resolution on Gaza, saying that it was "the latest in a series of biased, anti-Israel actions at the Human Rights Council."
"We strongly oppose the creation of this kind of mechanism that you spoke about because it is one-sided. No one's looking here at Hamas rockets, no one proposed looking at anything else other than Israel in this case, and again, we oppose it as one-sided."
Three US Senators -- Lindsey Graham, Charles E Schumer and Ben Cardin -- have wrote to Obama demanding that any ceasefire agreement should create a situation in which Israeli citizens no longer face the threat of brazen terrorist attacks.
"Israeli citizens have faced over 1800 rocket launches from Hamas since June. While Iron Dome has saved countless lives, over five million Israelis live in fear of incoming rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza.
"Twenty-eight tunnels have been discovered by the IDF since the ground operation in Gaza began. Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel," the letter said.
"Any effort to broker a ceasefire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks," the Senators wrote.