Egypt calls for Israeli, Palestinian peace talks

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Egypt calls for Israeli, Palestinian peace talks
FILE - This July 24, 2014, file photo shows Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Barack Obama’s request for billions of dollars to deal with tens of thousands of migrant children streaming across the border set off Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers in both parties complained that the White House, six years in, still doesn’t get it when it comes to working with Congress. (AP Photo, File)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 26: Israeli President Shimon Peres, center, is presented the Congressional Gold Medal by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during a ceremony in the Capitol rotunda as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., look on, June 26, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 26: From left, Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Israeli President Shimon Peres, attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in the Capitol rotunda at which Peres was presented the award, June 26, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
US Vice President Joe Biden (L), Speaker of the House John Boehner (C), and Israeli President Shimon Peres (R) stand during the Presentation of the Colors by the US Armed Forces Color Guard during ceremonies presenting with the Congressional Gold Medal to Peres on June 26, 2014 inside the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Israeli President Shimon Peres (R), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (C), U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden (L) listen to speakers during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Peres was pressented with the Congressional Gold Medal which recognizes those who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, gets a hug from Stanley M. Chesley, left, president of the Jewish National Fund, before speaking at a meeting of the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday Sept. 18, 2011. Boehner says Sunday that the U.S. commitment to Israel should be stronger now as the American ally faces challenges to its existence in the volatile Middle East. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures while addressing a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. Vice President Joe Biden, left, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, listen. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democratic leaders discuss the government shutdown and their disagreement with Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. There has been no sign of progress toward ending an impasse that has idled 800,000 federal workers and curbed services around the country. From left to right are Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011, prior to making a statement. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 22: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby (L) to discuss the ceasefire issue in Gaza, on July 22, 2014 at the headquarters of the Arab League, in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 22: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) to discuss the ceasefire issue in Gaza, on july 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Hassan Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 22: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with Secretary-General of the Arab League, Nabil Elaraby (L) to discuss the ceasefire issue in Gaza, on July 22, 2014 at the headquarters of the Arab League, in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 22: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (front C) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (not seen) to discuss the ceasefire issue in Gaza, on july 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Hassan Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - JULY 22: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) to discuss the ceasefire issue in Gaza, on july 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt. (Photo by Hassan Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man walks through a destroyed mosque hit during an overnight Israeli military strike, on July 22, 2014 in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip. UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry are in Cairo in a bid to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas after two weeks of fighting which has left over 570 Palestinians dead. AFP PHOTO/ SAID KHATIB (Photo credit should read SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Gala Banquet in Washington. on Monday, May 23, 2011.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting in Washington, on Monday, May 23, 2011.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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CAIRO (AP) - The U.S. and Egypt sought Tuesday to find an end to two weeks of bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, and officials raised the possibility of restarting stalled peace talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities as a necessary step to avoid sustained violence.

It's unlikely that Washington is ready to wade back into the morass of peace negotiations that broke off last April after nearly nine months of shuttle diplomacy by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. But the new round of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants who control Gaza has reached the level of violence that U.S. officials warned last spring would happen without an enduring truce.

Kerry, meeting with Egypt's president and other high-level officials, stopped short of advocating a new round of peace talks. Still, he left open the door for broad negotiations between Israel and Palestinian officials once a cease-fire is reached.

"Just reaching a cease-fire is clearly not enough," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. "It is imperative that there be a serious engagement, discussion, negotiation, regarding the underlying issues and addressing all the concerns that have brought us to where we are today."

Egypt has proposed a cease-fire plan that is backed by the U.S. and Israel but been rejected by Hamas. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said Tuesday's talks were focused "to not only resolve this issue, but also to set in motion once again the peace process that Secretary Kerry has been so actively involved in so as to end this ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

In a separate meeting with Kerry, Arab league President Nabil Elaraby called the Gaza bloodshed a "massacre." More than 600 Palestinians and 29 Israelis have been killed since the new war began July 8.

"People are dying in the streets in large numbers," Elaraby told Kerry. "And what is needed is for all hostile acts should end as soon as possible. Just like someone is bleeding, and you need a Band-Aid, but that is not enough. You need more to be able to survive."

Israeli aircraft have hit more than 70 targets in the Gaza Strip in the last day, including the home of the late leader of Hamas' military wing, five mosques and a football stadium, according to a Gaza police official. At the same time, an Israeli defense official told The Associated Press that an Israeli soldier is missing following a deadly battle in Gaza over the weekend, and it is not known whether he is dead or alive. In the past Israel has paid a heavy price to retrieve soldiers captured by its enemies.

The peace talks withered in April after a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic maneuvers between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that eroded all trust or progress the two sides had built up over negotiations that began a year ago. In the final blow, Israel shelved the talks after Abbas struck a deal to create a reconciliation government with Hamas.

Hamas has called for the destruction of the state of Israel, and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., European Union and other counties worldwide. However, among Palestinians, the new agreement was hailed as a potentially historic step toward mending the rift that has split their people between two sets of rulers for seven years.

At the time, experts said all sides should wait and see if the Palestinian unity government would fall apart before declaring an end to the peace process with Israel. The Obama administration also warned that tensions would only get worse if the peace talks were abandoned.

Kerry also met with Palestinian intelligence chief Majid Faraj early Tuesday morning, and it was expected he would travel to Israel later this week. The U.S. is sending $47 million in humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of Palestinians who have fled their homes in Gaza to escape the fighting.

The ongoing war in Gaza is the third outbreak of violence between Hamas and Israel since 2009, and the last cease-fire was negotiated in November 2012. It's not clear exactly what Israel and Hamas would each demand in return for agreeing to a truce now, or even if a cease-fire agreement could be reached this week.

Having already deployed an estimated 1,000 ground troops, Israel's military has pushed farther into Gaza than it had in 2012 and the conflict is farther along now than it was then. At the same time, the State officials noted, Hamas believes it was not given what it was promised in 2012 to lay down its arms, making it more skeptical of a cease-fire now.

Finally, Hamas' relationship with Egypt, which is negotiating directly with the militant group, has deteriorated since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in last year's coup. Egypt has since outlawed Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas.

Senior State Department officials said the issue of opening border crossings from Gaza - potentially into Israel and Egypt - was under discussion. Israel has said it wants to shut down a network of tunnels that Hamas has dug from Gaza and into Israeli territory to kidnap and attack Israelis, but President Barack Obama on Monday said the infrastructure has already felt "significant damage" from Israel's military assault.

Obama also said Israel has the right to defend itself against a barrage Hamas rockets, but repeated U.S. concerns about civilian casualties.

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