By Elise Viebeck - 07/20/14 09:55 AM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that he will travel to the Middle East to attempt to broker a cease-fire between the Israeli military and Hamas.
"I believe the president is asking me to go over very shortly to work on the cease-fire," Kerry said on CNN, echoing similar comments on Fox News and CBS.
The trip comes as the Obama administration is engulfed in foreign policy challenges, from rising tensions with Russia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to the conflict in Gaza.
The White House has expressed support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in defending itself against Hamas rocket fire and terrorist tunnels.
But the administration is hesitant to back too much aggression on the part of the Israel Defense Forces and takes pains to distance itself from civilian casualties.
Kerry said a cease-fire is the only answer and called on Hamas to "step up and show a level of reasonableness" in negotiations.
"No country, no human being, is comfortable with children being killed," he said of Palestinian civilian deaths. "But we're not comfortable with Israeli soldiers dying either."
"Secretary Kerry will travel to Cairo, Egypt on July 21 to meet with Egyptian and other senior officials on the situation in Gaza," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement late Sunday. " The United States – and our international partners– are deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life. We believe there should be a ceasefire as soon as possible – one that restores the cease-fire reached in November of 2012. Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome, and will travel to the region as part of those efforts. "
--This report was updated at 6:05 p.m.