U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Hamas must “immediately and unconditionally” release the soldier it apparently captured during a ceasefire.
“Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message,” Kerry said in a statement Friday posted after Hadar Goldin, a second lieutenant, went missing during a firefight in southern Gaza.
President Obama said his team would continue to pursue a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but faulted the militant group for violating the one in place with its apparent capture of an Israeli soldier.
“It’s important to note that…I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a ceasefire had been announced,” he said Friday afternoon.
“I want to make sure they are listening – if they are serious about trying to resolve this situation that soldier needs to be released as soon as possible,” he said.
Israel’s army said Hamas ambushed Israeli troops 90 minutes into a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Hamas-Israel conflict, launched July 8.
Kerry’s call to “those with influence over Hamas” was reported in Israeli media as an appeal to Qatar and Turkey to press Hamas to release the soldier; both countries had acted as interlocutors on behalf of Hamas during the ceasefire talks, which were led by Kerry.
Hamas has not claimed responsibility for the apparent abduction, but Obama said the organization neded to internalize that it was the address for such violations. “When they sign on to a ceasefire, they’re claiming to speak for all the Palestinians factions,” he said.
“It’s hard for the Israelis to feel confident ceasefires can actually be honoured” under the circumstances, Obama said.
Israeli troops were dismantling a tunnel when they were ambushed, and Obama said the were in their rights.
“The Israelis are entirely right that these tunnel networks need to be dismantled,” he said.
Despite the collapse of the current ceasefire, Obama said Kerry, would continue to seek its reinstatement and once again called on Israel to show restraint in targeting civilian areas.
“I want to see everything possible done to make sure that Palestinian civilians are not being killed,” he said. Obama had called the press conference to discuss a rallying economy, but virtually all the questions had to do with foreign policy, with a focus on the ruptured ceasefire.