Caught on an open microphone apparently criticizing Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip as "a hell of a pinpoint operation", Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday reiterated US support for Israel's right to defend itself.
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry said during an apparent phone call ahead of his Fox interview, apparently unaware that his microphone was picking up his comments.
On the other end, a male voice can be heard saying: "It's escalating significantly and just underscores the need for a ceasefire."
Kerry replies: "We've got to get over there. … I think, John, we've got to go tonight. I think it's crazy to be sitting around."
When confronted by Fox host Chris Wallace, Kerry said that Israel was entitled to take action against the rocket fire and the tunnels dug inside Gaza with the aim of attacking Israel.
|John Kerry caught on microphone|
"I think it's very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult," Kerry said. "You have people who've come out of tunnels, you have a right to go and take out those tunnels. We completely support that and we support Israel's right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in."
The secretary of state said in he had been reacting in his prior comments to the reports that dozens of civilians have been killed in Israel's attack on the Saja'iyya neighborhood of Gaza City.
"...It's tough to have this kind of operation, and I reacted obviously in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians (being killed)," Kerry said. "But war is tough."
He placed the blame for the escalation on Hamas, which has fired more than a thousand rockets at Israeli communities in the wake of the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank last month.
"Hamas has started this process of rocketing and after Israel was trying to find the people who killed … three young Israeli citizens. It's disgraceful," he said.
Kerry also called on Hamas to behave responsibly and accept an Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which Israel has already agreed to but the Islamist militant group rejected.
"Israel has accepted a unilateral ceasefire; it's accepted the Egyptian plan, which we also support. It is important for Hamas to now step up and be reasonable and understand that you accept a ceasefire, you save lives and that's the way we can proceed to have a discussion about all of the underlying issues, which President Obama has clearly indicated a willingness to do."