Photo: AP
Secretary of State John Kerry
Photo: AP
Photo: Reuters
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Photo: Reuters
US calls on Hamas to 'unconditionally' release missing IDF soldier
Kerry speaks with Netanyahu, White House slams Hamas attack as 'barbaric' violation of ceasefire; Saudi Arabia calls Israel's Gaza operation a 'crime against humanity'.

The United States on Friday strongly condemned the killing of two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of another by Palestinian militants and blamed Hamas for violating a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza.


US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier. He urged the international community to step up efforts to end the attacks against Israel.


"I have been in close touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry and with other regional partners," Kerry said in a statement. "The international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life."


Prime Minister Netanyahu told the US earlier Friday that Hamas broke the ceasefire in kidnapping an IDF soldier. The White House condemned Hamas' attack as a violation of the newly reached humanitarian ceasefire and called for the release of the abducted soldier.



"That would be a rather barbaric violation of the ceasefire agreement," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on CNN.


Earnest called on Hamas to release the abducted Israeli soldier and said US Secretary of State John Kerry had already spoken to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the next steps in the Gaza crisis.


Netanyahu told Kerry that despite his joint statement with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, according to which assurances had been received from Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip regarding a ceasefire, the Palestinians had unilaterally and grossly violated the humanitarian ceasefire and attacked our soldiers after 9 pm.


In a statement, Netanyahu claimed the kidnapping took place after the ceasefire had taken effect.


Netanyahu further told Kerry that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza Strip will bear the consequences of their actions and that Israel would take all necessary steps against those who call for our destruction and perpetrate terrorism against our citizens.


The United States urged the international community to condemn the Hamas ceasefire violation in the "strongest possible terms," Earnest said.


"And we would encourage those who have influence with Hamas to get them back on to the terms of the ceasefire and to get them to abide by the agreements that they struck just yesterday," he said.


Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations, told CNN it was not certain Hamas had carried out the attack or violated the ceasefire.


Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said Hamas militants had attacked Israeli soldiers 1-1/2 hours after the ceasefire, killing two and apparently taking one hostage.


"This appears to be an absolutely outrageous action by Hamas, using the cover of a ceasefire to conduct a surprise attack through a tunnel, killing Israeli soldiers and perhaps taking one hostage," Tony Blinken, White House deputy national security adviser, said on MSNBC. "We strongly, strongly condemn it."


War crimes

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah criticised international inaction on Friday over Israel's offensive in Gaza, which he described as involving mass slaughter and "war crimes against humanity", in a speech read out on his behalf on state television.


"This (international) community which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, was indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification," he said in his speech.


He also said terrorism was threatening strife across the Arab and Muslim world and called on the region's leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.


Reuters contributed to this report.


First published: 01.08.14, 15:59
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