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Obama: Hamas to Blame for Cease-fire Collapse

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama speaks about lack of action in Congress, Aug. 1, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.

President Barack Obama speaks about lack of action in Congress, Aug. 1, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington.

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned a reported Hamas attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza as a violation of the newly reached humanitarian cease-fire and called for the release of an Israeli soldier allegedly held hostage.

"That soldier needs to be released as soon as possible," he told reporters at an afternoon news conference on Friday at the White House.

President Obama said he has "unequivocally" condemned Hamas for taking actions against Israeli soldiers that led to to the breaking of short truces this week.

Israel declared a cease-fire over on Friday hours after it began, saying Hamas militants attacked two Israeli soldiers looking for tunnels in Gaza, killling two and reportedly abducting another one of them.

"I think it's going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can't feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment," President Obama said, adding that the U.S. will continue peace brokering efforts.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon had announced the 72-hour cease-fire late Thursday, in a statement Friday decried its “outrageous violation" and called for the missing soldier's immediate release.

Kerry called upon the international community to "redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking on CNN, said the attack posed a "barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement'' and repeated the call for the Israeli soldier's release.

The United States urged the international community to condemn the Hamas cease-fire 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 cease-fire and to get them to abide by the agreements that they struck just yesterday,'' he added.

In his statement, Kerry said he already had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau about the next steps in the Gaza crisis. Reuters reported that he has appealed to Qatar and Turkey in particular to help in freeing the soldier.

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 cease-fire.

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said Hamas militants had attacked Israeli soldiers roughly 90 minutes after the cease-fire.

"This appears to be an absolutely outrageous action by Hamas, using the cover of a cease-fire 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.''

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