WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and pinning blame for the escalating conflict on the Palestinian Islamist group. Kerry also blamed Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine for Thursday’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet.
While an Israeli ground offensive continued in Gaza, Secretary Kerry appeared on all major U.S. television networks Sunday with a message for Hamas.
“What they need to do is stop rocketing Israel and accept the cease-fire. Hamas needs to join up and be part of a solution,” Kerry said, speaking on ABC’s This Week program.
Amid finger-pointing between Hamas and Israeli officials, Kerry reiterated America’s longstanding commitment to promote peace in the Middle East, but said Hamas’ actions are unacceptable.
“Hamas has to understand: you cannot sit there and claim moral rectitude or the higher ground while you are busy rocketing people, and capturing people, and digging tunnels to attack them. This has to stop,” said Kerry.
A United Nations official in Gaza, Robert Turner, urged an end to all bloodshed.
“We are calling on all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law, particularly discretion, proportionality, and precaution to ensure that civilian casualties do not occur. The violence must end and we need a solution to the underlying problems of Gaza,” said Turner, of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
Gaza is but one global hotspot focusing the world’s attention. Secretary Kerry reviewed what the Obama administration knows about what brought down a commercial jetliner over eastern Ukraine.
“We ourselves track the imagery of the launch of this surface-to-air missile, of the disappearance of the aircraft from radar at that time. We know to a fact that separatists bragged on social media immediately afterwards about the shoot-down,” said Kerry.
Kerry blasted separatists for rummaging in debris fields and impeding the arrival of international investigators, and said Russia, as the separatists’ main benefactor, bears much responsibility for the tragedy.
“There are an enormous array of facts that point to Russia’s support for and involvement in this effort. Some of the separatist leaders are Russian. Russia has armed the separatists. Russia has supported the separatists. Russia has trained the separatists,” said Kerry.
President Barack Obama tightened U.S. sanctions on Russia one day before the shoot-down. Kerry said he is hopes the United States and its European allies will take a unified stance towards Moscow going forward.