Obama still wants cease-fire, faults Hamas for its rupture

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama said his team would continue to pursue a cease-fire 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 imoptant to note that we have and 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 at a press conference, describing the events of the morning, when militants captured Hadar Goldin 90 minutes after a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire brokered by the United States had begun.

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“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.

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 cease-fire, they’re claiming to speak for all the Palestinians factions,” he said.

“It’s hard for the Israelis to feel confident cease-fires can actually be honored” 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 cease-fire, Obama said his secretary of state, John 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 cease-fire.