Kerry upset by civilian deaths in Gaza, but blames Hamas

July 21, 2014 - 5:44:28 am

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry was overheard yesterday expressing what appeared to be pointed concern over the deaths of civilians during an Israeli offensive in Gaza.

In a conversation caught on an open microphone before an interview, Kerry made what seemed to be a sarcastic remark about Israel’s insistence it was doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties in operations against Hamas militants.

“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation. It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” he said during the call, which was broadcast on Fox News Sunday.

While Washington says Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks launched out of Gaza, American diplomats have called on the Israelis to restrict themselves to a precise operation in the ground campaign launched on Thursday.

Kerry was expected to travel to the Middle East soon to press for a ceasefire.

“We got to get over there,” Kerry said in his overheard comments, apparently to an aide. “I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

When Kerry was asked to explain the comments, he did not criticise Israel and emphasised its right to defend itself.

“I reacted obviously in a way that, you know, anybody does with respect to young children and civilians. But war is tough,” he said.

 US President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday that he has serious concerns about the rising number of casualties from clashes between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama spoke by telephone to Netanyahu for the second time in three days. He told him Israel has the right to defend itself and he reiterated US condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel.

“The president also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers,” the White House said in a statement describing the conversation.

Obama told Netanyahu that US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Cairo soon to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to a November 2012 ceasefire agreement.

“The president underscored that the United States will work closely with Israel and regional partners on implementing an immediate ceasefire, and stressed the need to protect civilians — in Gaza and in Israel,” the statement said.

Reuters

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