The White House on Friday blasted Hamas for violating a 72-hour cease-fire agreement, calling the abduction of an Israeli soldier “barbaric.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged reports that Hamas had used the cease-fire as cover to carry out an attack on Israeli soldiers.
“That would be a rather barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement,” Earnest said on CNN’s “New Day.” “Hamas is entirely responsible for upholding their end of the bargain, and it’s apparent that they did not do that."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, told multiple U.S. news outlets this morning that Hamas carried out the attack at 9:30 a.m. local time, an hour and a half after the cease-fire took effect.
The soldier “should be returned unharmed and immediately,” Earnest said.
Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryFormer Obama officials say Netanyahu turned down secret peace deal: AP How dealmaker Trump can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict John Kerry to teach at Yale on global issues MORE spoke with Netanyahu about the situation Friday morning after reports that the cease-fire had been broken, Earnest said.
Asked about U.S. criticism that Israel is not doing enough to protect Palestinian civilians, Earnest said the administration would support Israel’s right to respond to the attack by Hamas.
“We certainly have steadfastly defended Israel’s right to defend themselves and we defend Israel’s right to respond to this barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement,” he said, adding that Israel should still live up to its own high standards.
Earnest criticized Israel on Thursday for the shelling of a United Nations-run school in Gaza that killed about 20 people a day earlier.
He also dismissed suggestions that the U.S. had failed to properly communicate the terms of the cease-fire, which Kerry and the United Nations announced Thursday evening.
Their joint statement said forces would remain in place on the ground. Kerry later said in a statement that Israel could continue its defensive operations behind its lines for Hamas-built tunnels that lead into Israel.
“The devil is always in the details in these kinds of agreements. Everybody understands that you have to look very carefully at the details at which you are agreeing,” Earnest said. “All sides were transparent about what the agreement was.”