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“War is ugly”: Kerry defends Israel’s incursion into Gaza

"War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen," Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC's George Stephanopoulos about fighting in the Gaza Strip during an appearance Sunday on "This Week.." But Hamas, he continued, needs to "recognize their own responsibility."

In appearances on the networks' political talk shows, Kerry maintained the administration's support for Israel's military incursion into the Gaza Strip while arguing that the administration was hoping to help bring about a resolution. "We're working on the idea of a cease-fire," Kerry told CNN's Candy Crowley. And he reiterated to CBS's Bob Schieffer that the United States supports the Egyptian cease-fire proposal. "But Hamas," he said, "is trying to insist that as a reward for their terrorist behavior, things be decided ahead of time. And we support Israel and the international community's right not to be extorted by terrorism."

"Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization," Kerry told Crowley, "that has seen fit to dig tunnels and come through those tunnels with handcuffs and tranquilizer drugs, prepared to try to capture Israeli citizens and take them back to hold them hostage." He said that both he and President Obama had had conversations with Israeli leaders that were interrupted by air-raid sirens, forcing an end to the calls. "People can't live that way."

"You seem to pin the blame most squarely on Hamas," Stephanopoulos said to Kerry. "Must they be removed from power?"

"We don't deal with Hamas," Kerry responded, "but there are people in the region who obviously do." Saying that he had "been in touch with every foreign minister involved in this discussion," Kerry said they were trying to "get a cease-fire in place." "But," he continued, "when three young Israeli kids are taken and murdered and Hamas applauds it ... that's out of balance by any standard."

Schieffer asked Kerry to respond to reports that 14 Israelis had been killed in fighting in Gaza. "Bob, it is not up to me to be reporting Israeli casualties," the secretary responded. He continued: "But let me say this. Israel is responding to an intransigent Hamas that was offered a cease-fire and didn't want to take it.

To Crowley, he defended the administration's actions. "We have shown our willingness to try to deal with the underlying issues, but [Hamas] must step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire. Then we will certainly discuss all of the issues relevant to the underlying crisis." He continued, "No country has indicated a greater willingness to do that and no president's been more willing to put himself on the line in recent time to do that than President Obama."

Crowley asked if he was comfortable with Israel's actions in the area. "No human being is comfortable with children being killed, with people being killed," he said. "But we're not comfortable with Israeli soldiers being killed, either."

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.



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Philip Bump · July 20, 2014

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