WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Friday condemned a reported Hamas attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza as a violation of the newly reached humanitarian ceasefire and called for the release of an abducted Israeli soldier.
Israel declared a ceasefire over on Friday hours after it began, saying Hamas militants attacked Israeli soldiers looking for tunnels in Gaza and abducted one of them.
“That would be a rather barbaric violation of the ceasefire agreement,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on CNN.
Earnest called on Hamas to release the Israeli soldier. He said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had already spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the next steps in the Gaza crisis.
The United States urged the international community to condemn the Hamas ceasefire violation in the “strongest possible terms,” Earnest said.
“And we would encourage those who have influence with Hamas to get them back on to the terms of the ceasefire and to get them to abide by the agreements that they struck just yesterday,” he said.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian permanent observer to the United Nations, told CNN it was not certain Hamas had carried out the attack or violated the ceasefire.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said Hamas militants had attacked Israeli soldiers 1-1/2 hours after the ceasefire, killing two and apparently taking one hostage.
“This appears to be an absolutely outrageous action by Hamas, using the cover of a ceasefire to conduct a surprise attack through a tunnel, killing Israeli soldiers and perhaps taking one hostage,” Tony Blinken, White House deputy national security adviser, said on MSNBC. “We strongly, strongly condemn it.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill Trott