WASHINGTON - The United States believes Israel has a right to defend itself from rockets fired from Gaza and from attacks launched from cross-border tunnels, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.
“It’s tough to have these kind of operations. I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians,” Kerry said. “War is tough. I’ve said that publicly and I've said it again. We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing.
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started its process of rocketing after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young [people] – one American kid, three young Israelis.”
Kerry’s candid comments were in contrast to his more scripted response on ABC’s This Week. On that show, Kerry dismissed claims from Palestinians that the operation in Gaza was a “massacre and a war crime”.
“That's rhetoric that we've heard many, many times,” he said. “What they need to do is stop rocketing Israel and accept the ceasefire. “It's very, very clear that they've tunnelled under Israel. They've tried to come out of those tunnels with people, with handcuffs and tranquilliser drugs to capture Israeli citizens and hold them for ransom, or worse they've been rocketing Israel with thousands of rockets.”
While publicly supporting Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians because of Israeli lobby's huge political influence in the US, Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday appeared to criticise Tel Aviv's claim about the targeted scope of its military operation in Gaza, as an open microphone caught him talking to an aide ahead of a TV interview. “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry, who was appearing on Fox News Sunday as part of a tour of all five main US talkshows, said to an unidentified aide on the phone, in a frustrated tone.
The Arab League on Sunday lashed out at Israel for pounding Gaza's Shejaiya district, accusing the Jewish state of "war crimes" and calling for an "immediate stop" to its offensive. "What Shejaiya is undergoing today in terms of brutal bombing operations are war crimes against Palestinian civilians and a dangerous escalation that could have further consequences," Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in a statement.
He called for an "immediate stop of Israeli aggression on Gaza and the necessary protection of Palestinian civilians". "Israel is fully responsible for this crime that killed dozens of innocent Palestinian civilians," Arabi said.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal discussed efforts for a truce in Gaza with the ruler of Kuwait, current chair of the Arab League, on Sunday, state media and a diplomatic source said. The official KUNA news agency gave no details of the talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
Egypt's foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Turkey's charge d'affaires over criticism of Cairo's handling of the war between Israel and Hamas in neighbouring Gaza. Erdogan on Friday called Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a tyrant, saying Cairo could not be relied upon to negotiate a truce with Israel. The foreign ministry told Ankara's charge d'affaires that it "rejected and resented" Erdogan's comments, it said in a statement. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday called on its NATO ally the United States to engage in "self-criticism" after it labelled his comments on Israel's Gaza assault "offensive". "If America still says 'Israel is using its right to self-defence' it is America that needs to engage in self-criticism," Erdogan told the TGRT news channel.
Meanwhile, around 3,000 people staged a peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstration in Amsterdam on Sunday, calling for an end to the bloody Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, an AFP correspondent said. People of all ages - Arab and European - gathered on the Museumplein square, opposite the renowned Rijksmuseum, before marching through the city centre, carrying signs including "Stop the war" and "Israel war criminals".
Meanwhile, France's prime minister on Sunday defended a controversial decision to ban a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Paris that went ahead anyway and degenerated into violence.
The rally Saturday in a northern district of the French capital was initially peaceful, but scores of men later clashed with riot police, throwing stones and bottles at security forces who responded with tear gas, sending locals and tourists running for shelter. Police - 17 of whom were injured - detained 44 people over the violence and on Sunday 19 of were still being held.
"What happened again yesterday in Paris - unacceptable unrest - justifies all the more the brave choice by the interior ministry to ban a demonstration," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Sunday.
The decision to ban Saturday's demonstration was taken out of fear that the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris during a similar rally.
But the move was met with controversy, particularly after protests that were allowed to take place Saturday in other cities went ahead peacefully.