WASHINGTON: The Obama administration Friday condemned violations of the internationally-brokered Gaza cease-fire by Palestinian militants and said the apparent abduction of an Israeli soldier would be a "barbaric" and "absolutely outrageous" action.
Deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said if the soldier was, in fact, kidnapped by Hamas militants, he must be released.
"There are reports that Hamas used the cover of a humanitarian cease-fire to attack Israeli soldiers and apparently to take one hostage," Blinken told The Associated Press. "That would be a barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement. We ... call on the international community to condemn this violation of the cease-fire agreement and we urge those with influence over Hamas to exercise that influence to get Hamas to return the soldier that has been taken hostage and to live up to the agreements that were made just yesterday."
"We're troubled by these reports and what appears to be a rather barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement," he said. "There's no doubt that that soldier should be returned unharmed and immediately."
Secretary of State John Kerry, who along with UN chief Ban Ki-moon negotiated the short-lived truce, spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about developments, which led Israel to declare the cease-fire over. The State Department was expected to release a statement from Kerry, who is currently flying back to the United States from India where he had been on official travel.
According to Netanyahu's office, the prime minister told Kerry that "Hamas has unilaterally and grossly violated the humanitarian cease-fire" and "will bear the consequences of their actions."
Earlier Friday, the Israeli military said one of its soldiers was "feared" abducted just hours after the cease-fire took effect. Meanwhile, Palestinian officials said over 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling.