Secretary of State John Kerry’s private comments that appear to sarcastically condemn the high civilian count following Israel’s latest strike in Gaza, were caught on tape this weekend.
The goop happened in between Kerry’s Sunday tapings for five political talk shows, while he was still on camera and miced up for Fox News Sunday.
Host Chris Wallace played the clip to the Secretary when their interview proper began, also calling Kerry’s remarks an “extraordinary moment of diplomacy.”
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry is seen and heard telling an aide in a phone conversation, after he was updated about the deadliest day so far of fighting in Gaza.
In the playback, Secretary Kerry continued:
“We’ve got to get over there. Thank you John. I think John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”
After the clip ended, Wallace asked Kerry if he thought the Israeli defense forces went too far in their latest attack.
He also asked if the Secretary would be flying to the Middle East that night as suggested in his call.
To his credit, given that he was put on the spot Kerry remained composed and insisted the US supported Israel’s military strikes unequivocally.
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself,” Kerry replied. “It’s tough.”
“It’s tough to have this kind of operation.I reacted obviously in a way that anybody does with respect to young children and civilians.”
“But,” he added grimly, “war is tough, and I said that publicly and I’ll say it again. We defend Israel’s right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels.”
Kerry went on, “Israel has accepted a unilateral cease-fire. It’s accepted the Egyptian plan which we also support.”
The Secretary then called on Islamist militants, Hamas — who have been firing rockets into Israel during the nearly two week present hostilities, and on and off for the past seven years — to accept an Egypt-proposed ceasefire.
Kerry’s comments on Sunday encored news of the bloodiest day of fighting in Gaza to date since fresh violence sparked on July 8, following last month’s killing of three Israeli teens in the occupied West Bank and the death on July 2 of a Palestinian youth in what is suspected as a revenge murder.
A five-hour ceasefire on July 17 later saw the start of Israel’s ground offensives after Egypt’s truce plan was rejected by Hamas and other militants on the grounds that it didn’t meet their demands and wasn’t consultative.
NBC and BBC reported fatalities have increased to over 425 Palestinians (thousands more have reportedly been wounded since July 8) and 18 Israeli soldiers, following shelling from Israeli forces in Shejaiya east of Gaza City on July 20 which killed 13 Israeli soldiers amid a Hamas response — according to Israeli Defense Forces.
Two Israeli civilians have also died in mortar and rocket attacks, while dozens of soldiers have been wounded since the start of the ground operation, according to Israeli hospitals.
The Sunday shelling left at least 87 dead (67 in one area), including women and children and is widely considered to be the worst surge of fighting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in two years.
The increased Israeli military presence was sent into Gaza to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security,” an IDF statement read, NBC reported.
The White House has said President Obama “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself” but that he also “raised serious concern about the growing casualties… increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers.”
Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the UN Security Council is now in the region on the first leg of a Middle East tour intended to end the conflict.
“As I travel the region, I will continue to press for a ceasefire –– an immediate end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the rocket fire by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Mr. Ki-Moon said at a press conference alongside Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiya in Doha, Qatar on July 20.
As for Secretary Kerry, he is now in Cairo attempting to broker a ceasefire between Israel, Hamas and other militants in Gaza.