Obama Calls for Immediate Release of Captured Israeli Soldier in Gaza

U.S. president reiterates Israel's right to defend itself, but says: 'There is a way of dealing with the tunnels while reducing the bloodshed.'

Barack Obama during a press conference.
Barack Obama during a press conference, August 1, 2014. AP

U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Hamas for Friday's reported capture of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, saying if Hamas was serious about resolving the situation the Israeli officer must be freed.

Obama said he condemned both Hamas and the attack within minutes of the incident. "If they (Hamas) are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible," he told a news conference.

Obama reiterated Israel's right to defend itself, saying no country would tolerate rockets and tunnel attacks. He stated that Hamas is housing rockets in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, "which is why we see innocent people getting killed."

The president said Israel committed itself to the cease-fire before it was violated, cautioning that Israel cannot be confident that a cease-fire will hold if Hamas cannot control all Palestinian factions.

Obama stressed more should be done to protect the lives of innocent civilians in Gaza, saying a cease-fire was one way to do that. "I want to see everything possible done so that Palestinian civilians do not get killed." He also added that, "There is a way of dealing with the tunnels while reducing the bloodshed."

He said that the U.S. remains committed to brokering a truce between the sides. "We are going to continue working on a ceasefire but it will take time and will be hard."