WASHINGTON, July 18 (RIA Novosti) – US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday urged to refrain from further escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
“The Secretary emphasized the need to avoid further escalation,” the White House Press Office said in a statement.
The Secretary of State also reaffirmed “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself...” At the same time, Kerry he agreed with the statements by Netanyahu suggesting the operation was a response to tunnels dug by Hamas rebels.
“[The Israeli prime minister] described the terrorist attack this morning near Kibbutz Sufa, and the imminent threat to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip,” according to the statement.
Kerry in his turn expressed hope that “this should be a precise operation to target tunnels.”
The Secretary of State, however, said that the United States was concerned over the safety of civilians both on the Israeli and Palestinian side and urged to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.
The Israeli army started Thursday a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip aimed at destroying tunnels dug by Palestinian rebels under the joint border to secretly enter the Israeli territory.
The operation comes just hours after Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip, agreed to a five-hour UN-brokered humanitarian pause to ten-day fighting in the region, which claimed the lives of hundreds, mostly on the Palestinian side.
Earlier on Monday, Egypt proposed a plan for a comprehensive Gaza ceasefire, which was later accepted by Israel’s Security Cabinet. Hamas still rejects the longer-lasting truce.