Obama Condemns Gaza Ceasefire Violation
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Denouncing violation of the Gaza ceasefire hours after it came into effect, US President Barack Obama appealed to Hamas to show it is serious about seeking a truce and called on the Islamic militants to unconditionally release the Israeli soldier reportedly abducted by them.

"I want to make sure that they (Hamas) are listening: If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible," Obama told reporters at the White House.

The US President condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third almost minutes after a internationally-brokered cease-fire had been announced.

"I have been very clear throughout this crisis that Israel has a right to defend itself. No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities and people having to rush to bomb shelters every 20 minutes or half hour.

"No country can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land that can be used to launch terrorist attacks," he said.

The US has not only been supportive of Israel in its right to defend itself, but in very concrete terms -for example, in support for the Iron Dome program that has intercepted rockets that are firing down on Israeli cities, he said.

Obama said the US has been clear that innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on their conscience and Israeli forces have to do more to protect them.

The US president said that he is in regular touch with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and his national security team is in constant communication with the Israel military.

"I want to see everything possible done to make sure that Palestinian civilians are not being killed. And it is heartbreaking to see what's happening there, and I think many of us recognise the dilemma we have," he said.

"A cease-fire was one way in which we could stop the killing, to step back and to try to resolve some of the underlying issues that have been building up over quite some time," he said.

"Israel committed to that 72-hour cease-fire, and it was violated. And trying to put that back together is going to be challenging, but we will continue to make those efforts," Obama said, adding that the US would continue to work towards a ceasefire.

"We're going to keep working towards that. It's going to take some time. I think it's going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again if Israelis and the international community can't feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment," he said.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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