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Kerry condemns Hamas after collapse of cease-fire

After collapse of a 72-hour cease fire, Kerry blames Hamas, calls for ending tunnel and rocket attacks

Secretary of State John F. Kerry pointedly blamed Hamas for the quick collapse of a cease fire Friday in Gaza, condemning an attack by the Palestinian militant group on Israeli soldiers as an "outrageous violation."

Kerry did not call for a renewal of the 72-hour cease fire that he had announced Thursday evening, saying instead that the international community should "redouble efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel, and the suffering and loss of civilian life."

The statement appeared to put the Obama administration back onto the same page as Israel's government after several days of mounting strains in the relationship.

Kerry said the United States "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the attack in the southern part of the Gaza strip in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third was apparently abducted.

The attack "was an outrageous violation of the cease fire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations," he said.

He called on Hamas to "immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli soldier" and urged countries with influence over Hamas "to reinforce this message."

He gave no indication that he plans to immediately resume efforts to negotiate a halt in fighting.

The planned three-day cease fire collapsed after roughly 90 minutes when Israeli soldiers who were preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel in southern Gaza, near the Egyptian border, were fired on by Hamas fighters emerging from the passageway. The Hamas fighters apparently dragged one Israeli soldier with them back into the tunnel. The soldier's condition is unknown.

Last weekend and in subsequent days, Kerry came under sharp, and often personal, criticism from supporters of Israel as well as some more neutral analysts for allegedly leaning too far toward Palestinian demands in seeking to negotiate a cease fire.

Over the last two days, however, he has repeatedly emphasized the need to destroy Hamas' military infrastructure and stressed his strong relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and two other leading opponents of Hamas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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