Obama: new Gaza truce ‘very hard’

The U.S. president urged Palestinian militant group Hamas to show they are serious about wanting a ceasefire with Israeli forces

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U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinian militant group Hamas on Friday to show that they are serious about wanting a ceasefire in Gaza, and called for the “unconditional” immediate release of an Israeli soldier reportedly captured by the group earlier in the day.

“If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama said during a press conference.

“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 ceasefire commitment,” he added.

Turkish support

Turkey agreed to do whatever it can to help free the Israeli soldier, shortly after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sought urgent help from Qatar and Turkey to free the soldier, reportedly abducted during clashes with Hamas.

However, Turkey prioritized the reinstatement of a truce.

“What is important is that the ceasefire is reinstated. To ensure this…we can take any step that could resolve this Israeli soldier issue,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Friday.

While Obama admitted that agreeing on a new ceasefire was challenging, he said that the U.S. would continue working towards a new truce in order to save civilian lives.

“We have also been clear that innocent civilians in Gaza caught in the crossfire have to weigh on our conscience and we have to do more to protect them,” he said,

Praising Kerry

Obama also praised Kerry, who he said “has been persistent, he has worked very hard,” he said.

“He has endured on many occasions really unfair criticism. Simply to try to get to the point where the killing stops," Obama added.

The truce brokered by the U.S. and U.N. was initially set to last for 72-hours starting Friday morning,but collapsed less than two hours after it began.

(With AFP and AP and Reuters)