US Secretary of State John Kerry was overheard on an open microphone making comments apparently critical of Israel’s handling of its assault on Gaza.
Kerry was speaking on the phone to one of his aides prior to being interviewed by Fox News.
“I hope they don’t think that’s an invitation to go do more,” he told his aide. “That had better be a warning to them.”
“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry continued in an apparent reference to the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza, despite Israel’s insistence that it is doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties.
As of Monday, the Palestinian death toll exceeded 500 people, mostly civilians.
“We’ve got to get over there,” Kerry said. “I think, Jon, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around. Let’s go.”
When Kerry was confronted with the recording by the Fox News host, he reiterated Washington’s official position that Israel’s actions are done in self-defence.
“I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult,” Kerry said. “I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does in respect to young children and civilians.”
“You have people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that. And we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing, after Israel was trying to find the people who killed three young — you know, one American kid, three young Israeli citizens. It’s disgraceful.”
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki made a statement following the airing of the recorded conversation.
“Given the range of important global events we are not going to spend time litigating whether taping and playing Secretary Kerry’s private conversation was consistent with acceptable protocol,” the statement read.
“Regardless, his private comments were consistent with his publicly stated view on all five shows: Israel has the right to defend itself including against recent tunnel attacks, but he has encouraged them to not only take steps to prevent civilian casualties, but to take steps to de-escalate and we’re working together to achieve a ceasefire.”