Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday urged Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire agreement to stop the bloodshed in the escalating conflict between the two sides.
“We need to try to get to a ceasefire as soon as possible,” she said in an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos.
The death toll continues to increase. Officials in Gaza say that 844 Palestinians have died in the nearly three-week long clash, Reuters reported on Friday. Israel says 35 of its troops have been killed.
When asked if Israel’s response to Hamas’ rocket attacks has been disproportionate, Clinton responded that the group “intended to provoke Israel” by starting the strikes again. Hamas has compounded the problem because it “puts its missiles, its rockets in civilian areas” and constructs tunnels that allow militants to attack Israelis, she said.
Clinton added that Israel is warning Palestinians before it launches airstrikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip. But she added that, “in any kind of conflict, there are going to be civilian casualties.”
“Israel has the right to self-defense but I and everybody who is seeing these terrible pictures on our TV hope there can be a ceasefire and try to end the killing and try to prevent the unbelievable heartbreak that we see happening,” she said.
Clinton, who successfully brokered an Israel-Gaza ceasefire in 2012, made her comments on the same day that Israel’s security cabinet rejected a week-long ceasefire proposed by Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, designed to buy time to negotiate a broader settlement.
Israeli officials are concerned that agreeing to Kerry’s ceasefire proposal would curtail their efforts to destroy Hamas tunnels that allow militants to infiltrate their country, according to media reports. Kerry said on Friday that he is continuing to work toward a deal.
Last week, Hamas rejected a ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt, saying that top officials were not consulted in drafting the plan. Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal this week demanded that Israel lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip and said that the group will not accept a ceasefire that requires it disarm.
Clinton Not Afraid to Fly to Israel
Israelis were angered earlier this week when the Federal Aviation Administration grounded U.S. commercial flights to Tel Aviv after reports of nearby rocket fire. The restrictions were lifted late Wednesday night.
Asked by Ramos if she would be afraid to fly commercial to Israel, Clinton replied, “No, I would not be.”
Clinton, however, did not directly criticize the FAA for its decision to temporarily stop the flights. She suggested that concerns about the safety of air travel to Israel are not new.
“I negotiated the last ceasefire in November of 2012, and I know that there were concerns by our FAA and the Europeans, those have been [allayed], they are not as severe,” she said. “But I think you have to constantly be watching to make sure that flights are safe.”