Obama Demands Return of Captured Israeli Soldier

President Barack Obama demanded the unconditional release of an Israeli soldier seized by Hamas and said the U.S. stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks by the militant group.

The U.S. will try to help both sides restore a three-day truce between Hamas and Israel’s army that unraveled hours after it was set to begin, he said.

“It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas will follow through,” Obama said at the White House.

Obama also said innocent civilians being caught in the crossfire in Gaza “have to be protected.” Even so, he said, Israel is justified in going on the offensive.

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

More than 1,400 Palestinians and at least 60 Israelis have been killed since the fighting escalated on July 8.

The U.S. Senate today voted to give Israel $225 million in emergency spending to shore up its Iron Dome missile-defense system. The U.S. House plans to consider the funds today before taking an August recess for the rest of the month. The measure advanced in the Democratically-controlled Senate with the support of Republicans including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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