US President Barack Obama has called on the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas to “unconditionally” release an Israeli soldier captured in the Gaza Strip.
“If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama told a news conference on Friday.
On Friday, the Israeli military confirmed that one of its soldiers was captured by Palestinian fighters in the Gaza town of Rafah.
Obama framed the release of 23-year-old Hadar Goldin as a precondition for a possible ceasefire.
“A ceasefire was one way in which we could stop the killing, to step back and try to resolve some of the underlying issues,” he said.
Obama also characterized the relentless Israeli aerial and ground attacks on Gaza– in which more than 1,650 Palestinians have been killed– as self defense.
“No country can tolerate missiles raining down on its cities… no county can or would tolerate tunnels being dug under their land,” the president stated.
The United Nations says over 80 percent of the fatalities in Gaza have been civilians.
Some 9,000 people have also been injured in 26 days of Israel’s onslaught on the besieged coastal enclave.
The military wing of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, has been firing retaliatory rockets into Israel, killing dozens of its soldiers.