WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed outrage Friday following the collapse of a declared 72-hour cease-fire between Hamas and Israel mere hours after it went into effect.
"The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms today's attack, which led to the killing of two Israeli soldiers and the apparent abduction of another. It was an outrageous violation of the cease-fire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations.
"Hamas, which has security control over the Gaza Strip, must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier, and I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message."
Both sides blamed the other for violating the cease-fire approximately 90 minutes into the pause.
Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman, blamed Israel for the violation and asserted the Palestinian Authority's right to defend itself.
Meanwhile, Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blamed Hamas for initiating two simultaneous attacks against Israel. In the southern Gaza city of Rafah, a suicide bomber killed two Israeli soldiers and allegedly kidnapped a third soldier while they were decommissioning a tunnel. At the same time, Regev asserted, rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
"After the horrific loss of life in this attack and its aftermath, it would be a tragedy if this outrageous attack leads to more suffering and loss of life on both sides of this conflict," said Kerry.
Moving forward, the secretary of state called for a redoubling of efforts by the international community to bring the conflict to an end.
Since the conflict began earlier this month, more than 1,500 Palestinians have died, most of them civilians including many women and children. Sixty-one Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have been killed. Both the U.S. and U.N. have questioned the proportionality of Israel's airstrikes.