WASHINGTON: The White House Tuesday called on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to preserve security cooperation, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mulls action against Hamas after the murder of three Israeli teenagers.
The Obama administration also backed Israel’s claims that the Islamist group was to blame for the killings, and reiterated a call for restraint on both sides.
Israel has vowed to hunt down the militants it believes are responsible for the killings, which were followed by Israeli raids on Hamas targets in Gaza earlier in the day.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated President Barack Obama’s outrage over the killings and call for both sides to avoid destabilizing action, expressed on Monday in a written statement.
He also called on Palestinians and Israelis not to jeopardize cooperation that Washington sees as vital in keeping a lid on tensions.
“There was some security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel as they investigated the disappearance of these young men, as they tried to bring them home safely,” said Earnest.
“There is an important security relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
“We hope that that spirit of cooperation, even in the midst of this very difficult time, will continue,” said Earnest.
Hamas had condemned Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for his support for security coordination with Israel, which continued as the Jewish state mounted an unsuccessful effort to find the three teenagers alive.
The Islamist group said the cooperation was harmful to prospects of Palestinian reconciliation and a blow to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Abbas argues that security coordination with Israel is in the interest of Palestinians and pledged there would be no new intifada or uprising against Israel despite the recent failure of US-brokered peace talks.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Marie Harf said that there were “many indications” pointing to the involvement of Hamas.
She highlighted the praise offered by Hamas leaders for the kidnappings of Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel, a dual US-Israeli citizen, both 16, and 19-year-old Eyal Ifrach, from a roadside in the southern West Bank on June 12.
But she stopped short of placing full responsibility for the killings on Hamas.
The three teenagers’ bodies were found Monday in a field not far from where they were seized.
“We condemn this despicable terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms,” Harf said.