1:28 p.m. EDT
As you know, yesterday, Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo, where he is meeting with a range of officials regarding the conflict in Israel and Gaza and ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement. Last night, the Secretary met with UN Secretary General Ban to discuss his recent meetings in the region. This morning, the Secretary met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, Arab League Secretary General al-Araby, and Egyptian President al-Sisi to discuss the conflict in Israel-Gaza. The Secretary also had two meetings with the Palestinian Authority intel chief as well.
And just a call update. Obviously, the Secretary remains closely engaged with international partners on the situation on the ground. As I said yesterday, over the weekend, he spoke several times with Prime Minister Netanyahu in addition to calls with Foreign Minister Fabius and EU High Representative Lady Ashton. The Secretary spoke with a range of officials in the region, including President Abbas, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and the U.A.E. foreign minister as well. Yesterday, the Secretary spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh and Qatari Foreign Minister Al Attiya regarding the ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement.
Secretary Kerry also remains engaged on the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Over the weekend, he spoke with the Malaysian foreign minister, the French foreign minister, the Dutch foreign minister, the Norwegian foreign minister, and EU High Rep Lady Ashton, in addition to his call with Foreign Minister Lavrov. So far today, he’s spoken with High Rep Ashton, the Qatari foreign minister, and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu again as well. Lots of phone calls.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — because you started with that. There is some – there is suspicion in Israel and among pro-Israel types in the U.S. that last night’s Travel Warning that the State Department issued for Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, along with the move by the FAA today to ban U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours, is somehow a political move intended to put pressure on the Israelis, on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to agree to a cease-fire that they might not want to. In addition to the U.S. airlines, now a bunch of European airlines are also canceling their flights in and out of Tel Aviv.
Is there any truth to that? Did the – was the State Department involved in this FAA decision at all that you’re aware of?
MS. HARF: So let me take all of those questions in order. So to your first question, I would wholly disagree with that argument. We issue travel warnings because one of our top priorities is protecting U.S. citizens overseas. I would note that in 2012, the Department also issued travel warnings for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in March, August, and December. So this is a step we have taken when we felt the situation on the ground warranted it. Obviously, that is a process that we go through that in no way is policy related or politically related. It is just related to how we can best protect American citizens.
On the FAA, we, to my knowledge, were not involved in that decision making. Obviously, we knew it was coming today. And I was actually waiting for the announcement to come out before I came out to brief so I had more information. But the FAA makes these decisions when they feel it’s warranted, again, for the safety of United States citizens. And they, in response to the recent attack at Ben Gurion Airport – in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport – after consultation with U.S. operators, felt today that it was important to issue this notice, which is in effect for up to 24 hours. And they will provide additional guidance to – the updated instructions to the aircraft operators no later than 24 hours from when it went into effect.
QUESTION: So you knew – this building knew it was coming. Apparently, the White House was a bit out of the loop on this, though.
MS. HARF: That’s not true. I was on many email chains this morning about when the statement would actually come out that included my White House colleagues.
QUESTION: Okay. So when they said that it was a bit disingenuous for the White House to say that there had not been – half an hour before it came out that there has —
MS. HARF: Well, there’s not coordination. The FAA makes decisions on its own from a policy perspective. We all – we knew – I knew a little bit before the briefing, as did the White House, that this was being announced publicly on the communications side.
MS. HARF: But from a policy perspective, this is a process driven entirely by the FAA.
QUESTION: Okay. From the State Department point of view, I mean, is this something that you’re in touch with Israeli authorities about once it comes out or even beforehand?
MS. HARF: Yes. The Department of State as well as the FAA has been in contact with the Israeli Government about this. I don’t have specifics on what that looks like.
QUESTION: Was that before – that was before —
MS. HARF: It’s my understanding it was before.
QUESTION: — this was announced publicly?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Because they —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’ve seen some reports that they say that they were taken aback by this.
MS. HARF: No, I have here that we consulted with the Israelis before taking this step.
QUESTION: Okay. On a slightly – the same thing but slightly different tack. On UNRWA, I asked you a question yesterday about the rockets that they had found in the school and if you knew what they did with them after they had found them. Now, apparently, there have been some more found today. Do you have an answer to the question from —
MS. HARF: I wasn’t aware of those found today, but I got a little more information about what you asked me about yesterday that – a few points on this. Obviously, UNRWA is a humanitarian organization operating in a very difficult operating environment. That’s particularly acute in Gaza, obviously, where there is an active and ongoing conflict.
In terms of what happened to them, UNRWA has told us that they asked the local police to remove the rockets from the school. We recognize that this was not an acceptable outcome and we are consulting closely with UN leadership, with UNRWA, the Israeli Government, and the Palestinian Authority to develop better options available in the event of future incidents. Again, it’s important to remember that UNRWA is a humanitarian relief organization, it’s not a peacekeeping mission equipped to deal with the kind of situation where you find rockets. That’s not their mandate.
We also urge UNRWA to continue to be as transparent as possible about this issue. They will have more details on it, but that’s what I know as of right now.
QUESTION: Well, is it your understanding that by local police, that was Hamas, right?
MS. HARF: I think they can better speak to who specifically in the local police. I don’t have more information than that.
QUESTION: Well, if you – but if you say it was the – that the outcome was not acceptable, it would appear that UNRWA gave these missiles back to their owners, back to Hamas.
MS. HARF: They have told us they went to the local police. I will leave it to UNRWA to provide more details about who that was.
MS. HARF: I just don’t have those details, Matt.
QUESTION: Is there —
MS. HARF: I just don’t have them.
QUESTION: So after this happened, the Secretary and people with the Secretary in Cairo announced an additional tranche, a big package of aid, including $15 million to UNRWA.
MS. HARF: Which is an organization that does very important work in terms of the humanitarian situation, not just in Gaza but elsewhere.
QUESTION: I understand. But can you see how to an outside observer, this sounds a little bit – this sounds a bit bizarre that —
MS. HARF: Well, maybe to an outside observer who doesn’t have all the facts or understand the details here. But I think I just laid out for you that we don’t believe this is an acceptable outcome.
MS. HARF: The UNRWA is operating in a very difficult situation and there weren’t a lot of good options here. And we are working with them to try and figure out a better outcome in the future.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the facts are pretty clear: UNRWA discovers missile or rockets in its school; it condemns it, informs the UN, obviously, and then hands them back over to the people who are shooting them into Israel and then —
MS. HARF: Well, let’s not make sweeping generalizations. They – it’s —
QUESTION: But that’s —
MS. HARF: They’ve told us they gave them to the local police.
QUESTION: Well, but the local police in Gaza are Hamas.
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, Matt, I’m sure UNRWA can provide more details about who specifically they gave them back to. But I would —
MS. HARF: — just be careful about making sweeping generalizations and I’d check with them about who specifically they were given to.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you say it was unacceptable, I’m assuming that it was unacceptable. But anyway, you ended up still giving —
MS. HARF: I do tend to mean what I say, yes.
QUESTION: Exactly. You say it’s unacceptable, but you won’t say why it’s unacceptable. Right?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more for you than that.
QUESTION: Okay. So but then you go ahead and announce another $15 million to this very organization which is —
MS. HARF: Because it’s an important organization.
QUESTION: I understand. Okay, so maybe —
MS. HARF: Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
QUESTION: Okay, so maybe the question is this: What would have been an acceptable outcome in this situation?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to outline specifically what that might have looked like. We’re looking at what acceptable outcomes might look like in the future. I don’t have details on it.
QUESTION: A lot of Israelis have been skeptical, critical, of UNRWA in the past. Do you – I mean, this kind of a situation does not underscore those kinds of concerns?
MS. HARF: Well, look, again, to underscore here, UNRWA is operating in a very difficult situation in a difficult environment. And they aren’t, to be frank here, equipped to deal with discovering rockets in a school where they were working humanitarianly. So again, this wasn’t a good outcome. We certainly don’t think it was, but I would caution people from jumping to conclusions about what UNRWA was trying to do here. We’re working with them to try to do better in the future.
QUESTION: Right. So you don’t believe that this amounts to aiding and abetting of —
MS. HARF: I would certainly not say that.
QUESTION: On this, a clarification —
QUESTION: Marie, can I just ask, there was a school – there was another UNRWA school today that has been hit by – that was sheltering displaced Palestinians that has been hit. I’m not sure what the death toll or the casualty toll is yet from that. Do you believe that possibly by the discovery of these rockets, UNRWA schools have now become a target or UNRWA facilities are now become a target for the Israeli forces?
I was just at a meeting with the Israeli ambassador in which he said that under the rules of war, if rockets are hidden in schools, hospitals, medical facilities, or homes, they become legitimate targets. Has UNRWA now become a legitimate target in this conflict?
MS. HARF: Well, I – well, no, I would say UNRWA is not a legitimate target, but let’s step back for a second. I haven’t seen those reports from today. We do know that Hamas has used schools, hospitals, other civilian buildings to hide fighters, to hide rockets, to hide the tools that they’re using to attack Israel with. So I’ll say that, point A.
Point B, I’m not going to make a sort of international legal judgment based on comments I didn’t see by the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. We have said that Israel has a right to defend itself. We’ve also said that they need to take every effort to protect civilian casualties of Palestinians. So those two things are also true at the same time.
I can look into the report about this morning. I just haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: Marie, can you —
QUESTION: So I mean, do you believe that the – that if Hamas is hiding these rockets in schools and wherever, those then are legitimate targets by the Israelis as they press —
MS. HARF: I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to make that generalization. What I’ve said generally is that Israel has a right to defend itself, and these rockets are terrorizing the people of Israel. But schools, hospitals, there are places where civilians, particularly displaced people, do go to seek refuge that Hamas has used. So obviously, I don’t want to make a more specific judgment on what is not a legitimate target here. I’m happy to look into this specific issue.
QUESTION: Marie, on the UNRWA —
MS. HARF: Wait, wait. Let me – let’s do one at a time, please. Thank you.
Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: On the UNRWA issue. Now, in the absence of another authority – okay – in Gaza, where they should turned it to? Who they should have turned it to?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re working with them to see what the other options could have been. We’re working with them.
QUESTION: What could possibly —
MS. HARF: Because obviously, we wouldn’t want rockets to be given back to people who would use them.
QUESTION: I understand, but considering that Gaza is under siege or doesn’t have any connection —
MS. HARF: Well, there have to be other options here, so we’re trying to determine what they are.
MS. HARF: But we also know that it’s very difficult for UNRWA. I mean, they were not equipped to deal with this, and so we’re trying to help them get better.
QUESTION: Okay, like, could they have gone, let’s say, to a third party, as the UN, for instance?
MS. HARF: I don’t have specifics about the other options. We’re working on those right now.
QUESTION: Okay, now let me just quickly follow up —
MS. HARF: Okay. You’re next, I promise.
QUESTION: Yeah. Let me just quickly follow up on the process or the progress of the cease-fire talk. Can you update us on where we are now?
MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary is on the ground in Cairo, has meetings today with Egyptian President al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Shoukry, again, Arab League Secretary General al-Araby. He’s been on the phone with President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, other regional partners as well.
But look, the reality here is that this is a complicated situation. There are multiple regional players, difficult strategic issues involved, and we’re working together to try to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible. It’s in the best interest – excuse me – of both sides to do so.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary and his team know roughly, like, do they have like a day, a few days, a week, or anything like this?
MS. HARF: Well, we want this to be as soon as possible so civilians cannot be at risk anymore. But obviously, I don’t have a specific timeline for you, but as soon as possible.
QUESTION: So conceivably, it could happen in a very short order.
MS. HARF: Absolutely, we certainly hope that it does. But again, I want to set expectations here. It’s very complicated, a lot of strategic issues involved, and it could take longer than I think anyone would want.
QUESTION: There are reports that —
QUESTION: Do you know if —
MS. HARF: I promised.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry is planning to come back, to go back to Washington before a cease-fire agreement is reached?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything to announce in terms of his return to Washington. What we’re focused on right now is seeing if he can help move the process forward. No plans to return at this point, so I think we’ll see what happens in the coming days.
QUESTION: Could you give us a sense, what are his next steps? Is he going to Qatar, for example?
MS. HARF: No additional travel to announce at this point. He’s in Cairo for the foreseeable future and don’t have anything to announce.
QUESTION: As you may know, Hamas has said many times in the past few weeks that it doesn’t – they don’t have good relationship with Egypt, so how do – what’s your comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, there are a number of regional players that we’ve been talking to, not just the Egyptians, but the Qataris and Emirates and others who do have relationships, as the Egyptians do, with Hamas. Obviously, we don’t, but we’ve talked to other partners who do. So we are all trying to use whatever leverage we have and whatever relationships we have to push the sides to get to a cease-fire they can accept, because we think that’s what needs to happen as soon as possible here.
QUESTION: What kind of cease-fire they can accept? Could you give us an idea?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked in general about the 2012 ceasefire agreement and what that looked like, but I’m not going to more specifically outline what the conversations on the ground are like.
QUESTION: Do you know if Israel accepts the 2012 agreement?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into what the discussions look like on the ground. They’re all ongoing right now.
QUESTION: So the Secretary will not return to DC before the cease-fire is agreed upon?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said we have no plans for him to return now. We’re going to see how much progress we can make in the coming days.
QUESTION: Do you know if the FAA order would cover the Secretary’s plane should he – I mean, should he decide in the next 24 hours, before 12:15 tomorrow afternoon, that he wanted to go, would it be appropriate for him to go to Israel?
MS. HARF: Could he land at Ben Gurion? Well, this was —
QUESTION: Would – does it apply to the Air Force?
MS. HARF: I don’t know if this applies to United States military aircraft. It obviously applies to commercial airlines.
MS. HARF: I can check.
QUESTION: Marie, I was hoping to go back to that airline thing. So the – I just want to be clear that the State Department was informed by the FAA about – it didn’t have any input into the decision.
MS. HARF: We had – I can check on what the specific decision making looked like. As I said, we talked to the Israelis about it before – we consulted with them before we announced it. But this is an FAA decision —
MS. HARF: — based solely on security of American citizens and American airlines. I’ll check on what the process is, but —
QUESTION: Because I remember in the East China Sea where the State Department actually said to the airlines, “avoid that area” —
MS. HARF: I’m not sure that was the State Department or that was the FAA in that case as well.
QUESTION: I —
MS. HARF: I remember referring a lot of questions to the FAA at that time too.
QUESTION: As well.
MS. HARF: I can check.
MS. HARF: Obviously, I mean, with the Travel Warning we take very seriously the security and safety of American citizens. I’m sure we had discussions with the FAA about it. I just wanted to make very clear that there was no – nothing driving this beyond security.
QUESTION: So do – and so you agree with that decision, and do you think it should be prolonged according to whatever the conditions – as things stay —
MS. HARF: We’ll see what the conditions look like on the ground. As I said, FAA will give updated instructions to U.S. airlines no later than 24 hours from when it went into effect, which was at 12:15 p.m. Eastern today. It could be earlier, depending on the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: The fact that the – some of the European airlines, Air France and Lufthansa, have now followed suit – was that something that was collectively decided among sort of international airline bodies, or —
MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer to that.
QUESTION: Or are they just following because the FAA’s done it?
MS. HARF: They may just be following. Obviously, we discuss these issues with our counterparts around the world. This was just a decision for U.S. airlines. Let me check on that and see if there’s more details to share.
QUESTION: Back to Secretary Kerry?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary have some concrete proposals to the parties, or he’s just now in Cairo waiting for —
MS. HARF: I think anyone who knows the Secretary knows he always has concrete proposals and doesn’t just wait around for anything. But what he’s doing is talking to our partners, the Egyptians, others about how we can get to a ceasefire. There are a lot of pieces to this, so obviously there are active discussions, productive discussions going on today about how we could get to a ceasefire. I’m not going to outline what they look like specifically, but the discussions are very substantive and productive today.
QUESTION: But for the time being, he’s focusing on getting a ceasefire?
MS. HARF: Correct. That is the goal.
QUESTION: Marie, the Israelis warned international journalists to keep out of the combat area. You have anything to say on that?
MS. HARF: I’ve seen some – sorry – I had seen some reports of that. I can’t confirm those details. Obviously, we put out a Travel Warning today for American citizens.
MS. HARF: We believe, of course, that journalists should not be targets of violence, must be protected and allowed to freely do their jobs no matter where, but I hadn’t seen those specific reports.
QUESTION: Now, those international journalists, almost all of them, agree that Hamas operatives don’t even go to these hospitals like Shifa and Wafa and so on; they have their own clinics and hospitals to send their fighters to that are, in fact, probably closed to the public. And most of these areas that were targeted were actually civilian hospitals. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to do individual assessments of targets that may have been hit by Israeli operations. That’s just not my place to do that. I will note, as I did, that Hamas has in the past used civilian hospitals, schools to hide rockets, to hide fighters. I don’t want to make an independent judgment about each individual operation it’s undertaken, though. I don’t think that’s my place to do that.
QUESTION: Marie, the —
MS. HARF: Yes, staying here? Yeah.
QUESTION: The Israeli ambassador last night, he was talking at a group event for – run by Christians for Israel or something like that, and he said that he believed that Israel deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for Israeli soldiers, for the restraint that they’ve shown in going in and doing what he would say is targeted operations. And he thinks – at a breakfast I was at this morning, he says the international community should watch with admiration what the Israeli army is doing. Is it the opinion of the United States that there is restraint being shown by the Israeli army, that they are really working to try and get civilians out of harm’s way, they’re giving them advance warning? Do you believe that his comments are accurate?
MS. HARF: Well, a few points. As the President said yesterday, they do have a right to defend themselves. They have given us assurances that they are taking every step to protect civilians from casualties.
The President also said yesterday that we’re – we have serious concerns about the growing number of Palestinian civilian deaths. And it is clear, I think, that while the Israelis have said they hold themselves to very high standards and we certainly hold them to the same standards as well, I think probably they could take some greater steps, maybe could do a little bit more. And we’ll continue those conversations with the Israelis going forward.
QUESTION: So they haven’t shown enough restraint, then, in your opinion?
MS. HARF: Well, we do think that there could be – they could do a bit more, that they could maybe take some greater steps here. But again, we’ve been very clear, having said that, that Israel has a right to defend itself; that that’s what they are doing in this case; that when their civilians are the targets of terrorist rockets that are the – Hamas firing them into Israel, that there’s a very serious obligation to protect their citizens.
QUESTION: So what kind of greater steps would you like to see Israel take?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics for you. It’s a conversation we’ll continue having with them.
QUESTION: Sorry, they should take a – they should do a little bit more? Or a bit more?
MS. HARF: I said it’s clear they could take greater steps.
QUESTION: Does that mean you would prefer that they didn’t blow up kids on the – on a beach?
MS. HARF: I said it’s clear they could take greater steps, Matt.
QUESTION: But you said “a little bit,” and then you said “a bit more.”
MS. HARF: Feel free to use whatever quote of mine you’d like. I think I just made clear they could do more, and I don’t have anything to add to that.
QUESTION: Okay. But is it your opinion that all they need to do is a little bit more, or is —
MS. HARF: I just said it’s clear they could take greater steps. Happy to use whatever quote you’d like.
QUESTION: Marie, sorry.
MS. HARF: Yes, Said.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the number of soldiers that have U.S. citizenship. The latest figures show that there are 2,000 Americans serving for the Israeli army.
MS. HARF: I haven’t – I don’t think we keep figures on that. I don’t – I certainly haven’t seen them.
QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted – maybe you could look into it.
MS. HARF: We do – the State Department does not keep figures on how many U.S. citizens are volunteering with the IDF. We do not.
QUESTION: Can we switch to Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Are there any more on this?
QUESTION: Oh yeah.
MS. HARF: Okay. Then you can switch us to Ukraine, yes.
QUESTION: You – earlier you mentioned also yesterday that the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Davutoglu.
MS. HARF: He’s spoken to him many times, yes.
QUESTION: And can you give us a little bit more on that – what exactly the Secretary wants Turkey at this point?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked to all of our partners in the region about how they could play a constructive role in getting to a ceasefire here. That was part of these conversations.
QUESTION: Okay. You talk about the countries that have ties with Hamas that can play a role. Do you think Turkey can play a role at this point?
MS. HARF: I think, certainly, they’re one of the countries. And, I think, to address one of the questions that you asked yesterday, the Secretary has raised our concerns about the inflammatory statements we have seen a number of times, including during his call with Foreign Minister Davutoglu today. Senior U.S. officials in Washington and Ankara have also raised our concerns with Turkish counterparts. So I wanted to answer a question you asked yesterday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: You’re welcome.
QUESTION: But does the – I want to just – taking my colleague’s question a bit further: Do those inflammatory comments kind of rule out Turkey as being any way – in any shape or form a mediator in this conflict?
MS. HARF: No, no. But we did – as I said yesterday, it does hurt their ability to play a constructive role here. But no, I wouldn’t rule it out. Obviously, we believe they can play a role, but these comments certainly do not help.
QUESTION: Not this, but related to something Jen talked about last week, which was – she expressed concern about the arrest and detentions without charge of members of the Abu Khdeir family, the family whose one American teen was beaten up and is now back in Florida, and the other one who was murdered.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has there been a – are you aware if there’s been a resolution to that situation with the family?
MS. HARF: I’m checking. I’m not sure if there has been. Let me see if I have something from yesterday. I thought I did, but I might not. Let’s see.
We – this is probably what she said last week, that we’ve raised our concerns with senior Israeli officials; the Israelis have said they are looking into the issue. We’re continuing to closely monitor it. We do not believe that any of the detained family members are American citizens. I’ll check and see if there’s an update. I don’t have anything else.
QUESTION: Right, but one of the things that Jen said last week was that you had an – even though none of them were – are American citizens, that you obviously have an interest in this case given the fact that one of the relatives was an American citizen. Is it your understanding that there’s – that the Israelis have taken 15 members of this family into custody?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a number in here.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you just check to see —
MS. HARF: I can check, yep.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Staying here?
QUESTION: Yes. If I can just go back to the press coverage issue in Gaza, I’m not asking you to comment on any one specific incident, but have you relayed in general your concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of channels to be able to relay the news in Gaza to Israeli officials? Have you been in touch with them about that?
MS. HARF: I can check on that specifically. Obviously, we make it very clear all the time, but let me check on that specifically.
QUESTION: Well, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted in press by saying that Al Jazeera, at least, was, quote, spreading “anti-Israeli incitement, lies, and encouragement to the terrorists.” That is his quote, and wanted close the channel there in his country. Do you agree with his assessment?
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe that journalists must be able to freely do their jobs no matter where they’re operating, period, and don’t think steps should be taken to prevent them from doing so.
QUESTION: And just to follow up on this question, actually, I got at these two. I was asked to ask this question many times. (Laughter.) One of the CNN report —
MS. HARF: Is it about our relationship with Turkey strategically?
QUESTION: No. I’ll do it next week.
MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll wait for it. (Laughter.) Or you can do it later this week.
MS. HARF: Give me a few days off from it.
QUESTION: One of the CNN reporters, because of her tweet – I don’t remember her name right now, but because of her tweet, she was relocated to Russia because she was saying in tweet that she was insulted by some of the Israelis that were watching the bombs coming over the Gaza. So the question was: As we all know, you are very sensitive to the freedom of press. Do you think this – on this particular issue, you see any issue with the CNN —
MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with this case.
MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into it.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to UNRWA for one second?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you – in your discussions with – are you – what exactly are you telling them – what are you telling them to do? Are you telling them to consult with who about how to handle these —
MS. HARF: Right. We’re talking to them, to the UN leadership, to the PA, and to the Israel Government about developing better options in the case something like this happens. I don’t have specifics about what those options might look like.
QUESTION: Okay. But you’re —
MS. HARF: Basically, we want to have – if this happens again, we want to have a different way to resolve it.
QUESTION: Right. Is there any concern that these rockets may now be being fired into Israel?
MS. HARF: I can check and see.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: I just don’t know.
QUESTION: And the money that’s going to them that was announced yesterday – going to UNRWA, 15 million – can you remind us of what that’s for?
MS. HARF: The 15 million specifically? I can check and see if I have that. In terms of what it would specifically do for the organization, I don’t have that in front of me. It was part of a larger, I think, 47 —
QUESTION: It doesn’t go – it’s not intended for rocket disposal, neutralization, and that kind of thing. (Laughter.) Is that right?
MS. HARF: This has long been in the works, Matt.
QUESTION: Yes. Okay, so the White House said today that it would lay out intel regarding the Malaysian airliner.
MS. HARF: Yes. I told you guys just to stick with us and we’d get you some more intel.
QUESTION: All right. So who – do you have any information on when that’s supposed to be released?
MS. HARF: So I would refer you to the intelligence community, who will today be further declassifying information and will be putting out additional information that supports what we have said; that we believe the most likely outcome here was that this was an SA-11 originated from Russian-separatist controlled areas. I’d refer you to them for details on that.
QUESTION: Okay, but you don’t know —
MS. HARF: But it will be coming out today.
QUESTION: But you don’t know what time, you have (inaudible)?
MS. HARF: I don’t have those details, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, Russia has recently been questioning a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet that was flying no more than three miles away from the Boeing plane before it was shot down. And they’ve sort of suggested that it may have been involved. They don’t know, but they’re questioning it.
MS. HARF: I think they’ve done more than suggest that, yes.
QUESTION: What evidence does the U.S. have to rule out that as a possibility at this point? Because I’ve heard reports that the U.S. already sort of knocked that out of —
MS. HARF: A couple points. First, as we’ve said, when you look at the kind of markings on the plane and how it looked like it was brought down, obviously that’s consistent with an SA-11, which is fired from the ground. I haven’t seen any information that indicates a Ukrainian jet. We’re still looking into it, obviously. The president of Ukraine has said there was not, but again, we like to independently verify things for Matt, before you ask the question. And so I haven’t seen information that would indicate that.
And all of the – the preponderance of the information that we’ve laid out and that the intelligence community will lay out was that this was an SA-11 fired from the ground from a separatist-controlled area.
QUESTION: And there are also several reports that the Ukrainian military has continued to issue attacks in eastern Ukraine, despite everything going on with the investigation. What kind of information do you have on that, and has the U.S. said anything whatsoever to Kyiv authorities about a cease-fire?
MS. HARF: Well, the president of Ukraine is committed to a 40 kilometer cease-fire around the crash site, and I believe the fighting is outside of that 40 kilometers. I think he’s held to it. And look, we – a cease-fire takes two sides. So where there are attacks against the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian forces, they obviously have a responsibility and obligation to protect their people. But it’s my understanding that they have held the cease-fire around the crash site.
QUESTION: And just one more question.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned about that fighting continuing amidst the investigation?
MS. HARF: Well, we’re concerned about all of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which is the result of these pro-Russian separatists, who we’ve seen what they’re capable of doing – not just this week but over many weeks, including when they’ve bragged about shooting down planes in the past. So we’ve called on President Putin very directly to use his influence to help end the fighting there.
QUESTION: So President Putin —
QUESTION: Excuse me, I would like to ask you about —
QUESTION: — President Putin said today —
MS. HARF: Can we do – let’s just do one at a time.
QUESTION: — that he would —
MS. HARF: Let’s do Matt, and then we’ll go to you, and then I’ll go to Wesley.
QUESTION: — that he would use that influence.
MS. HARF: Let’s see some actions backed up – backing up those words.
QUESTION: And the other thing is, I would hope that you’re not just verifying these things for me, for my sake.
MS. HARF: Matt, I just care very deeply about answering your questions thoroughly and fulsomely. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Fulsomely, yes. Okay, in —
MS. HARF: No, but I did say yesterday that we are committed and I didn’t just say it to say it. We do mean it.
QUESTION: I understand that. So can you give us any idea – recognizing that the intel community is going to do this and not you – can you give us an idea of what it is that they’re going to —
MS. HARF: I can’t.
QUESTION: — I mean, just broad – okay.
MS. HARF: Obviously, we’ve spoken about our assessment, and I think we’ll have some more information that backs that up.
QUESTION: The Europeans today met – the European Council met —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — and said that they were going to expand and enhance —
MS. HARF: I think visa bans, asset freezes.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: That’s correct. I presume that you think that’s a good thing?
MS. HARF: We do. Yes.
QUESTION: You do? Do you have anything more to say about it —
MS. HARF: I don’t.
QUESTION: — than just that?
MS. HARF: I don’t.
QUESTION: Just that it’s a good thing?
QUESTION: Do you feel they could go further though? I mean, there’s some reluctance – I think there’s some Europeans that want to go towards a tier 3, to expand it onto different sectors —
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — and also an arms embargo which would perhaps put the French in a difficult position. And there’s some who don’t – notably the French. So do you think – would you support the EU to go further in these sanctions?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we would support anyone who wants to put increased pressure on the Russians here. As I said yesterday and as the Secretary and the President have both said, this should be a wake-up call for the Europeans, quite frankly, that they should do more. We’ve done more, and we’ll keep working with them on it.
QUESTION: What do you make of the fact that the French, even after the downing of the plane, and – are going to go ahead with the transfer of this warship?
MS. HARF: Clearly think it’s completely inappropriate.
QUESTION: Completely inappropriate?
MS. HARF: And we’ve told them they should not do it.
QUESTION: And why exactly? Because —
MS. HARF: I will let Foreign Minister Fabius speak for himself, which I know he is very capable of doing.
QUESTION: But have you explained to the French your – or do you understand – have the French come to the same conclusion as you did – as you have about who is responsible for this plane going down, do you know?
MS. HARF: It’s my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: They have?
MS. HARF: I mean, they can speak for themselves —
MS. HARF: — but I haven’t heard otherwise.
QUESTION: But I mean, they haven’t come back to you – when you say we think this is a really – this is a bad idea, you shouldn’t go ahead with the transfer, they don’t say well, we don’t – they don’t tell you that we’re – they’re not certain that the Russians are —
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that, Matt.
QUESTION: So what —
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard anyone except for the Russians question what happened here, quite frankly.
QUESTION: Okay. Going back to the stuff that the Russian defense ministry put out yesterday and some of this stuff online, is it your – I’m presuming you have seen – I’m assuming that you’ve seen some of it now.
MS. HARF: Seen some of it.
QUESTION: Do you regard all of that as complete fabrication and —
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen all of it, but certainly the narrative that they are propagating, we very strongly disagree with and have many, many, many pieces of evidence to prove otherwise.
QUESTION: And those pieces of evidence you expect to be presented —
MS. HARF: At this intelligence community briefing, my former colleagues.
MS. HARF: I told you we would try.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, we will all wait with bated breath for that.
MS. HARF: I’m sure you will.
QUESTION: Just on the EU sanctions. There was a suggestion that if they did go ahead with an arms embargo they could make it for new contracts, not existing contracts. Would that be something that the United States would support?
MS. HARF: I don’t know —
QUESTION: Which would allow the Mistral to still go ahead, obviously.
MS. HARF: I don’t know. We obviously don’t think the Mistral should go ahead. I can check on what our position is on that.
QUESTION: Marie —
MS. HARF: We don’t think anyone should be providing arms to Russia.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: Was that discussion —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — with the Russian – with the French, was that in the last few days? Was there a renewed discussion?
MS. HARF: We’ve certainly spoken to the French foreign minister over the past few days. I can check and see if it came up. I’m guessing it did.
QUESTION: And then I want to ask about the evidence that the intel community is going to release. Is that going to be expanded – anything that’s – is that going to be more than what we’ve seen or heard?
MS. HARF: I think if there wasn’t, I’m not sure why they would be doing it. But yes.
MS. HARF: You can hold me to that tomorrow if no. But I think that they will be – we have – there’s going to be further declassification. We will be putting out more information later. Again, it bolsters and backs up the general assessment we’ve already put out there, but they will be putting more information out there.
QUESTION: Do you know if satellite images will be —
QUESTION: — Traveling Warning, please? I was —
MS. HARF: You two can figure out who’s going to —
QUESTION: It’s my turn.
MS. HARF: It’s your turn.
QUESTION: It’s my turn.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: May I go back to the Travel Warning?
QUESTION: Can I stay with Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I’ve got another Ukraine one.
MS. HARF: Okay. He’s going to ask one, and then Nicole can.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Go back to the Travel Warning that this Department has issued yesterday —
MS. HARF: For Ukraine?
QUESTION: No, no, for Israel and —
MS. HARF: We’re going to stay on Ukraine and then we’ll go to Israel. We’re going to stay on Ukraine. We’re going to do one topic at a time.
Nicole, on Ukraine.
QUESTION: Just with regard to the intelligence you’re going to be releasing later today, the Administration, a member of the Russian defense ministry’s advisory council came out earlier today basically with statements – a statement discrediting what you guys are saying. And one of the arguments he made is that the satellite that you have above Ukraine can only register missile launches within a zone of 50 to 100 kilometers, and so that there’s no way with any specificity the U.S. can say that the missile came from rebel-controlled territory. Could you respond to that?
MS. HARF: I think for more details, I think the intelligence community can probably respond. I, suffice to say, strongly disagree with what he said. We’ve seen a history throughout this conflict of the Russian Government putting out just sheer propaganda, falsehoods about what’s happening. We have a great deal of open-source evidence and intelligence to back it up that supports what we believe to be true, and we’ll talk about that more in the coming days.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Ukraine? Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Ukraine.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the remains of the passengers that were turned in to – did —
MS. HARF: Yes. We are pleased that the victims’ remains have finally started their journey back to their loved ones. They – let me see if I can get the details about this specifically, if you just give me one second.
This was part of the agreement that the Malaysian authorities reached with the separatist leader to do three things: move the bodies by train to Kharkiv where they will be handed over to a Dutch representative; hand over the black boxes to a Malaysian team; and guarantee safe access to the crash site for investigators to begin their work. And thus far, all three of these things have happened. The bodies have been moved, black boxes have been delivered to the Malaysians, and monitors had much-improved access today. We are hopeful that that access will continue.
The OSCE did confirm that a contingent of Dutch, Malaysian, and OSCE representatives accompanied the remains on a train to Kharkiv where they will go on to the Netherlands. I can’t confirm yet if the flight to the Netherlands has happened. The train arrived in Kharkiv around 4:30 a.m. Washington time.
QUESTION: It’s a morbid task, but can you give us a figure? All the passengers, 298 have —
MS. HARF: I don’t have that. I mean, we know 298 people were on the plane. I don’t have specifics beyond —
QUESTION: Do you have any information – there was some suggestion that the Ukrainian separatists have said that there were 282 bodies that were handed over, and in fact it seems that the people who have received them said there were only 200 bodies. Do you have any —
MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t have – I – that’s a good question. Let me check with our colleagues there.
QUESTION: There have been some reports that the wreckage of the plane was badly tampered with, including one report that said the cockpit had – well, the remains of the cockpit had actually been sawed in half. Do you have – do you know about this?
MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that. I’ve obviously seen the reports that – and we saw just video and photos of the pro-Russian separatists tampering with the evidence in a fairly grotesque way. I can see if I can confirm the issue about the cockpit.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m just wondering, in general, if such tampering – does that – and the fact that the Secretary said the scene was already seriously compromised —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, are you concerned at all that the investigation will not be able to reach a conclusive —
MS. HARF: No. I think we are concerned about what happened at the crash site, but we do believe that the investigation can go forward and can make a judgment about what happened here.
QUESTION: One more —
QUESTION: A correct and factual judgment, not just any judgment, right?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Can I have one more?
MS. HARF: Wait. Let’s go to Lucas, then I’m coming to you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, there’s a map showing the SA-11 surface-to-air missile trajectory as well as the flight path of the aircraft.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Did this image originate from the State Department?
MS. HARF: It’s commercial imagery that’s available commercially.
QUESTION: And was that —
MS. HARF: And I know we posted it on our Facebook page in the Embassy, but it is commercial imagery.
QUESTION: So commercial imagery. And did somebody at the State Department or from the Embassy put in the flight tracks, the lines?
MS. HARF: I don’t think anyone here did. I think that this is something we’ve been using internally inside the broader USG who’s been talking about this, but let me see if I can get you some more details on that.
QUESTION: Okay, because that —
MS. HARF: And flight paths are obviously publicly available information, so —
QUESTION: Right. But the track of the missile —
MS. HARF: Yeah. It’s a good question, Lucas, and let me check on that.
Yes. On Ukraine?
QUESTION: Yes, madam. This is one of the unique kind of incident, what terrible incident has taken place. Many people are asking now: What is the future – are you calling any kind of some kind of international aviation conference? How can you avoid in the future such incidents? Because this is not – in the past you had seen some bombs and all kind of those things, but not the way it happened now.
MS. HARF: Well, in terms of international response, as you saw yesterday, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution about this incident, and we welcomed that resolution. It talked about a number of things, including the investigation here. And as you saw too, we are very – take very seriously, the United States Government writ large through the FAA, our obligations to protect American citizens and to warn U.S. carriers when we think there could be a possible security risk. I don’t have, I think, more details for you about what comes next. But I think the President was clear yesterday that these incidents need to have accountability, and that’s what the investigation is going to do – that people – what we need to find out right now is who was on the ground with the pro-Russian separatists, who exactly was there at the launch site for the SA-11. That’s part of what the investigation will do so we can hold people accountable.
QUESTION: No, sorry. Do you —
MS. HARF: We’ll go to you next, then. Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have any information that would corroborate this, what this Ukrainian official in Kyiv is saying that a Russian – is that what he just asked – or that a Russian officer actually pushed the button?
MS. HARF: I don’t think he just asked that. I haven’t seen any. Obviously, one of the things we’re trying to figure out right now – and this is the hardest thing – who was at the site. So we’re still trying to figure that out right now.
QUESTION: Who was at the site and who actually did whatever it is that is required to launch it.
MS. HARF: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the Travel Warning that this Department has issued yesterday. We all understand, we all know that the situation in Gaza is not safe. My question is: Why Israel? I mean, do you consider that Israel and mainly Tel Aviv are not safe now?
MS. HARF: Well, due to the ongoing hostilities, we have warned U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling there. We have recommended that U.S. citizens consider deferring nonessential travel to Israel and to the West Bank. We have long – had a longstanding, strong warning to U.S. citizens against any travel to the Gaza Strip.
QUESTION: So that means you consider Israel is an unsafe place, that’s —
MS. HARF: Well, we are warning them to consider deferring nonessential travel. We’re giving them the information that there are security risks. Obviously, we’re not telling them not to go there, as is the case with the Gaza Strip.
QUESTION: Okay. Based on what you said, do you – are you aware or do you have any information if Hamas possesses, has any long-range missiles, can reach the Ben Gurion Airport?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s a separate issue with the FAA. Let me go to that for just one second. Because there was a recent attack in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport, that’s why the FAA issued the notice to airmen today informing U.S. airlines they’re prohibited from going there to or from for 24 hours. So obviously, there was a security risk in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport.
QUESTION: So that means, based on what you are saying, that Hamas has the capability to shoot down any civilian aircraft?
MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. I said that there was —
QUESTION: No. I mean, I’m trying to —
MS. HARF: I know. You’re trying to extrapolate from what I said to make judgments.
QUESTION: Exactly, yeah.
MS. HARF: And I’m telling you the facts as I know them. I’m happy to see if there’s additional judgments we can make about Hamas’s capabilities here. It was because of an attack in the vicinity of the airport that we don’t want U.S. airlines landing or taking off from there for a period of up to 24 hours. Let me check and see on the capabilities, in terms of the kind of rockets they have, in terms of airlines. I can check on that.
QUESTION: Marie – okay. Marie?
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: But Ben Gurion Airport has been targeted before by Hamas rockets. Why wasn’t there a warning then and there is one now?
MS. HARF: Well, again, this is just in response to this recent attack. Obviously, it’s been some time. I don’t know the precise details about the past attacks, but this was in response to a recent attack. We haven’t seen one like this in recent memory, so we thought we would issue this warning (inaudible) the FAA.
QUESTION: Well, I mean maybe a week before when the hostilities started —
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and get the specifics on that.
QUESTION: — there was some rockets landing on —
MS. HARF: Okay. I don’t know if it was the same vicinity. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Do you have any concern that Hamas may have antiaircraft weapons?
MS. HARF: I will check and see. I don’t have all the details about their capabilities. Let me check on that.
QUESTION: Do you – one of the – among the co