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John Kerry caught on open mic criticizing Israel: 'Hell of a pinpoint operation'

Just before a contentious interview on "Fox News Sunday," Secretary of State John Kerry was caught on an open microphone making candid remarks about the conflict in Gaza, Politico reported Sunday. A number of conservative sites noted that Kerry was "mocking" or "criticizing" Israel, while the predictably left-wing Politics USA criticized Fox News.

Secretary of State John Kerry
Secretary of State John Kerry
Jacquelyn Martin/AFP/Getty Images

"It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry told an aide, obviously frustrated with the situation. Politico -- hardly a conservative news outlet -- said Kerry "seemed to be criticizing the Israeli government’s assurances about the limited scope of its attack and ground invasion of Gaza." The Washington Post said Kerry's comments were "an apparent reference to Israel’s insistence that its incursion into the region would be limited.".

“We’ve got to get over there," he told the aide on the phone. "Thank you, John. I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

Fox News' Chris Wallace played video of the call and described the exchange as an “extraordinary moment of diplomacy.” He then asked Kerry if he believes Israel is taking the strikes into Gaza too far.

“I think it’s very, very difficult in these situations, obviously very difficult, Chris,” Kerry explained. “You have people who’ve come out of tunnels. You have a right to go in and take out those tunnels. We completely support that, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against rockets that are continuing to come in. Hamas has started this process of rocketing," he said.

After the program, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki issued a statement to the Washington Post echoing Kerry's comments while appearing to take issue with Fox News playing the video of his telephone call.

"Given the range of important global events we are not going to spend time litigating whether taping and playing Secretary Kerry's private conversation was consistent with acceptable protocol," Psaki said. "Regardless, his private comments were consistent with his publicly stated view on all five shows: Israel has the right to defend itself including against recent tunnel attacks, but he has encouraged them to not only take steps to prevent civilian casualties, but to take steps to de-escalate and we're working together to achieve a ceasefire."

It isn't the first time Kerry has been caught criticizing Israel when he thought the general public would not find out. In April, the Daily Beast reported that Kerry said Israel risks becoming an apartheid state like South Africa if it didn't make peace "soon."

Video of Kerry's comments can be seen above.