1:48 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MS. HARF: Hello and welcome to the daily briefing. I have just a couple things at the top, and then happy to go into questions, of course.
First, I’m sure many of you have seen that today is the Dutch day of mourning. Today, we join King Willem-Alexander, Prime Minister Rutte, and all of the people of the Netherlands in mourning the loss of the 193 Dutch residents who died when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine. No words can adequately express the sorrow the world feels over this loss. On behalf of the American people, we again extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy.
As the President said yesterday, we will work with the Netherlands to make sure that loved ones are recovered, that a proper investigation is conducted, and that those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 are brought to justice.
And second, a quick travel update for people. Excuse me. The Secretary, as you saw, is in Jerusalem and Ramallah having some meetings today. He’s met with President Abbas, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think is ongoing as well, that meeting. So has traveled there to continue discussions on the ceasefire. As we said, he’s always happy to get on the plane and travel if he wants to and needs to. So, with that.
QUESTION: All right. I’m sure we’ll get to Ukraine in a second, but I want to start with the Mideast.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Two things. One, the FAA extension of the flight ban; and second, the vote at the UN Human Rights Commission.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’ll start with the Human Rights Commission.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Why did you vote against forming a panel of inquiry? The statement that was given before the vote by the – your ambassador there said that whatever steps that the commission would take should be balanced and should not single out Israel. Was it your understanding that what was approved in the end is unfair to – would be unfair to Israel?
MS. HARF: And one-sided. So we do strongly oppose today’s special session at the Human Rights Council and the resulting resolution as the latest in a series of biased, anti-Israel actions at the Human Rights Council. We strongly oppose the creation of this kind of mechanism that you spoke about because it’s one-sided. No one’s looking here at Hamas rockets, no one proposed looking at anything else other than Israel in this case, and again, we oppose it as one-sided.
QUESTION: In her opening statement, the commissioner for human rights talked about the possibility or potential that war crimes had been committed, not just by Israel but also by Hamas. Was that not your understanding of what this commission would – your understanding of —
MS. HARF: Well, we were voting on a resolution that had certain language in it —
MS. HARF: — and that was looking at certain things, and that was one-sided in nature.
QUESTION: Can – what was it precisely about the language, do you know, that was —
MS. HARF: That it was one-sided —
MS. HARF: — in nature.
QUESTION: I mean, it talked – yeah, but what was that language? What was the offensive language?
MS. HARF: I can pull the specific language for you after the briefing, but —
QUESTION: The title of the resolution seemed to be respecting – or “A resolution on the respect for international law and norms in the Palestinian territories,” and then including East Jerusalem. Is that problematic?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the specific title. As I said, the resolution in general, we view as one-sided and biased, and therefore we voted against it.
QUESTION: So you were concerned that this might turn out to be Goldstone 2?
MS. HARF: Again, we were concerned about it for being one-sided and biased, and it’s something we’ve said, quite honestly, we’ve said in the past by actions this body has taken.
QUESTION: All right. Does it surprise you that you were the only country to vote against?
MS. HARF: There were a number of abstentions. That’s my understanding.
QUESTION: Yes, there were 17 – all of Europe. Do you —
MS. HARF: And other countries as well. I think there were some countries in there that weren’t in Europe, that aren’t in Europe.
QUESTION: Right. But —
MS. HARF: Look, we make clear – as we have said repeatedly, we will stand up for Israel in the international community, even if it means standing alone, and I think you saw that today.
QUESTION: Okay. But that doesn’t tell you anything, though, that you’re standing alone?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any more announcements to do on it, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. On the FAA decision —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — there’s still continually this line coming from some in Israel and some here that this is all a political decision, that it’s —
MS. HARF: Totally inaccurate.
QUESTION: — and it’s designed to push the Israeli Government into accepting a ceasefire that it otherwise would not want.
MS. HARF: It’s a totally inaccurate line, period. We – the FAA makes decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period. That is the only thing they take into account. I don’t know how much more strongly I can say that. People can choose not to believe us —
MS. HARF: — but those are the facts, and people aren’t entitled to their own facts but certainly they can have their own opinions.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you know, has – were there any – aside from the call that Prime Minister Netanyahu made last night, I guess, and then his meetings today —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — I presume that he brought it up again in the meetings with the Secretary?
MS. HARF: I don’t have a readout yet.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speak for that, but —
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — you’re not there. But do you – are you aware of any other interactions between the Israelis and the State Department on this issue?
MS. HARF: On this? Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. I mean, we have folks on the ground, obviously. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. HARF: And look, we do understand that the Israelis want to return to normal air travel in Israel. Obviously, they want to restore a calm and normal life. We want them to be able to do as well. That’s why we’re trying to help broker a ceasefire. That’s the purpose of everything the Secretary is doing.
QUESTION: So would you – I mean, how likely – and I know you can’t speak for the FAA, so let’s talk about just the – your – the State Department’s Travel Warning which preceded this. At least —
MS. HARF: And I’m – let me make a point on the Travel Warning, though, because you asked about this yesterday, because there were some conspiracy theories that you were bringing up as well about why the timing. It takes a while to get travel updates updated and done, and travel warnings updated, but we did issue security messages from our embassy and consulate on the 8th, 9th, and 11th re: rocket attacks. So it’s not like yesterday suddenly we thought there was a security issue, which you mentioned. It’s been a consistent conversation we’ve had with American citizens.
QUESTION: Right. But —
MS. HARF: So I’m pushing back on the timing issue a little bit.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, it wasn’t me making the argument, I was —
MS. HARF: Well, it was you asking the question.
QUESTION: Well, I was asking you about the criticism that was —
MS. HARF: So I’m pushing back on that criticism.
QUESTION: Got you. Okay.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: Is it likely that either of these things, the Travel Warning or the FAA warning, are going to be lifted before a ceasefire is ordered?
MS. HARF: I have honestly no predictions to make. We constantly make decisions based on the situation on the ground. The Travel Warning obviously is under our purview. We’ll continue to look at the situation. The FAA can speak to their processes as well.
QUESTION: Right. But the —
MS. HARF: I have no way to make a judgment about likelihood on either.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. So I’ll leave that and then just go back to my UNRWA questions from the other day.
QUESTION: Well, the Secretary was – Matt —
QUESTION: Can we just – can I just go back to —
MS. HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: Because yesterday it was asked about Hamas’s capabilities of —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything further? And you said you would.
MS. HARF: I did. I got a little bit for you. Give me one second. So Hamas does have rockets that can reach Ben Gurion Airport. During current fighting, Hamas rockets have landed north of the airport, although the accuracy of their rockets does remain limited. Israel’s Iron Dome system, which, as you know, we worked very closely with them to develop and fund, has monitored and, with quite a high degree of success, destroyed many of the incoming rockets which could reach this area as well as other areas. Hamas’s anti-aircraft missile capabilities are still being determined. We don’t have confirmation that Hamas has launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile during the current conflict or that Hamas has access to the type of anti-aircraft missiles like those we saw – judge bring down Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine.
So I tried to get a little more about the capabilities for you.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you very much for that. I mean, it’s helpful to get perspective. Was that kind of thing taken into consideration, do you know?
MS. HARF: I’m guessing all of that was taken into consideration. The FAA worked very closely with the intelligence community, with people that do analysis on these kind of things before they make these determinations. So I’m assuming it was in this case.
QUESTION: So did you – when you said Hamas has not used heat-seeking —
MS. HARF: There’s no confirmation —
MS. HARF: — that Hamas has launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles during the current conflict.
QUESTION: Is – do you – is it your assessment that they actually have these kinds of weapons.
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. I don’t know the answer to that, Matt.
QUESTION: Marie, on the FAA ruling, I mean considering that when this conflict began, Israel had, like, seven Iron Domes. Now they have 10. And the rocket firing has really been reduced dramatically. Why is this such a – why such a —
MS. HARF: Because a rocket landed very close to the airport, and I think if you were a passenger on an airliner taking off or landing at that airport, you’d be pretty nervous about that.
MS. HARF: Iron Dome has been very successful, but security of America citizens is top priority, and that’s why the FAA made this decision.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Human Rights Commission?
MS. HARF: Just one second. Let me say one more thing about the FAA.
QUESTION: Okay. Sure. Oh, sorry.
MS. HARF: I know you probably saw Jen’s email but – last night – that the FAA notice to airlines does not apply to military aircraft, which is why he could land.
QUESTION: Right. So, but on that —
MS. HARF: I just wanted to clarify that, that was a Taken Question —
QUESTION: But on that, you said that if you were a passenger you would be pretty nervous. Was the Secretary nervous flying into —
MS. HARF: Secretary —
QUESTION: He’s never nervous?
MS. HARF: Well, as you saw, we didn’t announce the trip until it was down.
QUESTION: No, no. I understand that.
MS. HARF: Yep.
QUESTION: But you said that if you were a passenger on a plane flying in —
MS. HARF: The Secretary’s not nervous, Matt.
QUESTION: He is not nervous.
MS. HARF: The Secretary’s very happy to be there meeting with people right now.
QUESTION: And can you speak for your other colleagues?
MS. HARF: I’m not —
QUESTION: Was anyone on the plane —
MS. HARF: This is a ridiculous line of questioning.
QUESTION: No, it’s not —
MS. HARF: Yes. Said. Wait. We’re going back to Said.
QUESTION: — because if it’s a danger, it’s a danger. And if it’s not, if the Secretary thinks it’s not a danger that’s something else.
MS. HARF: We’re going back to Said.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow-up on the Human Rights Commission.
MS. HARF: He was very – he and our whole team were very comfortable landing at Ben Gurion.
QUESTION: Okay. Which would seem to, I don’t know, belie the FAA’s concerns, no?
MS. HARF: Take that up with the FAA.
QUESTION: I will.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the Human Rights Commission, are you opposed in principle to have any kind of commission to look into possible war crimes by either side, to go one —
MS. HARF: We’re opposed to one-sided and biased inquiries of any kind.
QUESTION: And that – if – you believe that this one —
MS. HARF: We believe this one today was.
QUESTION: — this one is one-sided?
MS. HARF: Would have been and that’s why we voted against it.
QUESTION: What would – okay. What in the language of this resolution that makes you say that it is one-sided?
MS. HARF: Well, I am happy to see if there’s specific language that we can point to. Again, it was what they were – that would be evaluated in the resolution and in this commission of inquiry, what they would be looking at was purely on one side, which by definition, I think, makes it one-sided.
QUESTION: So it’s not really a knee-jerk kind of reaction, as we have seen in the past? Every time there is an effort to look into Israel’s —
MS. HARF: Well, unfortunately the Human Rights Council has often put forward one-sided documents. The international community has often put forward one-sided documents – excuse me – and we have opposed those as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Now I asked you yesterday on the hospitals – the bombing of hospitals, and so on.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Both ABC News and NBC News, they followed – they accompanied medics and ambulances and so on and went to the hospitals and house and so on, and they saw no evidence of firing rockets from there. So what makes you think that these hospitals have been used to launch rockets or to hide rockets or to hide fighters and so on?
MS. HARF: Well, we have evidence —
QUESTION: Do you have solid evidence?
MS. HARF: Generally speaking – not speaking about any specific hospital, Said, or any specific target of Israeli activity, we have evidence throughout many years of Hamas using hospitals and schools, ambulances, other civilian places to hide rockets, to hide fighters. We’ve seen that throughout this conflict. Again, I’m not making a commentary on any one specific hospital or location, but we have seen that. We have seen Hamas do that in the past and have done that in this conflict.
QUESTION: Now I just want to go —
MS. HARF: And that’s not acceptable. I think if you are a Palestinian living in Gaza who just wants to go use a hospital or a school, you would not want Hamas using them to store rockets in.
QUESTION: Okay. Now let me ask you about the ceasefire points.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It seems that the Egyptians, at least for now, are not flexible or are unwilling to sort of introduce any new element.
MS. HARF: I have no idea how you could even make that assessment. Everybody who is in these negotiations is not talking about them publicly. We’re talking about them privately.
QUESTION: The Egyptians are talking about their proposal publicly.
MS. HARF: Well, you’re making one assessment, and I think that we are —
QUESTION: I am not making it. They are. They’re saying —
MS. HARF: You called them inflexible.
QUESTION: No, I said inflexible. They said that they —
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — what they submitted or what they proposed last week stands, that they’re —
MS. HARF: Well, we’re in discussions about what a ceasefire might look like. That’s why the Secretary is shuttling back and forth between Cairo and Jerusalem and Ramallah so he can see if we can get a ceasefire here. What the eventual contours of that looks like are being discussed right now.
QUESTION: And my last question on this: Today the Palestinian Authority submitted to Secretary Kerry their own version of what a ceasefire agreement should look like. Do you have any reaction to that —
MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that. I can’t confirm that report, Said.
QUESTION: You cannot confirm that report.
MS. HARF: I cannot confirm that report. I’m not going to comment on any of the rumors out there about what these negotiations look like, a line that should be familiar to everyone in this room.
QUESTION: Although you won’t comment on the specifics —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — there was something that Tony Blinken said earlier today about demilitarization of Gaza. Are you more concerned with getting an immediate – just an end to the fighting right now, or is – and is demilitarization something that would be later on? In other words, that’s not necessarily a part of the negotiations going on now?
MS. HARF: So obviously, our top priority is getting a ceasefire and achieving a ceasefire. What the contours of that ceasefire will look like, I’m obviously not going to outline. But longer term, the issue of rocket fire does need to be addressed. We’re very serious about that. Again, how that looks like, what that looks like, I’m not going to get into the details of that either.
QUESTION: Okay, so it’s – but it’s fair to say that some kind of demilitarization or some kind of dealing with the rocket fire in the future is not necessarily on the table right now. What you’re more —
MS. HARF: I’m not telling you what or what is not on the table right now. What I’m saying is we need a ceasefire. What that ceasefire looks like, I’m not going to detail. But longer term, we do need to deal with the rocket fire.
QUESTION: On my UNRWA question from yesterday, do you know if the – so there was this – they confirmed a second – finding a second batch – cache of rockets in a school. Do you know how those were handled? And more broadly, had your discussions with the UN, with UNRWA, with the PA and Israel come to a better option for dealing with things like this?
MS. HARF: We’re still having those discussions. I’d refer you to UNRWA to discuss the second batch. I don’t have all of the details on that. I think there’s been some confusing information out there. They could probably speak better to what happened to that other batch of rockets. But the conversations continue, and I think hopefully we’ll get to a better path forward.
QUESTION: Okay, so you’re not exactly sure what they did —
MS. HARF: I think it’s probably best for UNRWA to speak to this. They have the most up-to-date information.
MS. HARF: Yes, Nicole.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion about structuring this ceasefire through a UN Security Council resolution or working through the Security Council instead of trying to put together something on a bilateral or multilateral basis?
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard of that. Obviously I’m not going to talk about specifics that are being discussed in the room, but what we’re focused on is working with Egypt and other regional partners – of course, with Israel and the Palestinians – to see if we can get something here.
QUESTION: One more on the flight cancellations.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: It’s not just Matt that’s been critical and conspiratorial. Senator Cruz – (laughter) –
QUESTION: I haven’t been critical or conspiratorial.
MS. HARF: You’re being put in a category with Senator Cruz, so let’s see where this one goes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Senator —
MS. HARF: I can’t wait for this.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Lucas. That’s not —
MS. HARF: You’re welcome, Matt. Thank Lucas later.
QUESTION: Senator Cruz just released a statement saying that the FAA’s flight suspension to Israel is economic blackmail and that the Obama Administration is —
MS. HARF: It’s ridiculous.
QUESTION: — doing this to punish Israel.
MS. HARF: It’s ridiculous and offensive, quite frankly. The FAA takes its responsibilities very seriously. I will speak for them in that case. They make these decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period. For anyone to suggest otherwise, it’s just ridiculous, Lucas.
QUESTION: His argument is that tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel and that while these flights are cancelled and Israel is losing money, the aid to Hamas continues.
MS. HARF: Well, we certainly care about Israel’s tourism industry as well, but we care more about the rockets being stopped from coming into Israel to kill innocent civilians in Israel. We care more about getting a ceasefire, and we care more about protecting American citizens. So clearly, I think Senator Cruz is completely wrong on this. We make decisions about security based solely on what’s in the best interest of American citizens. And look, one of the reasons – the main reason, if not, that Secretary Kerry is investing so much energy into getting a ceasefire is so Israel can return to normalcy, so they can return flights, so we can move past the Travel Warning, so Israelis and visitors and anyone don’t have to run to bomb shelters because Hamas is firing rockets at them. So I’d urge him to take another look at his comments on this.
QUESTION: But you can still fly to Beirut, can’t you, and other hotspots around the country?
MS. HARF: The FAA has a full list of places that we don’t fly. Someone asked about North Korea the other day. You cannot fly, I think, places in North Korea as well. So I would take a look at that. But there are times – in parts of Ukraine, Crimea we have warnings out as well. And these are all designed to protect American citizens here. And again, this is a temporary notice. The 24-hour notice has been renewed for another 24 hours. Our goal is to get this ceasefire in place as soon as possible so we don’t have to take these steps.
QUESTION: Marie, if I may follow – just to follow up on Nicole’s question. The sort of – what format this ceasefire should take? Back in 2009, there was a resolution – a UN Security Council Resolution 1860, and then in 2012 or just an agreement. Is it your feeling or this Department’s feeling that if you frame it in a United Nations Security Council resolution, would be more robust and would have to be – have better chance of being sustainable?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked about 2012 as sort of —
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. HARF: — one of the standards that we’re looking at here. I don’t have anything beyond that on what the discussions look like.
QUESTION: Same topic, real quick.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Secretary said he was going to Cairo, back to Cairo. Any confirmation or details of when?
MS. HARF: I’m sure he will. I don’t know when. I’m not sure we know when.
QUESTION: He said immediately after the – or not immediately, but after the (inaudible).
MS. HARF: I don’t have details on timing, but he will eventually return to Cairo and could possibly return to Jerusalem and Ramallah.
QUESTION: There have been some riots in Paris over the issue of Gaza. I’m wondering if you see that as indicative of any larger international feelings towards either side.
MS. HARF: Well, let me say first that we obviously have seen some of the horrific anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments that have come up during some of these protests; not all of them, but some, which we would of course strongly condemn as we always do. But I’ve been asked about these for three days and I don’t think my line’s changed that people have a right to freely express themselves. That’s something that is important to us, but we do want people to remember that Israel has a right to defend itself and that its citizens are living under constant threat of rockets from Hamas that are the responsibility of Hamas to end. And I would just caution people to keep that in mind.
QUESTION: Last thing for me, and it sets a perfect segue of – because we’ve heard —
MS. HARF: Great.
QUESTION: — that phraseology any number of times from the White House, from this podium as well.
MS. HARF: We are remarkably consistent.
QUESTION: Yes, I know. How do we square that no country would tolerate rocket fire with things like Pakistan and Yemen and rocket fire that has killed civilians from the U.S.?
MS. HARF: Well, they’re wholly different, and I’ll tell you why.
MS. HARF: Hamas is a terrorist organization firing rockets indiscriminately with the purpose to kill civilians. Our counterterrorism operations, wherever they are, are taken with a great degree of care to protect civilian life. The President has spoken about this several times in speeches, and they are in fact designed to go after terrorists who are trying to kill more civilians. So any equivalency is just – I guess the word of the day – ridiculous and offensive.
QUESTION: And so when mistakes are made, it’s a mistake, it’s – you take every care –
MS. HARF: Right. The President has been very clear that we take extraordinary care to prevent civilian causalities, which is the exact opposite of what Hamas does, who tries to kill as many civilians as they can. We take extraordinary care when conducting counterterrorism operations.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: On (inaudible).
MS. HARF: No. If your hand —
MS. HARF: No? Then don’t keep your hand up if it’s not about Gaza. (Laughter.) You’re trying to play a trick here. Let’s go to Ukraine.
QUESTION: I was wondering if the Department has any comment on reports or Ukrainian Government claims that two more planes have been shot down from Russia.
MS. HARF: Yes, we have seen those reports. We are still looking into them. We have, of course, seen a history of the separatists shooting down planes in the past, I think about a dozen before MH17. And look, if true – and we hopefully will be able to confirm whether it’s true soon – it would only be further evidence that Russian-backed separatists are using advanced surface-to-air weaponry less than a week after shooting down a civilian airliner and killing 298 people. Again, it’s hard to imagine any of this happening without Russian support.
QUESTION: Dovetailing off that, I mean, you said to me yesterday that the fighting is by and large outside of the 25-mile radius of the crash site.
MS. HARF: Forty kilometer —
QUESTION: Yeah. Or whatever.
MS. HARF: — or whatever. But numbers matter.
QUESTION: At this point, I think it was three miles outside of the crash site. I mean —
MS. HARF: No. I think you have wrong information there. There hasn’t been – they have maintained – the Ukrainians have maintained a ceasefire. The 40-kilometer ceasefire they have declared around the crash site, the Ukrainians have maintained it.
QUESTION: Okay. Are you concerned that a break in ceasefire could impede the investigation?
MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we would be concerned about the separatists not upholding a ceasefire. The Ukrainians have repeatedly shown their willingness and ability to do so.
QUESTION: Wait. Can I continue on Ukraine?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You’re kidding, right?
QUESTION: Well, yesterday – this is sort of related Ukraine, I guess, and Russia. Yesterday the intel community said they were going to lay out evidence sort of backing their assertions about who brought down Malaysia Airlines 17. They did lay out a bunch of different things, but they didn’t actually lay out the real documentation that supports those assertions. Why haven’t we seen —
MS. HARF: I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for. Well, they did a couple things yesterday. They showed – they walked through an intelligence assessment case and they talked about some additional pieces of declassified information that I can walk through today that bolsters our case that we know what happened here. They also showed imagery of training facilities; they showed imageries of the site, including a trajectory based on classified information that they were able to provide that showed the trajectory of the SA-11. So those are important, and let’s get – let me finish —
QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.
MS. HARF: — and then you can keep following up.
So a couple things they said yesterday, which I think are significant which we had not set before, that the audio data provided to the press – and we talked a lot about these open source reports, right, these audio messages that people have said are certain people or that prove things – they were provided to the press by the Ukrainians. It was evaluated by the intelligence community analysts, who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders.
And then another key point they talked about yesterday, and we can talk more about the rest of this, is the – this notion the Russians have put out there about a Ukrainian fighter jet. They’ve argued that an Su-25 fighter might have shot down the aircraft with an air-to-air missile. They have judged that engagement would be implausible for the following reasons: The Su-25 is a ground attack aircraft. The only missiles it carries are short-range – excuse me – are short-range, infrared-guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with the expected damage from a surface-to-air missile, but it is – does not correspond, in fact is inconsistent with what we would expect to see for an air-to-air missile, as Russia claims.
Third, Russia – this is a little separately here – has also released a map with the alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. This is another red herring they’ve put out there. We are confident that this information is incorrect. The nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of the range from both the launch and the crash site. So part of their case yesterday was not only giving more information about what we know, but giving our professional, technical assessment of some of the Russian claims that, I think, we have tried to increasingly knock down.
QUESTION: When you said – when they – when you said they showed evidence of this, what do you mean by that, “they showed”? They – I mean, did they have a presentation? I —
MS. HARF: Well, they – they did. They did. They showed some imagery, they showed a number of images; they showed some maps, they showed some graphics. I’m happy for you to get in touch with DNI Public Affairs, who can probably give you that packet that they showed. They showed some – one of the maps that we actually have posted on our Facebook page and our Kyiv Embassy that shows the trajectory of the SA-11 missile. That trajectory is based on classified information. I can’t detail all of what that information is, but that is based on the information we have.
QUESTION: And some of the evidence U.S. is relying on are social media postings and videos made public by the Ukrainian Government. Have those all been authenticated?
MS. HARF: Again, that’s why I said the audio data, which is part of the social media, has been authenticated by the intelligence community analysts. Social media is obviously only one part of the puzzle here. It’s something we look at, but obviously, we back everything up to the extent that we can when we can with other intelligence as well.
MS. HARF: Matt.
QUESTION: On your three things that you say were new: one, on the audio data being analyzed and being authenticated. That was not new yesterday. That was actually in the statement that the Embassy in Kyiv put out on Sunday morning —
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — before Secretary Kerry appeared on those —
MS. HARF: That the intelligence community had authenticated all of it? I – it’s my understanding that that was not all out there on Sunday, but I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Well, I believe it was. But I mean, there’s no – it doesn’t —
MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I disagree with you, but I’m happy to check.
What’s the next thing?
QUESTION: Well, you can look at the statement. I mean, it says that they’ve been authenticated. So I would say that that wasn’t new.
MS. HARF: Okay. Happy to check.
QUESTION: Secondly, I’m not sure that – I know that there were some suggestions that the Ukrainian fighter plane shot down this – with a missile, but the —
MS. HARF: So the Russians have basically had a couple of alternative explanations.
MS. HARF: There was the Ukrainian fighter jet. I think we – the intelligence community went to great lengths yesterday to show why that’s not the case.
The other – one of the other things they said was that it was a Ukrainian SA-11 system that the Ukrainians had fired. Again, I think they made very clear why that’s not also the case.
QUESTION: But the theory that – or the – I don’t know what you would – the suggestion isn’t necessarily that the Ukrainian jet – I mean, you have – you’ve discovered that the Ukrainian jet was in the vicinity, but it was not capable of shooting (inaudible) down —
MS. HARF: No, I can’t confirm that there was even a Ukrainian – we have no confirmation that I have seen that there was a Ukrainian jet.
QUESTION: Oh, that there was even —
MS. HARF: I’m not saying there wasn’t. I just can’t confirm it.
MS. HARF: But regardless, the notion that this kind of Ukrainian jet the Russians are talking about could have done this with the kind of missile and the kind of debris we’ve seen – it just doesn’t match up.
QUESTION: Because I think the suggestion is that whoever fired this missile may have been shooting for that plane, like what we saw today in terms of a shoot-down.
MS. HARF: Which in no way makes it better.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying it does. I’m not saying it does at all, but it’s not —
MS. HARF: And I don’t know what the intentions are of whoever was on the ground pushing the button. I don’t.
QUESTION: And the last thing about this —
MS. HARF: Clearly – well clearly, I know the intentions were to launch a sophisticated missile and to kill people. Whether those – they were trying to kill Ukrainian military officers or civilians, we’re still waiting to find out.
QUESTION: I – yeah, okay. I’m not arguing that one is better than the other.
MS. HARF: Okay. I know.
QUESTION: I’m not saying that.
MS. HARF: Just responding to your question.
QUESTION: I’m just saying – and then on the – this trajectory thing that you said was put out by the Embassy —
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that was new yesterday. We posted that a few days ago.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you just look at that – a lay person looking at it, it’s a line drawn on a satellite photo with no – nothing to back it up.
MS. HARF: Well, as I said, it’s based on a series of classified information —
QUESTION: Which we have to —
MS. HARF: — which we are —
QUESTION: — we have to take the leap of faith to believe that – right?
MS. HARF: Well, Matt, we are trying to put as much out of this out —
MS. HARF: — information out about this as possible. We are trying very hard to do so. It is a process that takes, I think, more time than any of us, certainly you or I, would like.
MS. HARF: But I think I would make the point that it’s much more time-consuming to declassify real evidence than to make it up, which is what the Russians have been doing for days now.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, be that as it may, are you saying that at some point, the IC is hopeful to —
MS. HARF: We are working to —
QUESTION: — that they will be able to put —
MS. HARF: We’re working to get more information declassified and put out there as quickly as we can. It’s just a difficult process (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. But do you understand that given the conflicting claims, no matter how ridiculous you say the other side’s version is and no matter how implausible it might be – but saying that you’ve put together the imagery showing the root of this —
MS. HARF: Trajectory.
QUESTION: — trajectory showing imagery.
MS. HARF: Just one piece. It’s one piece of evidence.
QUESTION: Well, I know, but anyone can draw a line on a map. They can. I mean, I’m not saying that —
MS. HARF: That’s not what our intelligence community does. That’s not what the U.S. Government does when we go out there and present a case to the world. We have —
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: Can I just —
MS. HARF: Wait. We have to protect sensitive sources and methods. We have to, because if we don’t, we won’t be able to get this kind of information in the future if they’re compromised because of a declassification. Believe me, I want to be able to declassify more.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. HARF: They want to be able to declassify more. And it’s not about a leap of faith. We are laying out a very comprehensive argument based on a number of different pieces, right. So if you look at all of them in totality —
MS. HARF: — look at the entire picture, it presents a very compelling case about the kind of missile, where it was fired from. Those are the two key pieces, right. The kind of missile that took down this plane we are very confident is an SA-11, we are very confident it was fired from Russian-controlled territory. We are very confident that the two alternate stories the Russians put forward aren’t plausible.
Who put their finger on the trigger? We still need to find that out.
MS. HARF: But suffice to say, the Russian separatists we believe fired this, in general, could not be doing what they’re doing without the Russians. And responsibility lays at the feet of President Putin, not just for this but for every incident that we have seen throughout this conflict, period.
QUESTION: All right. So Putin is – it’s Putin whose fault this is; that’s what you’re saying?
MS. HARF: I think I was just pretty clear.
QUESTION: What you’re saying – okay. So you said that – you say it’s a very compelling case, but you – it is a circumstantial case, is it not?
MS. HARF: It is a case based on a number of different pieces of evidence, Matt – across the board, a number of different pieces. Whether you’re looking at what we talked about yesterday, whether you’re looking at what we’ve seen on social media, whether you’re looking at the kind of SA-11 which is a missile that essentially gets fired straight up does what it does, and that’s exactly what we saw in this case as well.
So we’ve laid out a very detailed case. We will continue to declassify as much as we can. But again, we’ve been very open about our assessments here. The Russians have repeatedly lied about what’s happening on the ground. They said there weren’t troops in Crimea when there were troops all over Crimea. So there’s just no credibility on their side. And I understand the need to put out more information, but look, the notion that they’ve shot down dozens – over a dozen planes now – and this is just the one that wasn’t them – also just doesn’t pass the common sense test.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: Okay. Hold on a second. So – but – and I understand the – your desire to protect sources and methods, but we have here an incredible tragedy where almost 300 people died.
MS. HARF: I agree.
QUESTION: Is that – protecting sources and methods are more important than getting —
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: — to the bottom of who —
MS. HARF: Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive here. A, if we think an investigation can go forward, then we’ll get to the bottom of what happened here. We believe we do have a good assessment about the things I’ve talked about. The investigation about who did it specifically to a person is ongoing. But look, part of the reason we protect sources and methods is because we want to be able to see these things in the future if they tragically – something like this were to happen again in the same area, the way we found out information this time. So —
QUESTION: So you’re saying that – but just to be clear, that the imagery, the trajectory imagery that you have that —
MS. HARF: In that one sheet, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Right, right, right, exactly.
MS. HARF: I think it’s the green line.
QUESTION: That is – yes, that there are sources and methods for how you know that trajectory —
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: — that people are concerned are going to be somehow —
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — tainted if —
MS. HARF: Correct. Not just tainted, but compromised.
QUESTION: That are going to be compromised if you —
MS. HARF: Yes, correct.
QUESTION: I mean —
MS. HARF: Well —
QUESTION: Okay. I guess —
MS. HARF: Having spent six years in the intelligence community —
QUESTION: I know. That’s what I – I know that’s what —
MS. HARF: — I know there are a variety of ways we can figure these things out, many of which are quite sensitive and many of which I think we don’t want to lose.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: So look, believe me, I’m pushing my colleagues at the DNI —
MS. HARF: — as much as I love these —
QUESTION: Do you – but I —
MS. HARF: — conversations with you about this. We are pushing and they’re pushing, and we’ll see if we can get more.
QUESTION: Okay. But do you – I mean, would you expect —
MS. HARF: I have no prediction.
QUESTION: — or you don’t know? You don’t expect more or you —
MS. HARF: I have no idea.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. HARF: Look, I think there will be. I think we’re just working through it.
QUESTION: Okay. One other thing that’s unrelated to the intel.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that several journalists have been detained or kidnapped – one a Ukrainian, the other one a Brit? Do you know anything about this?
MS. HARF: I saw some reports about some journalists. I think we’re still trying to track down the facts there. I’ll see if there’s more after I get off the podium.
QUESTION: Okay. Ambassador Pyatt had tweeted something about —
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — one of the —
MS. HARF: Yeah. Obviously, we are concerned about these reports. Let me see if there’s more details.
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you – you said the blame lays at Mr. Putin’s feet just now.
MS. HARF: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Does that mean that they are involved in issuing the orders issued down there?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said that these Russian separatists who we strongly believe fired this missile would not be there operating without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not have been trained without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not be armed without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. They would not be there doing what they’re doing, period, so they could fire an SA-11 without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. Yes, direct responsibility lays there.
QUESTION: And also – okay. I wanted to ask you also on integrity of the crash site.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Who’s in control now? I mean —
MS. HARF: Let me see if I – the Dutch are leading – give me one second – the investigation.
Just a couple quick updates. The black boxes are now in the United Kingdom. The reason for doing so is that the British have a specific kind of aircraft forensics laboratory needed, and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is a highly respected and capable investigation authority.
Let me answer a few more taken questions from yesterday, and then I’ll get to your question, Said.
MS. HARF: Not all of the remains were, tragically, handed over yesterday. Potentially, the remains of some 100 people are still missing. We don’t have exact numbers. Obviously, it is critical that international investigators, led by the Dutch, receive immediate and full access to the crash site.
In terms of access to the site, we – they have on the ground in Ukraine begun the difficult work of piecing together exactly what happened here. Today, we understand that they do have better access than they’ve had in the past days. We are, though, troubled by reports of looting, evidence tampering, and the failure to transport, as I just said, all of the remains of all of the victims to Kharkiv and into Dutch custody. So that is the latest I have in terms of the situation and the investigation.
QUESTION: On Ukraine itself?
MS. HARF: On Ukraine?
QUESTION: Hold on.
MS. HARF: Yeah, on Ukraine.
QUESTION: Based on the intelligence information that you released yesterday and what you have been saying today, it looks like it was a case of mistaken identity by the Ukraine separatists that hit the Malaysian plane.
MS. HARF: That’s not what they said at all.
QUESTION: That’s what you are concluding, right?
MS. HARF: No. That’s not what I said either. I said we don’t know yet the intentions of the people who fired the SA-11 from the pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory. We just don’t know what their intentions are.
QUESTION: So my question is —
MS. HARF: It may – they may have been targeting a civilian airliner; they may have been targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet, which they’ve done over a dozen times now. Either way, they’re clearly trying to kill people with an SA-11.
QUESTION: So when the Malaysian Airlines was passing through that part, there were some other passenger planes which was crossing that area, including one of Air India, which was under 25 miles away from the Malaysian planes. And then plane carrying Indian prime minister was passed around one hour before that.
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that.
QUESTION: Do you know from intelligence information that any of these planes were – could have been a target or could have been hit by these missiles here?
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard – I haven’t heard that.
QUESTION: Can you check?
MS. HARF: I can check. I haven’t heard it, though.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. HARF: Ukraine?
QUESTION: Staying on India?
QUESTION: One more?
MS. HARF: No, let’s stay on Ukraine.
QUESTION: Ukraine, one more.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Madam, what message do you have for the grieving families from this terrible incident? What they are asking the United Nations and the United States and the global community: Are we safe to fly in the future, and what steps are you going to take in the future that such incident doesn’t happen? Because many families believe not only these terrorists here in this area, but many other terrorists may have access also to the similar weapons, including in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and anybody could be the next target.
MS. HARF: Well look, I think you heard the President speak about this. I spoke about it at the beginning of the briefing, that one of the reasons, if not the most important reason, that we are so committed to finding out what happened here is so we can hold the people who did it accountable, that people cannot get away with shooting civilian airliners out of the sky. That’s just wholly unacceptable, and that countries that support these kind of separatists, like we’ve seen Russia do, also need to be held accountable. And that’s why you’ve seen additional sanctions; that’s why we’ve said there could be further steps, because that’s just not something that we will allow, that we will stand by and watch, and we do need to get to the bottom of what happened here.
QUESTION: Do you believe, Madam, that other terrorists like al-Qaida in Pakistan or Abu Baghdadi in Iraq, who have challenged already India, U.S., and other countries – that they may have similar weapons?
MS. HARF: I can check and see who else we think has these weapons. I just don’t know that off the top of my head.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam
MS. HARF: Thank you.
QUESTION: Marie, Senator —
MS. HARF: Yes – no, let’s stay on Ukraine.
QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.
Senator Carl Levin called this an act of war. What is your response?
MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve been very clear about what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. You have separatists backed by a foreign country who have invaded and been killing people with impunity, who’ve been shooting down Ukrainian military jets, who’ve been – who’ve now taken down a civilian airliner, who’ve been terrorizing populations in eastern Ukraine.
I would also note, just for balance here, that there have been some areas liberated by Ukrainian forces, where people are able to go about their lives without the fear of separatist violence. The Ukrainian Government is providing food and water and hope, I would say, to the residents in those liberated areas. And one of the main places they have restored electricity, water, and train service is to Slovyansk, which we’ve talked about. It was on July 9th, so it was a little while ago. But we have seen steady progress in terms of them regaining territory.
QUESTION: But is this alleged act by the separatists, or by Russia, an act of war?
MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any more terminology to put around it, Lucas. I’m happy to check and see.
QUESTION: An act of terror?
MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more terminology I’d like to put around it.
QUESTION: Your – when you say that the blame for this lies directly at President Putin’s feet, does that also mean that you think that his call – some – seemingly more conciliatory call yesterday for – to support a full and open investigation, do you think that’s duplicitous? Is that —
MS. HARF: Well, I just think that the words need to be backed up by actions, which, unfortunately, we haven’t seen very much of from the Russians lately.
QUESTION: Got you. I had one question semi-related to this.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: That is yesterday you talked about the French going ahead with their transfer of this Mistral ship to the Russians. It turns out today that the Brits have also been continuing to —
MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s actually —
QUESTION: Is that not correct?
MS. HARF: — accurate. No. And I’m not sure it’s in my book here. I have – they put out a statement very strongly denying this.
QUESTION: Denying it, okay.
MS. HARF: I will send it to you as soon as I get off the podium. I’m not sure I stuck it in my book here, but —
MS. HARF: — they have gone on the record.
QUESTION: And denied the earlier reports. Okay.
MS. HARF: Yes, so —
QUESTION: So in other words —
MS. HARF: — I’m sorry I don’t have it.
QUESTION: No, no, it’s okay.
MS. HARF: Apologies to my British colleagues who may be watching.
QUESTION: You don’t need to – I’m not asking you to respond on behalf the British Government. But I’m just saying —
MS. HARF: No, no, no, but they – no, but I did have that and I wanted to – we’ll get it to you.
QUESTION: But you accept their denial and you don’t have any questions about their —
MS. HARF: We don’t have any questions about the British.
QUESTION: What about French?
MS. HARF: Period, sort of full stop. Well, we have big questions —
MS. HARF: — about whether they would go through with something like that, yes.
QUESTION: So what is the latest? How long ago, how many days has it been that you raised it?
MS. HARF: Well, we raise it consistently with the French. The Secretary has spoken again today to French Foreign Minister Fabius. I don’t have a full readout of that call, but needless to say, I think it’s been raised recently.
QUESTION: And is it that the U.S. wants to just cancel that transaction, or just not to ship it until they start behaving properly?
MS. HARF: I don’t think we think it’s appropriate to provide that kind of material to the Russians at this time. I’m not sure what form that would look like, but we just don’t think they should do it. However they don’t do it, they shouldn’t do it.
MS. HARF: Ukraine. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In your statement last night, Marie, at 9:58, you congratulated the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, and you said, quote, “Today the Council agreed to accelerate preparation of additional sanctions.”
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But no new additional sanctions were taken. Was that really a disappointment to the West, to the United States?
MS. HARF: Well, they talked about a number of additional things they could do. No, I mean, I put out a statement saying quite positive things and I don’t have much more to add beyond that.
QUESTION: But wouldn’t you like to see