Obama says Russian-backed separatists are tampering with MH17 crash scene, bodies, evidence

President also expressed concern about Gaza

WASHINGTON - Four days after Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down over the Ukraine, President Barack Obama stated that Russian-backed separatists were tampering with the crash site, moving bodies and blocking access for international investigators.

"The Russian-backed separatists who control the area continue to block the investigation. They've repeatedly prevented international investigators from getting full access to the wreckage. As investigators approached, separatists fired their weapons into the air. The separatists are removing evidence from the crash site. All of which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?," Obama said.

Obama says the burden is on Russia and President Vladimir Putin to compel the separatists to cooperate with the investigation. Obama says that if Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty, Moscow "will only further isolate itself" and the economic costs will continue to increase.

The White House says the missile that brought down the Malaysia Airlines plane was fired from an area controlled by the separatists.

The president's sternly-worded but brief speech, eight-minute speech outside the White House also expressed serious concern about the rising number of casualties in the Gaza Strip.

Obama on Monday called for an immediate ceasefire. He's asking Secretary of State John Kerry to do whatever he can to help negotiate one at talks in Egypt.

Israel's fight against Hamas has killed at least 530 Palestinians and 20 Israelis and displaced tens of thousands of people from Gaza in the past two weeks.

The president says Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas. But he says he doesn't want to see more civilians getting killed.

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