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Israel to Continue Offensive Till Hamas Tunnels Destroyed

Harinder Mishra/Gaza/Jerusalem
File-AP Photo/Adel Hana

Israel today rejected global appeals to stop its military offensive in Gaza and said it will not agree to any ceasefire until the tunnels built by Hamas have been destroyed even as the death toll in the 24-day conflict neared 1,400.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel is determined to destroy all the tunnels built by Hamas to infiltrate into its territory.

"I wont agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task, for the sake of Israel's security," he said despite facing international criticism for mounting civilian death in Gaza.

Speaking prior to a security cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers were currently finishing off the job of destroying tunnels.

"We have destroyed dozens of tunnels and we will finish the rest with or without a ceasefire," the Israeli Premier emphasised.

His comments came after the Israeli security cabinet last night approved continuing with 'Operation Protective Edge' launched on July 8.

It mobilised another 16,000 reservists to widen the offensive. The new call-up takes the total number of reserves in the conflict to 86,000.

Netanyahu claimed that Israeli troops had destroyed "thousands of terror sites" and "hundreds of terrorists had been killed".

The Israeli Prime Minister also called on the citizens to stand together during these tense and tough times.

Despite the decision to press ahead with the operation, Israel has also sent a delegation to Egypt, which along with the US has failingly tried to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 1,395 Palestinians - most of them civilians - and reduced entire Gaza neighborhoods to ruins, Palestinians officials said.

At least 31 people were killed today in Israeli airstrikes in central and southern Gaza.

Some 58 Israelis have been killed, 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.

Israel began the offensive with a goal to stop rocket barrages coming out of Gaza but later broadened its mandate to destroy Hamas' network of tunnels, some of which have been used by the militants to carry out crossborder attacks inside Israel.

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PLACES: Israel
SECTION: International
OUTLOOK 31 July, 2014
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