Netanyahu vows to complete Gaza tunnels destruction

Israeli military says it called up an additional 16,000 reservists; US restocks Israel with ammunition


Reuters/afp July 31, 2014

GAZA CITY/ WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing international alarm over a rising civilian death toll in Gaza, said on Thursday he would not accept any ceasefire that stopped Israel completing the destruction of militants' infiltration tunnels, Reuters reported.

The Israeli military estimated on Wednesday that accomplishing that task, already into its fourth week, would take several more days.

"We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire," Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a meeting of his full cabinet in Tel Aviv.

"I won’t agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task, for the sake of Israel's security."

Leaving open the option of widening a ground campaign in the Hamas militant-dominated Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said it had called up an additional 16,000 reservists.

A military source said they would relieve a similar number of reserve soldiers being stood down.

Netanyahu's security cabinet on Wednesday approved continuing operations launched on July 8 in response to a surge of cross-border rocket attacks.

US restocks Israel with ammunition 

The United States confirmed it had restocked Israel's supplies of ammunition, hours after finally sharpening its tone to condemn an attack on a UN school in Gaza, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip killed seven people, medics said, bringing to 1,364 the Palestinian death toll from a bloody 24-day conflict.

The strikes followed one of the bloodiest days of Israel's campaign against Gaza militants, with more than 100 people killed in a series of strikes and shellfire across the narrow coastal territory.

In two separate incidents on Wednesday, 16 people were killed when shells hit a UN school used for sheltering displaced Gazans, and 17 people died in shelling of a crowded marketplace.

But while both the White House and the State Department condemned the shelling of the UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, neither would assign blame to staunch US ally Israel.

"Obviously nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians seeking shelter in a UN facility," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged, in some of the toughest US comments since the start of the 23-day fighting in the Gaza Strip.

"Innocent Palestinians seeking refuge in these schools should not have shells dropped on them, should not come under attack."

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said Israeli forces had hit the school, which had been sheltering some 3,300 Gazans.

But despite heated exchanges with reporters, Harf stressed that "we don't know for certain who shelled this school, we need to get all the facts."

National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan also condemned "those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza" and warned of rising fears that thousands of Palestinians who have been told by Israel to leave their homes increasingly had nowhere to go in the blockaded narrow coastal strip.

US officials also warned that patience with "crazy" Israeli criticism of would-be-peacemaker John Kerry had snapped.

The Pentagon confirmed the Israeli military had requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, with the US Defense Department approving the sale just three days later.

"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

"This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."

Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

The decision to provide ammunition to Israel could fuel controversy, coming just as Washington expresses growing concern about the deaths of more than 1,300 Palestinians, most of them civilians, since the Israeli operation began on July 8.

Kirby said Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel told his Israeli counterpart that the United States was concerned about the deadly consequences of the spiraling conflict, including a "worsening humanitarian situation" in Gaza, and called for a ceasefire and end to hostilities.

He also renewed calls for the disarmament of Gaza's Hamas rulers and "all terrorist groups."

Relations between Israel and its staunch ally the US have plunged in recent days after Kerry returned from a mission to the Middle East to try to broker a ceasefire between the Israelis and Hamas militants.

Anonymous Israeli officials have hit out at Kerry's truce proposal, calling it "a strategic terrorist attack" and criticising it for being a "Hamas wish-list" including moves to lift a long-standing Israeli blockade of Gaza, while failing to address Israel's security concerns, such as Hamas rocket fire and a network of underground tunnels.

Israeli air strikes kill 7

A pre-dawn Israeli air strike killed a man in the central town of Deir al-Balah, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

He said two mid-morning strikes killed three more, one in the southern city of Rafah and another two in Deir al-Balah, also men.

A strike in the southern city of Khan Yunis killed another three people, Qudra said.

The conflict, which Israel launched from the air and sea on July 8 and then expanded into a ground offensive on July 17, has killed 1,364 Palestinians, most of them civilians.

Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting, and cross-border rocket fire has killed two Israeli civilians and a Thai migrant worker inside Israel.

COMMENTS (32)

Prognosticator | 6 years ago | Reply

@Mirza: You think the US nation would have existed if the Red Indians were anywhere near as powerful to prevent it? If Hamas is strong enough they will prevail. But the "Free Palestine" slogan is meaningless. There is nothing to free.

Sudhanshu Swami | 6 years ago | Reply @peekee That is a secret, His highness Zahid Hamid sir, told do not reveal
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