JERUSALEM, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers on Thursday that a cease-fire agreement with Hamas isn't on the agenda at the moment, the Ha' aretz daily reported.
The prime minister made the remarks as he briefed ministers during a meeting in the Knesset (Israel's parliament) concerning Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza Strip dubbed "Operation Protective Edge," as it entered its third day.
The lawmakers asked Netanyahu whether the operation had specific political goals and whether he was in contact with Egypt or other countries on brokering a cease fire agreement.
"I am not talking to anybody about a cease-fire right now," Netanyahu told the members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "It's not even on the agenda," the prime minister said.
In November 2012, ousted Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi helped broker a cease-fire agreement that put an end to eight days of fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement that governs the Mediterranean enclave amid Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense."
The Israeli prime minister said he ordered an increase in the airstrikes in Gaza and said he had received support from international leaders he had talked with in the past couple of days, including French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Israel launched its latest operation early Tuesday with massive airstrikes on the Gaza Strip after 300 rockets were catapulted towards southern Israel in the previous weeks.
Tensions have been rising in the region since Israel conducted a wide-scale crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank searching for three missing Israeli teens who were kidnapped and killed by suspected Palestinian militants last month. Soon afterwards, Israeli extremists abducted, tortured, and murdered a Palestinian teenager in an alleged revenge killing, further fuelling animosities and clashes.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Israeli Air Force struck down about 800 targets in the Gaza Strip, which have killed at least 80 Palestinians, including 22 children, 15 women and 12 elderly Palestinians, Palestinian medical sources report. More than 500 people were injured in the attacks.
Since the operation started, more than 255 rockets and mortars were launched towards Israel, including cities in Israel's central, south central plain and the northern plain area, as well as in the Jerusalem greater area and in southern communities.
Rocket barrages struck Be'er Sheva, Dimona and Mitzpe Ramon, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot and Merhavim in the south, Lod, Ramle, Rehovot, Gadera and Mazkeret Batya in the south central plain. Two barrages targeted Tel Aviv on Thursday morning through the afternoon. No injuries were reported on the Israeli side, as the Iron Dome anti-missile battery continued to intercept rockets, while others have exploded in open territories.
Netanyahu said on Wednesday he instructed the military to expand its attacks against Hamas until the rocket fire ceases and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the operation will not end soon.
Netanyahu has been facing pressure from hard-line members of his security cabinet to respond forcefully to rocket attacks from Gaza.
Late last week, both the Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who chairs the ultra-nationalist Beit Yehudi party, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a long-time advocate for large-scale military action in Gaza, criticized the prime minister, saying a massive military response was needed to safeguard Israel.
On Tuesday, the Israeli security cabinet authorized the recruitment of 40,000 reserve soldiers, part of whom were already summoned while others were on standby. The Israeli Defense Forces reinforced its troops stationed near the Gaza Strip border, sending tanks and armored vehicles, readying to enter the strip if a ground operation is declared.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday accused Israel of carrying out "genocide" against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and said that the operation is "not war against Hamas or any other faction but against the Palestinian people."
Hamas rockets target Israel's nuclear reactor
JERUSALEM, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Hamas fired three rockets on Wednesday evening from the Gaza Strip into Dimona, a southern city where Israel's nuclear reactor is located, causing no injury or damage, the Israeli military said.
Israel's Channel 2 reported that one rocket was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, while the rest fell in open fields. Full story
Commentary: Military action a wrong choice to defeat Hamas
GAZA, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Operation Protective Edge, launched on Tuesday, shows Israel's determination to get tough on Hamas just as Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Pillar of Defence in 2012 did. However, the latest Israeli military move also indicates its either ignorance or unwillingness to accept the fact that the issue can only be solved politically.
Shortly after its disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel started its odyssey of preventing rocket fire from the Hamas- governed Gaza into southern Israel. It seems that military action becomes the top and the only weapon in Israeli arsenal against Hamas. Unfortunately, this weapon is blunt. Full story