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Israeli PM to expand operation against Hamas, despite high civilian death toll

English.news.cn   2014-07-16 05:51:15
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will expand its military operation against Hamas.
• Israel's air assault on the Gaza strip began eight days ago and has killed over 192 Palestinians.
• Netanyahu did not mention a ground offensive.

JERUSALEM, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Despite a high civilian death toll in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will expand its military operation against Hamas, as the first Israeli civilian since the operation began was killed during Hamas' continuous rocket attacks on Israeli soil.

"We said that Israel accepts the cease fire proposal and I said that if Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will not comply with the cease fire, we will continue to strike them forcefully," Netanyahu told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday evening.

"In the afternoon, the Israeli Air Force struck many terrorist targets in Gaza and these attacks will continue," the prime minister said. "Hamas chose to continue the escalation and will pay a heavy price for this decision. When there's no ceasefire, our answer is fire."

Israel's air assault on the Gaza strip, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, began eight days ago and has killed over 192 Palestinians, while 1,410 others have been injured. Among the victims are women, children, the elderly, and the disabled, triggering Palestinian and international outrage as people around the world mobilized to demonstrate against the airstrikes.

But the prime minister said that while Israel agreed to the cease fire agreement earlier, Hamas left Israel "no choice" but to "intensify, or rather expand the operation against it and so we shall do, until we achieve our goal to bring the peace back to Israel."

Netanyahu did not mention a ground offensive, but Israel's defense minister said Israel is determined to carry out the campaign by any means necessary, "by air, sea or land" to stop the rocket fire from Gaza. Netanyahu did, however, ask Israelis to refrain from calling for rash actions and let the Israeli authorities make level-headed decision.

On Tuesday evening, an Israeli civilian died as a result of mortar fired near the Erez Crossing at the Gaza Strip border, the first Israeli killed since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge last week.

More than 125 rockets have been launched at Israel since 9 o' clock a.m. local time (0600 GMT), a deadline for ending the hostilities between the two sides, according to Egypt's cease fire proposal.

Israel continued air raids on the Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon, targeting, among others, suspected militants about to launch rockets at Israel, as well as tunnels, 20 concealed rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities, according to the IDF's Spokesperson Unit. Nearly 50 rockets were fired from Gaza during the six hours when Israel halted its air strikes.

Netanyahu fired Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon on Tuesday evening, who said earlier in an interview that the failing of Operation Protective Edge is the direct responsibility of Netanyahu.

Meanwhile, life in Gaza has come to a standstill as reports of new civilian casualties continue to mount. Residents report suffering from water shortages and blackouts in an enclave that has already been coping with Israel's economic blockade. During the past days, more than 700 rockets were launched towards Israeli territories throughout south, south central, central and northern Israel.

Egypt suggested a cease-fire proposal late Monday, which is supposed to go into effect on Tuesday morning. Hamas initially rejected the deal, saying it was not consulted during the draft of the proposal and that its answers were not met. The proposal suggested a halt to hostilities and discussing the cease fire terms based on a similar agreement from 2012, which ended Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense, 48 hours after the cease fire comes into effect.

A great rift divides the Islamist Palestinian Hamas movement governing the enclave and officials in Cairo, as the former were allies with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose rule was cut short amid a protest led by current Egyptian leader, President Abdel Fatah al- Sisi.


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Editor: Yamei Wang
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