Israel widens Gaza offensive, vows to destroy Hamas tunnels

Israel widens Gaza offensive, vows to destroy Hamas tunnels
Israel mobilised 16,000 more reservists to widen its 24-day military campaign that has killed more than 1,374 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

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

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 cease-fire,’ the Israeli Premier emphasised.

He also 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.

The Israeli security cabinet last night approved continuing with the offensive ‘Operation Protective Edge’ launched on July 8 despite world leaders appealing Israel for restraint.

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

The move coincides with stalled diplomatic efforts to end the war.

The conflict has claimed lives of more than 1,374 Palestinians - most of them civilians - and reduced the entire Gaza neighborhoods to ruins, Palestinians officials said.

At least 10 people were killed on Thursday 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 cross-border attacks inside Israel.

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.

On July 15, Israel had briefly halted its strikes in Gaza after accepting an Egyptian truce proposal, but resumed attacks the next day as militants in Gaza rejected the proposal.

Ynet reported quoting a senior military source that the reservists will be called up ‘to give the army the time needed to complete the mission’.

‘We will decide on Thursday where to place them and in which commands,’ the source told the website.

Israel, which has come under intense criticism for targeting civillian structures, pledged to investigate a strike on a UN-run school on Wednesday that killed at least 16 people.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, ‘We will investigate that. And if we find that it was errant fire from Israel, I am sure we will apologise.’

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency Commissioner General condemned in strong words the Israeli attack on its facility describing it ‘a source of universal shame’.

He also called upon the international community to take ‘political action’ to put an ‘immediate end to carnage’

Meanwhile, Israel’s southern town of Sderot was hit by a heavy barrage of rockets while the Israeli cabinet was meeting to discuss the operation in Gaza.

Six Code Red sirens blared through Sderot in a row as residents ran for cover.

Ten rockets were fired at the southern city, 7 of them were intercepted and two fell inside the city near a school and a public park.

After a relatively quiet night in which only three rockets were fired at the Eshkol and Sha’ar HaNegev regional councils of south Israel, a grad rocket on Thursday hit Be’er Sheva in the morning.


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