World / Middle East

No cease-fire without destruction of tunnels: Israeli PM

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-07-31 20:35

JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saidon Thursdaythat Israel will continue to uproot underground tunnels in Gaza regardless of any possible cease-fire agreement.

"We are determined to complete this mission with or without a cease-fire,"Netanyahusaid atthe beginning of a cabinet meeting held at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, according to a statement from his office.

"I will not agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to complete this important task for the sake of Israel's security," Netanyahu added.

"Hamas' capabilities could have enabled it to abduct and murder civilians and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers while attacking from the tunnels, penetrating our territory," the prime minister said.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge commenced on July 8, following rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip at southern Israeli communities and a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. Israel said the offensive was launched to halt the rocket fire but later stressed demolishing the tunnels.

As the operation progressed and Israeli forces embarked on a ground incursion to the strip on July 17, IDF forces focused their attention on underground tunnels making their way into southern Israel, through which suspected militants allegedly planned to launch attacks against Israelis.

The IDF said it has found several dozen tunnels and tunnel shafts and is currently focused on uprooting them. Several soldiers have been killed in altercations with militants who exited the passageways.

Earlier on Wednesday, the IDF summoned 16,000 more reserve soldiers amid the ongoing Gaza fighting, bringing the total number of reserve soldiers to around 86,000.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, 1,364 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since July 8 and more than 6,780 people have been injured.

Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have died since Israel's ground incursion to the strip commenced July 17 and more than 100 soldiers are hospitalized across the country sustaining wounds of varying degrees.

Three Israeli civilians have been killed in the past three weeks from rocket attacks, as Hamas and other militant groups fired more than 2,800 rockets and mortars into south, south central, central and northern Israel.

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