Gaza offensive to continue as long as necessary: Netanyahu

August 24, 2014 1:02 pm
A ball of fire rises from a building following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 23, 2014 © AFP
A ball of fire rises from a building following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 23, 2014 © AFP

, GAZA CITY, Aug 24 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel’s Gaza offensive would continue as long as necessary, a day after an Egyptian call for a ceasefire and new truce talks.

Israeli air strikes killed eight Palestinians in the enclave on Sunday and Gaza militants kept up rocket fire into Israel.

“Operation Protective Edge will continue until its aims are achieved… it may take time,” he said of the offensive launched on July 8.

Israel carried out 27 strikes and 50 rockets were fired from Gaza, 47 of which hit the Jewish state, an army spokeswoman said.

The Israeli ambulance service said that three people were wounded by Palestinian fire at the Erez crossing point between Israel and Gaza, at least one of them seriously.

Police said they were all Arab public transport drivers waiting in the crossing’s car park, two of them Bedouin from the southern Israeli town of Rahat and one a Palestinian from Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The new bloodshed came after Israel pounded Gza with at least 60 strikes on Saturday, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and bringing down a 12-storey apartment block.

There was still no sign of either side adopting the ceasefire Egypt appealed for on Saturday to allow negotiators to return to Cairo to thrash out the details of a durable truce.

Since a previous round of frantic Egyptian diplomacy collapsed on Tuesday, shattering nine days of calm, 88 Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli boy have been killed in the violence.

At a special cabinet session at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu repeated his warning of harsh retribution for the death of the Israeli child on Friday in a rocket strike on a kibbutz near the Gaza border.

– PM warns Lebanon, Syria –

“Hamas is paying, and will continue to pay, a heavy price for the crimes it carries out,” he said.

“I call on residents of Gaza to immediately leave any structure from which Hamas carries out terror activity against us. All such sites are a target for us.”

At the funeral of Daniel Tragerman on Sunday, his mother Gila said she had seen the lively child as a future leader who could have brought peace.

“You are the love of my life, a perfect child, every mother and father’s dream,” she said.

Netanyahu also added a veiled warning to neighbouring Lebanon and Syria after overnight rocket fire into Israel.

“There is not and will not be any immunity for anyone who fires at Israeli citizens, and that is true for every sector and every border,” he said.

Earlier on Sunday, five rockets fired from Syrian-controlled territory slammed into the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights but caused no casualties, the Israeli army said.

Late Saturday, a rocket fired from Lebanon struck northern Israel, causing damage but no casualties.

Israel has so far not responded to either attack.

In a statement on Saturday, the Egyptian foreign ministry urged “concerned parties” in the Gaza conflict to accept an open-ended truce and resume indirect negotiations in Cairo.

Previous ceasefires with fixed timeframes have failed to give Egyptian mediators shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams enough time to broker a deal acceptable to both.

Israel insists on full safety for millions of citizens who live in daily fear of rocket fire.

– Egypt truce talks bid –

Gaza’s Islamist de facto ruler, Hamas, says any truce must provide for a lifting of Israel’s crippling eight-year blockade of the territory and the opening of a seaport and airport.

The invitation to new truce talks came after a meeting on Saturday between Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

“What interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed,” Abbas said.

“As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands,” he said, adding that, as in previous rounds of talks, Hamas would be represented in the Palestinian delegation.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP that “any proposal offered to the movement will be discussed”.

Abbas held two rounds of talks in Qatar on Thursday and Friday with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal before heading to Cairo.

At least 2,111 Palestinians and 68 people on the Israeli side, all but four of them soldiers, have been killed since July 8.

The United Nations says 70 percent of the Palestinian victims were civilians, and that among the dead were 478 children.

Around 460,000 people have fled their homes in Gaza — more than a quarter of the enclave’s 1.8 million population.


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