Ban ki-Moon: ‘It is outrageous. It is unjustifiable’

Israeli military calls up another 16,000 reservists to pursue Gaza military campaign

Gaza officials say at least 1,361 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have now been killed in the battered enclave. Israel has lost 56 soldiers to Gaza clashes and three civilians to Palestinian shelling. Video: Reuters

Thu, Jul 31, 2014, 12:06

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the military will dismantle the Hamas tunnel network in the Gaza Strip “with or without a ceasefire”.

Mr Netanyahu said he will not accept any truce that won’t allow Israel to complete its mission of destroying the sophisticated tunnel network, which has been used to carry out deadly attacks inside Israel.

“We have neutralised dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a ceasefire,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Therefore I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel.”

Israel launched its air campaign on July 8th to stop unrelenting rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel. It expanded the operation with a ground offensive on July 17th with the primary purpose of blocking Hamas infiltration attempts through the tunnels.

Israel says that most of the 32 tunnels it has uncovered have now been demolished and that getting rid of the remainder will take no more than a few days.

The Israeli military has also called up another 16,000 reservists to pursue its campaign in the densely-populated territory.

The new reserve call-up follows another day of heavy fighting, in which tank shells struck a UN school where Palestinians were sheltering and an airstrike tore through a crowded Gaza shopping area. At least 116 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday.

Mr Netanyahu’s security cabinet yesterday approved continuing the assault launched on July 8th. But Israel also sent a delegation to Egypt, which has been trying, with Washington’s blessing, to broker a ceasefire.

Gaza officials say at least 1,361 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have now been killed in the battered enclave. Israel has lost 56 soldiers to Gaza clashes and three civilians to Palestinian shelling.

UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was incensed yesterday at the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians among thousands sheltering at a school whose UN administrator said appeared to have been hit by Israeli artillery.

“It is outrageous. It is unjustifiable. And it demands accountability and justice,” Mr Ban said.

Israel said its forces were attacked by guerrillas near the school, in northern Jabalya, and had fired back. It did not immediately comment on another incident, in nearby Shejaia, in which Palestinian officials said 17 people were killed by Israeli shelling near a produce market.

“Such a massacre requires an earthquake-like response,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, whose group has kept up dozens of daily rocket launches deep into Israel. The Israelis have kept casualties from the salvoes low with nine Iron Dome interceptor batteries and air-raid sirens that send people to shelters.

Rolling Israeli ground assaults on residential areas, prefaced by mass-warnings to evacuate, have displaced more than 200,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians. The tiny territory’s infrastructure is in ruin, with power and water outages.

Israel says it is trying to avoid civilian casualties and blames these on Hamas and other Palestinian factions dug-in for urban combat.