Hamas to pay ‘intolerable price’ for continued fighting
Israeli prime minister indicates Gaza war is winding down but troops will operate for as long as necessary
Palestinians examine damaged buildings in Gaza city. Photograph: Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times
Palestinians look at an unexploded Israeli shell that landed on the main road outside the town of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza . Photograph: Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters
An Israeli soldier wakes up in a staging area near the Gaza border. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/The New York Times
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to exact an “intolerable price” from the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamists should there be continued attacks from the Palestinian territory.
“We do not accept a continuation of the shooting,” Mr Netanyahu told reporters. “It (Hamas) will have to understand, however long that takes, that it will pay an intolerable price, from its perspective, for continuation of the shooting.”
Speaking at a news conference, he said Israel is prepared to continue fighting Palestinian guerrillas after the army completes its primary mission of destroying cross-border tunnels from the territory.
“After completing the anti-tunnel operation, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will act and continue to act, in accordance with our security needs and only according to our defence needs, until we achieve our objective of restoring security to you, Israel’s citizens,” he said in a televised speech.
Earlier today, Israel signalled it was winding down the 25-day-old Gaza war unilaterally, saying today it would not attend Egyptian-hosted negotiations for a new truce and giving Palestinians who had fled fighting in one northern town the all-clear to return.
But shelling exchanges continued, with Palestinian officials saying Gaza’s mostly civilian death toll rose to 1,669 and Israel saying its Iron Dome interceptor shot down rockets launched at the cities of Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
Several ceasefires between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s dominant Islamist Hamas faction had failed to take hold or quickly collapsed, most recently yesterday after two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third went missing in an ambush.
Israel accused Hamas of seizing lieutenant Hadar Goldin and the United States blamed the group for a “barbaric” breach of the truce. The United Nations was more guarded in its censure of Hamas but urged Lt Goldin’s immediate release.
Seeking to shift responsibility, Hamas said it believed its gunmen had struck before Friday’s ceasefire began and that if they captured Lt Goldin, he probably died with his captors in heavy Israeli barrages that followed.
A Palestinian delegation was to fly to Cairo for new truce negotiations, which would include Hamas’s demand that Egypt ease movement across its border with blockaded Gaza. But Israel said it would not send its own envoys as scheduled today.
“They (Hamas) cannot be trusted to keep their word. They cannot stop (firing) because, for them, a ceasefire at this stage, whether by arrangement or not by arrangement, would mean acknowledging the worst possible defeat,” deputy foreign minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel Two television.
“I believe this is the point at which the ground manoeuvres should be brought to an end. Hamas can be hit as much as will be required in response to firing that, I expect, will persist.”