Israel determined to destroy Gaza border tunnels: PM
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the destruction of tunnels will continue despite truce efforts
Israel was determined to complete the destruction of tunnels build by Palestinian militants under the Gaza-Israel border regardless of ceasefire efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
"We are determined to complete this mission with or without a ceasefire," Netanyahu said in public remarks carried by Reuters at the start of a cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv.
"I won’t agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to complete this important task for the sake of Israel's security."
Major General Sami Turgeman, chief of Israeli forces in Gaza, said on Wednesday they were "but a few days away from destroying all the attack tunnels".
An army spokeswoman said earlier on Thursday that 16,000 additional reservists have been mobilized to Gaza, bringing the total number of soldiers in the military operations in the Gaza strip to 86,000.
"The army has issued 16,000 additional mobilization orders to allow troops on the ground to rest, which takes the total number of reservists to 86,000," said an army spokeswoman according to Agence-France Presse.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he remained hopeful for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict but declined to predict when.
Kerry, on a visit to India, said he had remained in close contact on the telephone with players in the Middle East to try to end the Israel-Hamas conflict.
"The United States remains hopeful that it is achievable, and the sooner the better," Kerry said of a ceasefire.
"There is no promise in that, but I think everybody would feel better if there was a bona fide effort," Kerry told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi.
Netanyahu's annoucement came a day after the United States confirmed it had restocked Israel's supplies of ammunition, hours after issuing a strong condemnation of an attack on a United Nations school in Gaza.
The Israeli military requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, the Pentagon said. The U.S. Defense Department approved the sale just three days later.
"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.
"This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."
Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the U.S. military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.
Kirby stressed that those munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for "a few years, well before the current crisis."
"All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are 'in excess to U.S. requirements," he added.
Gaza officials say at least 1,361 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the battered enclave and nearly 7,000 wounded. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza clashes and more than 400 wounded. Three civilians have been killed in Palestinian shelling in Israel.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was incensed on Wednesday at the deaths of at least 15 Palestinians among thousands sheltering at a school whose U.N. administrator said appeared to have been hit by Israeli artillery.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday slammed what she said was Israel's "deliberate defiance" of international law during the Gaza conflict.
Pillay lambasted the country's attacks on homes, schools, hospitals and United Nations facilities in Gaza.
"None of this appears to me to be accidental," she told reporters in statements carried by AFP. "There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel.
(with Reuters and AFP)