Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened on Saturday to exact an “intolerable price” from the Gaza Strip’s dominant Hamas Islamists should there be continued attacks from the Palestinian territory.
Netanyahu also said that Israel will continue its military campaign in Gaza for as long as needed and with as much force as necessary.
“From the beginning, we promised to return the quiet to Israel’s citizens and we will continue to act until that aim is achieved. We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed,” he said in a public address.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet minister said there was “no point” in trying to reach a Gaza truce with Hamas and that Israel won’t send a delegation to planned ceasefire talks in Cairo, the Associated Press reported.
The minister, Yuval Steinitz, spoke Saturday on Israel’s Channel 10 television station.
His comments suggests that Israel plans to end the current round of fighting with Hamas on its own terms, rather than getting entangled in indirect negotiations with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Steinitz alleged that Hamas has repeatedly violated previous cease-fire deals and that this “leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking” about a deal.
He says Israel won’t be sending a delegation to Cairo for the time being.
Meanwhile, Al Arabiya News Channel reported Saturday that six Palestinians were killed after an Israeli airstrike on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and four others will killed in Khan Younis.
Previously, the Israeli airstrike on Rafah killed at least 35 Palestinians, the Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra said, adding that the area's main hospital was evacuated because of the strikes.
At least 1,592 Gazans have been killed since the start of hostilities on July 8 when Israel launched its drive to halt militant rocket fire on its territory from the coastal enclave by unleashing air and naval bombardments. Tanks and infantry pushed into the territory of 1.8 million people on July 17.
Sixty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed, and Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians in Israel.
Earlier, Israeli troops and tanks pulled out of a central sector of the Gaza Strip and moved closer to the border Saturday, as its military invited Palestinians to return to one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the coastal strip.
Israeli media reports Saturday suggested that the military planned to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and declare victory in the weekslong war that Palestinian officials say has killed more than 1,650 people there.
Authorities in Israel, which has lost 63 soldiers and three civilians in the war, declined to immediately comment on the reports, but the move would mirror Israeli strategy in previous wars there.
But the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, which is in charge of the Gaza Strip, said Israel’s unilateral withdraw does not involve it.
Hamas, meanwhile, vowed Saturday to continue its fight against Israel. “We will continue our resistance till we achieve our goals,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP.
Hamas on missing Israeli soldier
The armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said on Saturday it had no clear indication on the whereabouts of an Israeli soldier that Israel has accused it of abducting in the Gaza Strip, Reuters news agency reported.
Hamas added that the soldier may have been killed during an ambush and that it had no contact with militants who were operating in the southern Gaza Strip where Israel said its soldier went missing.
“We have lost contact with the group of fighters that took part in the ambush and we believe they were all killed in the [Israeli] bombardment. Assuming that they managed to seize the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident,” a statement by Hamas said.
Israel said, Sec. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, who went missing on Friday, was abducted by Hamas gunmen.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his security cabinet into special session and warned Hamas and other militant groups that they would “bear the consequences of their actions”.
After the disappearance of the soldier, Israel declared a planned 72-hour Gaza ceasefire over, saying Hamas militants had breached the truce soon after it took effect.
The ceasefire lasted only about 90 minutes early on Friday.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday a Gaza ceasefire plan his country had put forward represented a “real chance” to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas.
"The Egyptian initiative is a real chance to find a real solution to the crisis taking place in the Gaza Strip," he told reporters in Cairo during a joint news conference with Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The Egyptian leader also warned that wasting time will complicate matters. “if Egypt’s initial proposal had been accepted, many civilian lives would have been spared,” he said.
Sisi’s comments came as a Palestinian delegation headed to Cairo for talks on ending the conflict that has killed around 2,000 Palestinians in less than a month.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian delegation is expected to arrive in Cairo on Saturday to discuss a ceasefire plan to end the raging war between Palestinian factions and Israel, sources told Al Arabiya News Channel.SHOW MORE