Israel to finish tunnel assault before truce

2014-07-22 18:51
Damage can be seen at Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque in Gaza City after an Israeli strike. (File, AP)

Damage can be seen at Al Aqsa Martyrs mosque in Gaza City after an Israeli strike. (File, AP)

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Jerusalem - Israel will not halt its fire in Gaza until it finishes an operation aimed at destroying tunnels used by militants for cross-border attacks, a senior minister said on Tuesday.

As world efforts to broker a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza gathered pace, Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also ruled out any acceptance of the "unacceptable" demands laid out by Hamas as a condition for halting its fire.

She said the question of an immediate ceasefire with Hamas was not going to happen at this stage.

"First of all, it won't happen before we really finish the tunnels project which was laid out as a strategic objective," she told Ynet news website, referring to a major operation that started on the evening of 17 July.

"Second, it won't happen in a way in which Hamas's completely unacceptable conditions are met, because it just wont," she said.

"Until now, Hamas is presenting demands that have no chance of being accepted by anyone - not by us, not by Abu Mazen, not by the Egyptians and not by the Americans," she said, referring to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

"In a situation where Hamas says 'Give us everything or the fighting will continue,' well then the fighting will continue," she said.

Last week, an Egyptian ceasefire proposal was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas, which kept up its rocket fire across the border. After five hours of holding fire, Israel resumed its punishing operation in Gaza.

Hamas officials have laid out a list of demands that must be met before agreeing to a truce - some involving Israel and others aimed at Egypt.

Central to its demands is that Israel lift its eight-year blockade on Gaza and the release of scores of veteran Palestinian prisoners who had been released in a 2011 swap agreement but who were recently re-arrested.

It also wants the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to be opened, in a demand aimed at Cairo which has kept it largely closed since the overthrow in July 2013 of former Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, a key Hamas ally.

A majority of Israelis support continuing the operation, a survey conducted by daily freesheet Israel Hayom said.

Some 77% of respondents opposed an immediate ceasefire, with only 16% supporting it, the poll said, and a vast majority (94%) said they were satisfied with the way the army was carrying out the campaign.

The poll interviewed 500 Jewish Hebrew-speaking Israeli adults.

Read more on:    palestine  |  israel  |  gaza
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