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Middle East

Netanyahu defies global calls to stop offensive

  • A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli air strike, on July 11, 2014 in Rafah, in the southern of Gaza Strip. AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to press forward with a broad military offensive in the Gaza Strip, spurning international pressure as the death toll from the 4-day-old conflict rose above 100 people.

Addressing a news conference, Netanyahu brushed off a question about possible cease-fire efforts, signaling there was no end in sight to the operation.

“I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet,” Netanyahu said.

Israel launched the offensive Tuesday in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Gaza. At least 105 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets at Israel.

One rocket fired from Gaza struck a gas station and set it ablaze earlier Friday in southern Israel, seriously wounding one man.

There have been no deaths on the Israeli side, in large part because of the Iron Dome rocket-defense system, which has intercepted more than 100 incoming projectiles.

Netanyahu said he has been in touch with numerous world leaders, including President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Canada.

He said he had “good discussions” with his counterparts, telling them that no other country would tolerate repeated fire on its citizens.

“No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power,” he said.

Israel’s allies have backed the country’s right to self-defense but have called for restraint. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the heavy civilian casualties in Gaza, and on Friday, the U.N.’s top human rights official, Navi Pillay, said the air campaign may violate international laws prohibiting the targeting of civilians.

Netanyahu brushed aside such criticism, saying Israel’s aerial campaign is aimed at military targets. He blamed Hamas for causing civilian casualties by hiding in residential areas and criticized the group for targeting Israeli population centers.

Israel has massed thousands of troops along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion. Netanyahu was evasive when asked about such a scenario, saying only: “We are weighing every possibility.”

Facing a possible Israeli ground invasion, Hamas’ armed wing warned international airlines it would target Tel Aviv’s main airport with rockets.

The airport has been fully operational since the Israeli offensive began and international airlines have continued to fly in, with no reports of rockets from Gaza landing anywhere near the facility, which lies in an area covered by Iron Dome.

“The armed wing of the Hamas movement has decided to respond to the Israeli aggression, and we warn you against carrying out flights to Ben-Gurion airport, which will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base,” said a statement by Hamas’s Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the United Nations Security Council to order an immediate truce.

“The Palestinian leadership urges the Security Council to quickly issue a clear condemnation of this Israeli aggression and impose a commitment of a mutual cease-fire immediately,” he said.

The Israeli military said it launched fresh naval and air-strikes early Friday on the Gaza Strip, giving no further details.

Palestinians said Israeli tanks fired shells east of Rafah, ships shelled a security compound in the city of Gaza and aircraft bombed positions near the Egyptian and Israeli borders.

An airstrike on a house in the city of Gaza killed a man described by Palestinian officials as a doctor and pharmacist. Medics and residents said an aircraft also bombed a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah, killing five people.

Medical officials in Gaza said at least 74 civilians, including 23 children, were among those killed in the unrelenting aerial bombardments which Israel began Tuesday.

The cross-border rocket attacks intensified last month after Israeli forces arrested hundreds of Hamas activists in the occupied West Bank following the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found killed. A Palestinian youth was killed in Jerusalem in a suspected Israeli revenge attack.

The offensive is the deadliest since November 2012, when around 180 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an Israeli air campaign to punish Hamas for missile attacks. That conflict was eventually halted with mediation from Egypt, which was then governed by Hamas’s Muslim Brotherhood allies.

If Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza, it would be the first since a three-week war in the winter of 2008-09, when some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 12, 2014, on page 1.
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Summary

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to press forward with a broad military offensive in the Gaza Strip, spurning international pressure as the death toll from the 4-day-old conflict rose above 100 people.

Israel launched the offensive Tuesday in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Gaza.

The Israeli military said it launched fresh naval and air-strikes early Friday on the Gaza Strip, giving no further details.

Medical officials in Gaza said at least 74 civilians, including 23 children, were among those killed in the unrelenting aerial bombardments which Israel began Tuesday.

The offensive is the deadliest since November 2012, when around 180 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an Israeli air campaign to punish Hamas for missile attacks.

If Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza, it would be the first since a three-week war in the winter of 2008-09, when some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.


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