BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel to finish tunnels assault before truce: Livni

Smoke rises after an Israeli strike over the northern Gaza Strip July 22, 2014. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)

OCCUPIED 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 Tuesday.

As world efforts to broker a cease-fire in war-torn Gaza gathered speed, 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 cease-fire 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 July 17.

"Second, it won't happen in a way in which Hamas' completely unacceptable conditions are met, because it just won’t," 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 Mahmoud 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 continued firing rockets across the border. After five hours of holding its 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 lifts its eight-year blockade on Gaza and 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 Mohammad Morsi, a key Hamas ally.

 

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