Israel launches military offensive on Civilian Targets
The death toll in Gaza has surged to over 600 with Israel and Hamas showing no signs of giving peace a chance.
Sirens wailed, rockets exploded and anguished screams resounded on both sides of the border as fresh casualties were counted and mourned by Palestinians and Israelis.
Secretary of State Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have arrived in Egypt for talks designed to broker a ceasefire deal, but Israeli bombings were intense – more than 70 targets were hit in the Gaza Strip yesterday including five mosques, a soccer stadium and the home of Hamas’ late military chief.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said he’s prepared to continue a “full-scale ground offensive as long as necessary” to squash Hamas’ ability to launch rockets into the Jewish state and infiltrate its southern region through underground tunnels.
Ismail Haniyeh, a top Hamas leader, countered that the Islamic militant group will not agree to an unconditional ceasefire.
In a televised speech in Gaza on Monday, Haniyeh said Hamas’ aim is to break a blockade of the Palestinian territory imposed in 2007 after Palestinian elections swept Hamas into power.
“Gaza has decided to end the blockade by its blood and by its courage,” he said.
President Obama says he understands Israel’s need to defend itself against rocket attacks, but believes its military has already done “significant damage” to Hamas.
“We have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives,” Obama said.
“And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a ceasefire.”
At least 10 Hamas militants were killed Monday, taken out by an Israeli missile strike as they tried to sneak into Israel through a tunnel on the border near Nir Am, Israeli officials said.
Gun battles in Gaza on Monday cost the lives of seven Israeli soldiers, hit by antitank rockets in separate skirmishes. The deaths came a day after 13 Israeli soldiers and 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza.
Israel has lost 27 soldiers and two civilians since fighting erupted on July 8.
Palestinian health officials said over 580 Gazans have been killed in the past two weeks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed civilian deaths in Gaza on Hamas, saying the militants continued to use innocent people as human shields, even hiding rockets in hospitals.
“So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. It (Hamas) actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.”
Netanyahu accused Hamas of “triple war crimes” for hiding behind civilians.