Akram Mogdadm holds the body of his son, Baraa, 6, who was killed in an explosion at a park in the Shati refugee camp, Gaza, on Monday. (AP)
Jerusalem, July 28: Israel’s Prime Minister today signalled no quick end to the three-week-old Gaza war, telling Israelis that they must prepare themselves for a prolonged conflict in order to crush what he described as the double threat of rockets and “death tunnels” into Israel dug by Hamas and its associates.
The speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a televised address came after an informal lull by both sides in deference to Id-ul-Fitr was shattered by explosions that hit a children’s play area in a Palestinian refugee camp near Gaza City and killed at least 10, explosions near Gaza’s main hospital, a mortar attack that killed up to four Israelis on Israel’s side of the border, and what Israel called an attempted infiltration by Gaza gunmen through one of the tunnels.
There was no indication that either Israel or Hamas, the main militant group in Gaza, were prepared to embrace growing calls for an immediate halt to the conflict.
“Israeli citizens cannot live with the threat from rockets and from death tunnels — death from above and from below,” Netanyahu said in his televised remarks. He said Israelis would not “end this operation without neutralising the tunnels, whose sole purpose is killing our citizens”.
More than 1,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and at least 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the Israeli side have been killed in the conflict. Efforts by the UN Security Council and secretary of state John Kerry to achieve even a temporary halt in the fighting have proved ineffective so far.
Netanyahu did not announce an immediate broadening of the ground invasion in Gaza or any change in its stated goals of destroying Hamas’s rocket and tunnel infrastructure. But he suggested that the military campaign required “perseverance and determination”.
His defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, spoke of a campaign that could last “more long days”.
“If the terrorist organisations in Gaza think they can break Israel and its citizens,” Yaalon said, “they will come to understand in the next few days that this is not the case”.
Israel and Hamas accused each other of responsibility for the explosions at the Shati refugee camp and Shifa Hospital. Hamas and its affiliates said Israeli aerial attacks were responsible. The Israelis said errant Palestinian rockets that had been aimed at Israel but misfired were the cause.
Later, Israel’s military reported up to four Israelis were reported killed by mortar rounds fired from the Gaza side at an Israeli military staging area. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that there had been a mortar attack and casualties, but could provide no further details. The Israeli military also reported that an infiltration attempt via tunnel by Gaza gunmen who fired at soldiers, and that several of the gunmen were killed.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that at least 10 children were killed as they played in a park in the Shati refugee camp on the western edge of Gaza City. The Palestinian agency attributed the explosions to Israeli missiles.