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  • 2 August 2014, 22:46

Netanyahu: Campaign In Gaza Not Over Yet

Israel's Prime Minister has warned he is prepared to continue the operation in Gaza even after all Hamas tunnels are destroyed.

Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would keep up its military offensive for as long as it takes to return safety to its citizens.

"We do not accept a continuation of the shooting," he told reporters, referring to ongoing Hamas rocket attacks.

"It (Hamas) will have to understand, however long that takes, that it will pay an intolerable price, from its perspective, for continuation of the shooting."

His comments followed local reports that Israel was winding down its ground operation in Gaza and had begun pulling back tanks from some areas.

Israel launched its aerial offensiveon July 8 with the declared aim of ending "persistent" rocket fire by militants.

It subsequently sent in ground troops, shifting the focus of the operation to the destruction of a complex system of cross-border tunnels, which Israel claims were used by Hamas to infiltrate the country.

Israeli military officials have reported that 31 tunnels have since been destroyed, fuelling speculation that the offensive could soon wind down.

However Mr Netanyahu made clear that despite this success, the destruction of the tunnels alone would not ensure Israeli safety.

Reports of fighting continued on both sides on Saturday, as hopes of a ceasefire agreement faded further.

Palestinian medical officialssaid dozens of people were killed in renewed Israeli strikes, bringing the total death toll to more than 1,660.

Another 440,000 people, a quarter of Gaza's population, have been displaced by the fighting.

On the Israeli side, 63 soldiers and three civilians have lost their lives.

The latest Israeli casualties include two soldierswho were killed by Hamas militants during an attack which also saw the alleged abduction of 23-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin on Friday.

Mr Netanyahu vowed the military would continue to do whatever necessary to locate the missing soldier.

"Israel will continue to make every effort to bring its missing sons home," he said.

His comments came shortly after Mr Goldin's mother spoke out against the reports of a ground troop withdrawal.

The Israeli army says he was taken just 90 minutes into the latestceasefire, which collapsed on Friday.

Both sides accused each other of breaking the internationally-brokered truce.

Attempts to negotiate a renewed halt in fighting faced a further setback on Saturday after the Israeli delegation pulled out of indirect ceasefire talks with Hamas which were scheduled to take place in Cairo.

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