Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip despite the death of his 18 soldiers in the two-week long conflict that has killed 501 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and injured more than 3,100.
Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday night that the death of the soldiers is “painful and difficult”, but Israel will continue its Operation Protective Edge with full speed ahead.
The Palestinians death toll reached 501 on Monday, with the recovery of more bodies from a home flattened in an Israeli air strike near the city of Khan Younis.
The UN Security Council on Monday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and UN Chief Ban Ki-moon met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Qatar to end the escalating conflict that has also displaced thousands.
Netanyahu said at a press conference that “We bow our heads to our fallen sons, who died so we could continue living in our country. I would like to express, on behalf of the government of Israel and the people of Israel, the deep pain we feel. We send our condolences to the parents, children, partners and families of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) soldiers who fell in battle”.
Seeking public support for the operation, Netanyahu urged Israelis to stand united during difficult times. “We must stand together, united. We must be strong in difficult days, like this day and in days that might come. We are fighting for our home,” he stressed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the ground operation in Gaza as something necessary to protect the safety of the people of Israel. Overnight we exposed more tunnels – tunnels that join the many others we’ve exposed, some of which have reached inside Israel.
Netanyahu said that even though the tunnels are not a new threat to Israel, the current operation is on a much larger scale than before.
Israel Defence Minister emphasised that “We won’t break and we won’t back away. The IDF’s best commanders and fighters are operating in the Gaza Strip today in order to remove the threat of rockets, terror and tunnels.”
There were reports of multiple deaths in Israeli attacks on Shejaiya town and the neighbouring Zeitun district, as well as in Jabaliya to the north. The streets of Shejaiya were filled with thousands of people fleeing for their lives.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brokered a temporary ceasefire to allow evacuation of the dead and wounded in a deal accepted by both Israel and Hamas.
Hamas’ armed wing said in a statement on Sunday that Palestinians have released gruesome images of the dead and wounded, including children. “The massacre of civilians in Saja’iyya is a war crime that will not break the will of our people. The resistance will not allow the enemy to trample over the soil of Gaza.”