TEL AVIV (USA TODAY) — Israel vowed Thursday to press ahead with its offensive in Gaza, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country's military would demolish Hamas' network of tunnels "with or without a cease-fire."
Netanyahu said he won't accept any truce that will not allow Israel to achieve its goal of destroying the tunnel network it says is used to carry out attacks inside Israel. Hamas said it will only lay down arms once Israel and Egypt give guarantees that a seven-year Gaza border blockade will be lifted.
The firm tone from Israel comes as its military called up 16,000 more reservists Thursday, in a move that may signal a widening of its military operation in Gaza. It is not clear how many fighters militant groups in Gaza have at their disposal.
Israel has activated 86,000 reserves since the conflict began on July 8 in a bid to end rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. The operation expanded July 17 to include dismantling the network of tunnels. Israel said it is no more than a few days away from destroying the remainder of the 32 cross-border tunnels it has uncovered.
The bolstering of its troop numbers follows days of intensive fighting that has claimed the lives of over 1,300 Palestinians — the majority of them civilians. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers as well as three civilians have been killed during the clashes.
On Wednesday, there was widespread international condemnation of Israel after a strike on a United Nations-run school in Gaza killed at least 16 people. A crowded Gazan shopping area was also hit. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said the shelling was "outrageous" and "unjustifiable."
Amid increasing power shortages in Gaza, water supplies running low and residents scrambling to fulfill their daily needs, Israeli attacks in Gaza continued Thursday.
"I feel bad that I stopped selling desalinated water to people using my truck," said father of three and Gaza resident Gehad Sukker, 45. "But it's dangerous."
Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire is continuing to reach major Israeli cities, and while Israelis said they want the conflict to end they are not optimistic.
"We all know that it is a game of politics," said Gary Sagiv, 49, from Kibbutz Elon in northern Israel. "We are sick and tired of the killings (on both sides) and want this to end. (But that) means no more rockets, no more kidnapping and no more tunnels."