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Netanyahu vows to crush Gaza tunnels; US restocks Israel with ammunition


Israeli armoured personnel carriers (APCs) are seen outside the central Gaza Strip July 31, 2014. Photo - Baz Ratner/Reuters

Tel Aviv: Israel said on Thursday it would not pull troops from Gaza until they finish destroying a network of cross-border tunnels, despite sharp United Nations criticism over the civilian death toll.

Speaking at the start of a special cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants for attacking Israel.

"Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to finish this mission -- with or without a ceasefire," he said at the start of a special cabinet meeting.

"So I will not accept any (truce) proposal that does not allow the IDF (army) to complete this work for the security of Israel's citizens."

His remarks came after the army confirmed mobilising another 16,000 additional reservists, hiking the total number called up to 86,000. Israel does not say how many troops are currently engaged in the fighting inside the Gaza Strip. 

US arms Israel
The United States confirmed Wednesday it had restocked Israel's supplies of ammunition, hours after finally sharpening its tone to condemn an attack on a United Nations school in Gaza.

But while both the White House and the State Department condemned the shelling of the UN-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza in which at least 16 Palestinians were killed, neither would assign blame to staunch US ally Israel.

The Pentagon confirmed the Israeli military had requested additional ammunition to restock its dwindling supplies on July 20, with the US Defense Department approving the sale just three days later.

"The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability," Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. 

"This defence sale is consistent with those objectives."

Two of the requested munitions came from a little-known stockpile of ammunition stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state. The War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

UN figures indicate two-thirds of the victims were civilians. Of that civilian dead, nearly half were women and children.

UN Condemnation
Following the shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza on Wednesday which killed 16, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay slammed Israel for its attacks on homes, schools and hospitals, accusing it of "deliberate defiance" of international law.

"None of this appears to me to be accidental," she told reporters. 

"There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel."

The shelling of the school also drew sharp condemnation from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who described it as "reprehensible", as well as from Washington. 

But the Israeli army suggested the deaths may have been the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket.

"What happened is still not clear at this stage," military spokesman General Moti Almoz told army radio. 

"It is not clear if the school was hit by fire from IDF soldiers or from Hamas terrorists," he said. 

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