Israel warns of long Gaza war as Palestinian fighters cross border

GAZA/JERUSALEM Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:13pm BST

1 of 12. An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards the Gaza Strip July 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A grim-faced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday of a protracted war in Gaza, dashing any hopes of a swift end to the three-week conflict as Palestinian fighters launched an audacious cross-border raid.

The Israeli army said five of its soldiers died in two separate incidents, including four in a mortar strike. Local media also reported casualties in the infiltration, but there was no immediate confirmation of this.

Inside Gaza itself, eight children and two adults were killed by a blast in a park as an unofficial truce sought by the United Nations for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival collapsed.

Residents blamed the explosion on an airstrike, but Israel said a misfiring militant rocket caused the carnage.

"It has been a difficult, painful day," Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation.

"We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," he said, adding that Israeli troops would not leave Gaza until they had destroyed Hamas's tunnel network.

Some 1,060 Gazans, most of them civilians, have died in the conflagration. Israel has lost 48 soldiers and another three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling.

As night fell over Gaza, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling could be heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in areas around Gaza City - usually the prelude to major army strikes.

The explosion of violence, after a day of relative calm, appeared to wreck international hopes of turning a brief lull in fighting into a longer-term ceasefire.

Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists said they had accepted a U.N. call for a pause in hostilities on Monday to coincide with Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Israel initially balked, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday when Palestinian rockets kept flying. However, calm gradually descended through the night with just the occasional exchange of fire heard until a series of blasts shook Gaza in the afternoon.


Pools of blood lay on the ground in the Beach refugee camp garden in northern Gaza after it was hit by a huge explosion.

"We came out of the mosque when I saw the children playing with their toy guns. Seconds later a missile landed," said Munther Al-Derbi, a resident of the camp.

"May God punish ... Netanyahu," he said.

At roughly the same time, another blast shook the grounds of Gaza's main Shifa hospital, without causing any casualties. Israel, which has previously accused Hamas fighters of hiding in the hospital, again blamed an errant militant missile.

Foreign pressure has been building on Netanyahu to muzzle his forces, with both U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council urging an immediate ceasefire that would allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable cessation of hostilities.

Israel wants guarantees Hamas will be stripped of its tunnels and rocket stocks. It worries the Palestinian Islamists will parlay the truce talks mediated by their friends in Qatar and Turkey into an easing of an Israeli-Egypt blockade on Gaza.

In his television address, Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would need to see Hamas stripped of its weapons.

"The process of preventing the armament of the terror organisation and demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip must be part of any solution. And the international community must demand this forcefully," he said.

Hamas said its forces had infiltrated Israel to retaliate for the killing of the children in the Beach camp.

"His threats do not frighten either Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the (Israeli) occupation will pay the price for its massacres against children and civilians," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Speaking in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored what he described as a lack of resolve among all parties in the conflict.

"It's a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian," he told reporters. "Why these leaders are making their people to be killed by others? It's not responsible, (it's) morally wrong."


Some residents in Gaza reported they had received a recorded telephone message on Monday which said in Arabic: "Listen Hamas, if you are still alive, you should know that if you continue, we will respond, we will respond violently."

In another attempt at psychological warfare, Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza listing dozens of names of gunmen from Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, that the military says it has killed since the start of the offensive.

An opinion poll broadcast by Channel 10 TV showed overwhelming Israeli public support for continuing the Gaza offensive until Hamas is "disarmed".

Deputy Islamic Jihad chief Zeyad Al-Nakhala said mediation had made progress and the group was working with neighbouring Egypt to craft a deal.

"We are days away from the end of the battle, the clouds will clear and you (Palestinians) will see victory," he told Islamic Jihad's radio station Al-Quds. "We will not accept anything less than ending the blockade."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region last week to try to stem the bloodshed, his contacts with Hamas - which Washington formally shuns - facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Tension between Netanyahu's government and Washington has flared over U.S. mediation efforts, adding yet another chapter to the prickly relations between the Israeli leader and Obama.

Repeated U.S.-led negotiations over 20 years have failed to broker a permanent peace deal. The most recent round collapsed in April, with Palestinians livid over Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Israelis furious that Abbas had signed a unity pact with old foe Hamas.

Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Atteya said Israel had not respected a ceasefire agreement brokered by Cairo that ended the last Gaza war in 2012 and it was time the blockade of the coastal enclave - also enforced by next-door Egypt - was lifted.

Israel has signalled it wants a de-facto halt to fighting rather than an agreement that would preserve Hamas's arsenals and shore up its status by improving Gaza's crippled economy.

The main U.N. agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said more than 167,000 displaced Palestinians had taken shelter in its schools and buildings, following repeated calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods ahead of military operations.

(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr in Doha; Writing by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Paul Taylor and Peter Graff)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (4)
pavlaki wrote:
Hamas don’t want a cease fire or peace as they will loose all support within the Palestinian community. They owe their existence and future to fighting. There will never be peace for so long as they exist. The Palestinians deserve better and they must get rid of Hamas.

Jul 28, 2014 6:40pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Cephas-Keith wrote:
US Complicit in Gaza Massacre
The US is complicit in the massacre and carnage inflicted in Gaza by Israel. The US supplies Israel on a regular basis with the arsenal to execute the demolition of the Palestinians in Gaza. The US has given the world the false narrative that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. Is Israel defending itself by the massacre and carnage of the defenceless citizens in Gaza? The rockets that Hamas hurls into Israel are ineffective and the US has supplied Israel with the ‘iron dome” which intercept and destroy these rockets. Israel has “caged” the residents of Gaza so that the basic necessities of life are difficult to acquire. It is therefore out of frustration that they hurl these ineffective rockets at Israel. The US has also fed the world with the self-serving narrative that Hamas is a terrorist organisation. However the world has not forgotten that the US supported the apartheid regime in South Africa by designating Nelson Mandela as a terrorist and the ANC as a terrorist organization. The world is also aware that the policies of the US are not driven by the President but by the dominant power structure of the Jewish lobby. No President can prevail against this lobby.
Cephas Keith Reyes, PhD.

Jul 28, 2014 11:51pm BST  --  Report as abuse
och.will wrote:
First of all Reuters, we don’t know how many “civilians” and how many Hamas militants died.
Your coverage is sensationalist and ati Israeli. Sad day for journalism. Second you have given scant coverage to the terrorist attacks inside Israel. You have said nothing about Hamas not using their tunnel network as bomb shelters, which they haven’t. You’ve said nothing about hamas instructing civilians to remain in their homes whn the IDF has warned them to move so they can strike Hamas facilities, rocketeers, rocket launchers and arm caches. You’ve said nothing about hamas’s charter, which says Israel and the Jews do not have the right to exist and that they will destroy them, quoting from the “Koran”. You’ve not mentioned misfired Hamas rockets, parents who send their kids out to play in a war zone, the continual rocket fire into Israel, the millions and millions of aid dollars that have been spent on tunnels designed to aid an invasion of Israel. Nothing. Reuters is the most one sided, leftist, untrustworthy, news outlet out there. Consider yourselves the left “Faux News” of Europe. Cowardly coverage that ignores the moral issues entirely in favor of publishing Hamas talking points. Leave the Israelis alone. Stop firing rockets. Renounce the hateful religious jihad(impossible, won’t happen). In other words, Hamas and the Gazans have chosen war and death to building a life for themselves while claiming Judea, now called “the west bank” and Israel are not places the Jews can live. The Israelis have a right to live in peace. If the Arabs and the muslim world don’t get that, then they are in for more disaters like the one they are inflicting on themselves right now. Gaza voted for Hamas and is clearly a region unprepared for moral self governance. You can’t fix stupid.

Jul 28, 2014 3:46am BST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.