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Netanyahu: Israel won't engage in negotiations under fire

AFP

Benjamin Netanyahu says ​Israel will not return to talks to end the conflict in Gaza while Palestinian militants continue rocket attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AFP)

Israel will not return to talks to end the conflict in Gaza while Palestinian militants continue cross-border rocket attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

“Israel will not engage in negotiations under fire, and will continue to act in every way to change the current reality and to bring quiet to all of its citizens,” he told a Cabinet meeting at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv, his office said. His remarks came as Palestinian negotiators in Cairo threatened to abandon efforts to broker an end to more than a month of bloodshed in Gaza if Israel did not send a team to join the talks by 1300 GMT on Sunday. 

Israel pulled its team out of the Cairo talks on Friday after it accused Hamas of breaching a three-day ceasefire and rocket fire on southern Israel resumed. Netanyahu said there was no end in sight to the Israeli operation, which began with an air campaign on July 8. 

A ground assault launched on July 17 ended when troops pulled out last Tuesday. Israel has retained forces along the Gaza border and carried out scores of air strikes over targets in the Gaza Strip since the 72-hour truce expired on Friday morning. 

“Operation Protective Edge is continuing, at no stage did we say it was over. The operation will continue until we achieve our objectives – the return of quiet for a prolonged period,” Netanyahu said. 

“It will take time and we need patience,” he said. Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, two hardline ministers called for troops to go back in to Gaza and topple Hamas, the defacto power in the battered Palestinian enclave. “This situation cannot continue,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told reporters. “There is no doubt that the only thing left to do now is to overpower Hamas, clean out the territory and get out as quickly as possible.” Interior Minister Gideon Saar agreed. “What we must do is break the military power of Hamas in Gaza,” he said, without elaborating. – AFP

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