Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that he is determined to destroy the tunnels Hamas has built on the country’s border with Gaza, even as 16,000 reservists were summoned to assist in Operation Protective Edge, which began more than three weeks ago.
The announcement from Netanyahu comes as the death toll in the region has climbed constantly amid efforts from the U.N. and U.S. to bring about a cease-fire. According to Reuters, which cited Israeli officials, more than 32 secret tunnels have so far been found and destroyed. Netanyahu’s security cabinet, on Wednesday, also approved extending Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 8 and has become the country's longest-running offensive against Hamas.
"We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire," Netanyahu said, in a televised address, according to the Associated Press, adding: "I will not agree to any offer that does not allow the military to complete this important mission for the security of the people of Israel."
On Wednesday, at least 116 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were killed, but, summoning reservists indicates that the fighting could intensify in the coming days.
More than 200,000 people have so far taken refuge at 86 U.N. schools across the Gaza Strip and the death toll in Gaza has risen to 1,372 and more than 7,000 people have been wounded, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, a Malaysian official on Thursday denied reports that Hamas leaders had trained in the country to carry out cross-border attacks.
The reaction follows a report on Wednesday by the Jerusalem Post, an Israeli news agency, that Hamas members, including a cell commander Khan Yunis, who was arrested Wednesday by Israel’s security agency, Shin Bhet, trained to use heavy machine guns and grenades in Malaysia.
"It does not matter what kind of freedom fighting group they belong to, even those against Israel, we have never given permission to have such trainings here," Wan Junaidi Jaafar, the deputy home affairs minister, said, Haaretz reported, citing his address to Astro Awani, a Malaysian news agency. He also reportedly added that while the country supports Palestinians, it has never allowed the country to be used as a training ground for such activities.