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Netanyahu: Israel to 'expand, intensify' Gaza campaign

July 15, 2014 10:31 P.M. (Updated: July 17, 2014 10:36 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to ramp up Israel's military campaign against Gaza, after an Egyptian truce plan failed to end eight days of cross-border fire.

"This would have been better resolved diplomatically, that’s what we tried to do when we accepted the Egyptian truce proposal today," he said.

"But Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it," Netanyahu said.

"That’s how we will act till we achieve our goal of bringing quiet to Israel’s citizens, while significantly harming the terror group," he said of Hamas which controls Gaza.

Netanyahu's remarks came shortly after the army and emergency services announced an Israeli civilian was killed by a projectile that hit near the Erez crossing into the Gaza Strip, the first in the conflict in which 194 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli strikes since July 8.

In televised remarks, Netanyahu also addressed criticism from members of his cabinet earlier in the day, when Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman slammed the Israeli acceptance of the Egyptian truce and Netanyahu's "hesitance", saying Israel should conquer Gaza and expel Hamas from it.

"These are moments when decisions must be made coolly and with patience, not hastily or noisily," Netanyahu said.

"I’m determined to do the right thing, I know you trust me to ignore the background noises and focus on the main mission to safeguard you and your lives."

Shortly after Netanyahu's remarks, his bureau announced he had fired deputy defense minister Danny Danon, a firebrand member of his Likud party, who became a vocal critic of Netanyahu during the operation, calling him a "failure" and saying Hamas was controlling the conflict.

"It is inconceivable that the deputy defence minister will attack the country's leadership leading the campaign," a statement read.

"The severe remarks show a lack of responsibility ... and even are used by Hamas terror group to slam the government, as evident in their communication networks," it said.

Meanwhile, speculation remained rife over a possible ground incursion, with no conclusive remarks from Israeli officials but a pledge to carry one out if the need arose.

"The army renewed its attacks and will increase them as much as necessary, in the air, sea and land, according to our orders," the armed forces chief of staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, said after Netanyahu's remarks.
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