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Israel withdrawing from Gaza cities, redeploying near border
Published Saturday 02/08/2014 (updated) 04/08/2014 15:22
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BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that although Israeli forces were redeploying out of Gaza urban areas, the 26-day assault on the besieged coastal enclave would continue.

Netanyahu also said in a televised speech that Hamas would pay a "heavy price" if it continued shooting rockets at Israel, stressing that although troops were redeploying to areas with "less friction," they would still be ready to strike.

The comments came after Israeli media reports earlier Saturday said that Israeli forces were unilaterally withdrawing from Gazan urban centers and re-deploying near the border in a move that suggested a limited ground re-occupation of the Gaza Strip for the foreseeable future.

Hamas responded said earlier that it was prepared to continue to defend Gaza, stressing that Israel would have to pay a price for its "crimes" regardless of whether it continued its operation, unilaterally withdrew, or returned to negotiations.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz earlier Saturday said that Israeli forces were redeploying several hundred meters from the border, which was confirmed by Israeli Channel 2.

It was the first time troops had been seen pulling back since the start of Israel's devastating 26-day operation, which has so far claimed more than 1,660 Palestinian lives and forced up to a quarter of the territory's population to flee their homes.

The move came after an army spokesman told AFP that Israel was "quite close to completing" the destruction of tunnels used for infiltrating southern Israel -- which Israel has in recent days said is the main objective of the ground operation.

Haaretz said that in the next 24 hours, the military would "announce that all known tunnels reaching from Gaza into Israel have been demolished," including 31 allegedly known previously as well as a number of other newly discovered ones.

The Haaretz report also that Israeli forces intended to withdraw from "built-up areas" and redeploy near the border.

"The re-deployment is meant to secure Israel's Gaza vicinity communities in case of breaches, and in readiness of possible future missions," the report continued.

Earlier, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal would not "commit" the group to anything, saying that they were prepared to keep fighting.

Abu Zuhri also said that Israel had to pay the price for its actions, adding: "They either stay in Gaza and pay the price, unilaterally retreat and pay, or negotiate and pay."

A military spokeswoman, however, refused to comment to Ma'an on the reports.

Earlier on Saturday, Israeli authorities told hundreds of thousands of residents of the northern Gaza Strip that they could return to their homes except in Beit Hanoun, after being told to evacuate last week.

Israel killed at least 78 Palestinians on Saturday, a day after Israeli shelling and airstrikes led to the bloodiest death toll of the assault yet, with more than 150 killed.

The assault came after a 72-hour ceasefire deal fell apart, as Israel launched massive airstrikes immediately beforehand and deployed heavily near Rafah, prompting a Hamas response and further Israeli shelling.

After that Israel said it was withdrawing from ceasefire talks in Cairo and officials said that any decision made would be unilateral.

Hamas offered a 10-year truce to Israel in mid-July on the condition that an eight-year old economic blockade of the Gaza Strip that has caused major economic and humanitarian destruction -- while failing to achieve its stated aim, the removal of Hamas -- be lifted, but Israel rejected the offer.

Israel launched the assault earlier in the month after a sustained offensive on Hamas across the West Bank in June and early July in order to find three missing Israeli teenagers, which left 10 Palestinians dead, more than 130 injured, and 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals in prison.

The offensive -- which was accompanied by airstrikes on the Gaza Strip -- led to a sharp rise in rocket fire from the area into Israel.

AFP contributed to this report.
1 ) Mel / USA
02/08/2014 20:37
It was never ABOUT TUNNELS! It was all about SLAUGHTERING more non-Jews,pushing 1.8 million non-Jews into a SMALLER fish bowl to SHOOT AT,with Drones,F16's,Hell-fire mikes,snipers,Navy missiles & 'Morty's.The occupation 'buffer zone'is WIDER NOW N,E &S making Israel's COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT &OTHER WAR CRIMES/ATROCITIES more tortuous&brutal! Israel is HAPPY with Gaza staying as a tunnelled Bantustan SEPARATED from contiguous UNITY with Bantustans WB,E/J! Your name is BLOOD&DIRT "Israel",only!

2 ) j / usa
02/08/2014 20:48
Another win in coming for the best and the most moral army in the world. Hamas played with fire and got really burned. Hamas killed 1650 people. Good job! Stupid

3 ) jootoo / UK
02/08/2014 21:03
Mel and Maureen, let’s face it Hamas has treated the Palestinian people in a despicable manner. And Hamas has done the human shield thing again, and violated the Palestinian people in Gaza. But even you two must admit they do not deserve a place on behalf of the peace table. Ask the Finnish correspondent for Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat who admits what we already knew. That Hamas are firing rockets from a hospital, using it as a launch pad for rockets. Or are you are still in denial, about Hamas?

4 ) carol flores / usa
02/08/2014 21:37
I wish they would withdraw back to Europe!????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????!

5 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
02/08/2014 21:38
The rocket fire is illegal as everybody knows. It is a war crime and the rockets have been constant since 2001. The Palestinians have a clear choice - peace or war. Hamas wants war. Their leaders say so and their actions say more. They want jihad (war) and therefore this is what they got. The responsibility and blame is 100 percent on Hamas.

6 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
02/08/2014 22:42
permanent ?

7 ) honestly2you / India
02/08/2014 23:34
Israel chose itself for destruction by grabbing the Land of Palestinians years ago by inflicting atrocities on the innocent people with the help of American and British Support. Every time he resorts to oppress the Palestinians by mightiest military aggression its get paid by its soldiers casualties even in a less number and empowered Hamas with New blood. Israeli kill hundreds of Palestinians to keep them quiet forcefully but no war ended without leaving tears even in the eyes of Israeli people

8 ) ABE / USA
02/08/2014 23:41
To # 4 ISRAEL will be around alot longer then YOU!! Keep dreaming!

9 ) Lez / New Zealand
03/08/2014 02:06
IDF Pulling back to areas with less friction. Sounds like the Hero dough boy aggressor has found the opposition a bit too tough I dont think IDF capable of hand to hand combat They would rather bomb and shell and go in after They are too reliant on electronic warfare World opinion is against you as well

10 ) Maureen / Australia
03/08/2014 02:12
IOF redeploying but the assault on Gaza will continue. And as Brian Cohen knows, Israel's occupation/oppression has caused the intolerable situation Palestinian people have had to endure ever since Revisionist Zionism set foot in Palestine!

11 ) Degarege / U.S.A
03/08/2014 03:21
I hope Hamas got the lesson that he needs to know & Hopefully terrorists In Gaza will never play with fire in the future . War is always ugly and bad. We have seen many ugly casualities but it is the true face of war. Hamas has played with poor and hopeless Palestinian children's blood by placing & forcing them in front line purposely to use them as human shield. There is no country in the world that can tolerate missile attacks on its citizens. Digging tunnels can not establish the state

12 ) عريش / US
03/08/2014 03:45
Why not annex the West Bank and gaza and Give all Palestinians citizenship? 2 states is no longer possible. Wait wait I know, because the racists right is not willing to absorb non jew Arabs into the Jewish state. Really, Palestinians are under complete control of Israel as is; the fact of the matter is that the state is not a democracy, unwilling to give a voice to millions of its inhabitants, racially/religiously segregating the whole nation (Khalil/Hebron most pronounced). Need more space.

13 ) Mehdy / Egypt
03/08/2014 07:08
Looks like our government needs to take action and finish Hamas completely like Muslim Brotherhood.

14 ) Therese / USA
03/08/2014 07:19
Does anyone ask the question WHY Hamas is shooting rockets? What would you do if you were under siege for 7 years? Are they not human beings? Why demonize them? Because it's then easier to kill them? Please understand that the problem in Gaza is the siege. And in the West Bank it's the occupation. Both must stop for the rockets and the resistance to stop. Zionism is not working and will never work. People sharing the land will work. Period.

15 ) Another proof of the IMMENSE / VICTORY OF BRAVE HAMAS
03/08/2014 09:17
Irael is WITHDRAWING!!!! soon the whole world will recognize the victory of HAMAS and QATAR will send billions to Haniyyeh

16 ) jjj / india
03/08/2014 10:44
Isreal is a illegal ocupation on the arab world and Hamas is fighting for getting back thier homes and land all the Jewish occupation is illegal.

17 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
03/08/2014 12:33
I dunno Carol Flores - do you think the native Americans want you to withdraw back to Europe too? Then again, you clearly come from Europe while Jews clearly do come from Palestine.

18 ) Musadiq / INDIA
03/08/2014 12:56
Mr Cohen is F16 fire legal....artillery fire legal.....cannon fire legal....destroying homes...killing innocent children women legal.....U Israeli people are being are living in fools paradise and your government is misleading you hiding truth from international community.....more than 1650 Palestinian people killed among them more than 300 children how the hell u will justify your war crime inhuman nation

19 ) Jie / Philippines
03/08/2014 13:13
Hamas is the guard of Palestine whos defend the israel evil

20 ) jootoo / UK
03/08/2014 14:07
@4 You clearly are unaware of the 850,00 Jewish men woman and children, that arrived as refugees from fifty seven Islamic countries, and were absorbed, educated, given housing and health care in the fledgling Jewish State of Israel.

21 ) Jared / USA
03/08/2014 17:49
Israel was never in any real danger. The facts speak for themselves. The racist, fascist campaign of ultra conservative Zionism is one step closer to completing its goal of genocide. As the Israeli settlers illegally occupying West Bank say: "There is no such thing as Palestine." "God gave this land to us." "Israel for Israelis." "There are many arab nations, it is time for Palestinians to leave the one Jewish state and find another country to live in." Racism. Fascism. Murder. Apartheid.
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