|An Israeli self-propelled howitzer fires a shell to the Gaza Strip from southern Israel bordering the Gaza Strip, on July 22, 2014, the 15th day of Operation Protective Edge. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Israel to broker a peace between the Jewish state and the Islamist Hamas movement, Israel army said it has no intention to cease its Gaza offensive before rooting out the "terror tunnels" that Hamas is using to sneak into Israel. (Xinhua/Li Rui)|
JERUSALEM, July 22 -- As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Israel to broker a peace between the Jewish state and the Islamist Hamas Movement, Israel army said it has no intention to cease its Gaza offensive before rooting out the " terror tunnels" that Hamas are using to sneak into Israel.
Speaking at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, the UN chief urged Israel on Tuesday to exercise "maximum restraint" in its operation in Gaza, and called on both sides to stop fighting, and start to talk to each other.
Ban arrived in Israel on Tuesday in the hope of mediating a ceasefire deal more than two weeks after Israel commenced its " Operation Protective Edge" against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
He also called on the two warring parties to address the root causes of their conflict, adding that Israel's military actions be helpful in promoting regional stability "in the longer term," noting that Israel's military response to Hamas' rockets fire from Gaza has caused huge civilian losses.
After the talks with Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Tuesday, Ban is scheduled to fly to Ramallah for talks with officials of the Palestinian National Authority on Wednesday.
So far, more than 600 Palestinians were killed and 3,720 wounded in Israel's days of bombardment and tank shells, said Gaza medics on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a total of 28 Israeli soldiers and two civilians were since the Jewish state started its ground invasion in Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
ROOT OUT HAMAS TUNNELS
Also on Tuesday, the army spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the Israeli military would only end its military campaign against Gaza militants until it clears out the tunnels that Hamas excavated from Gaza to Israel.
"We have to fulfill our mission," Lerner said in an online press conference. "The end position of this mission needs to be at a level that these tunnels no longer pose a threat and the majority, if not all of them, no longer exists," he said.
Lerner said that during Israel's 15-day long offensive in Gaza, the military have exposed over 60 access shafts of 23 tunnels. "We are decommissioning those using explosives," Lerner said, adding that tunnels are like "a big system of veins and arteries." Over the course of the fighting, Gaza militants have been using tunnels several times in attempt to infiltrate into Israel. Since midnight, the military targeted over 187 sites in Gaza, out of which over 100 sites in the battered neighborhood of Shuja' iyya, where over 60 people were killed on Sunday. According to statement by the army Spokesperson's Unit, among the sites it targeted "were concealed rocket launchers, a weapon manufacturing facility, military facilities, surface-to-surface missile launchers and surface-to-surface rocket launchers."
Since the beginning of the ground phase of the offensive, "the Israel Defense Force has targeted over 1,715 terror sites," the statement added.