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Israel-Gaza conflict: Netanyahu vows to intensify operations after death of Israeli boy

The retaliation comes as Hamas rejects Isis comparisons and says that journalist James Foley's death was execution "in a brutal manner"

Natasha Culzac
Thursday 28 August 2014 18:33 BST
Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza on 22 August 22
Smoke rises following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza on 22 August 22 (Reuters)

Israel is stepping up its assault on Hamas in retaliation for the death of an Israeli child killed in a mortar attack yesterday.

Four-year-old Daniel Tragerman became the first Israeli child to be killed, after Hamas launched strikes on a southern Israeli village close to the Gaza border.

A spokesman for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ofir Gendelman, made a statement on Twitter on last night which said that the PM “sends his condolences to the family of the four-year-old boy that was killed this afternoon by a mortar round fired by Hamas.

“Hamas will pay a heavy price for this attack. IDF [Israel Defence Forces] & ISA [Israel Securities Authority] will intensify ops against Hamas until the goal of #ProtectiveEdge is achieved

Mr Gendelman then said that Hamas had launched the mortar round from adjacent to a shelter currently used by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), but later retracted this and confirmed it was a shelter used by Hamas.

A spokesman for UNRWA, Chris Gunness, strongly denied that one of its facilities had been used in the attack.

At least four people were killed in Gaza on Friday, Palestinians officials say, pushing the death toll further over the 2,000 mark.

Most of the Palestinian death toll has been civilian, including 320 under the age of 12, UN figures show. On the Israeli side, 68 have now been killed, most of whom were soldiers.

Friday also saw 18 alleged spies gunned down in Gaza in a crackdown on those who collaborate with Israel, which was also in response to the killing of three top Hamas military commanders the day before.

The latest threat of further violence by the Israeli government comes as Hamas signs a pledge to back any Palestinian effort to join the International Criminal Court.

Confirmed by two senior Hamas officials, the move could expose Israel as well as Hamas to war crimes investigations.

Israel also accuses Hamas of being no different to Isis: "Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas", Mr Netanyahu is quoted as saying.

On the PM's official Twitter account, an graphic had been posted showing slain American journalist James Foley - who died at the hands of Isis militants - to equate it with Hamas. The tweet was later removed and replaced with one showing a different image.

Hamas spokesman Izzat al-Rishq criticised the move: "The attempt by Netanyahu and his spokesman Ofir Gendelman to link Hamas and compare us with other groups is a deception and disinformation campaign that will not fool anyone," he is quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying.

"We strongly condemn and reject how Netanyahu, Gendelman and the Israeli media exploit the picture of the slain American journalist James Foley who was executed in a brutal manner.

"We condemn the low and cheap use of this image without any respect for the sanctity of the dead."

The latest bout of strikes follows the collapse of Egypt-brokered ceasefire talks, in which Hamas said it would only halt fire is both Israel and Egypt agree to lift the blockage and allow trade and travel through Gaza’s borders.

Israel says it cannot agree to that unless Hamas agrees to disarm and stops trying to smuggle or manufacture weapons.

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