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Photo: Ofer Amram
Finance Minister Yair Lapid
Photo: Ofer Amram
Lapid: No deal until tunnels cleared
Lapid says ceasefire will be reached only along Egyptian proposal and only after Israel finishes dismantling Hamas' tunnels 'and not a minute before.'

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that Operation Protective Edge will continue until the last tunnel connecting Gaza to Israel will be destroyed.

 

 

Tunnels have been at the heart of Israel's Gaza offensive, and are currently one of the central stumbling blocks to a ceasefire, with Israel demanding forces remain in Gaza to take out the tunnel system which threatens Israel's southern communities and army bases.

 

"We will take out the terror tunnels and I remind you that we are still decimating the rocket infrastructure and hitting Hamas' leaders," the finance minister said.

 

Lapid at Ynet's Tel Aviv studio (Photo: Ofer Amram) (Photo: Ofer Amram)
Lapid at Ynet's Tel Aviv studio (Photo: Ofer Amram)

 

Similar comments were made earlier by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who said "We have neutralized dozens of terror tunnels and we are committed to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire.

 

"Therefore 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."

 

Lapid took a similar line, and thanked the IDF for what he described as "outstanding work."

 

"IDF forces have been facing off against an evil terror organization and are doing amazing operations. The Israeli public stands behind the IDF."

 

As the extent of the tunnel warren and the lethal threat it poses became known, accusations were leveled against the government and military, which warned about the phenomenon years ago but apparently did not prepare adequate counter-measures. The army's claims were coupled with the demand that Israel's political leadership make a decision regarding the future of the operation.

 

"The IDF knows what is expected of it and what the operation's objectives are," Lapid said regarding the military's later claims.

 

Regarding the possibility of a ceasefire, Lapid reiterated the prime minister's claims, said "We are completing our mission regarding the tunnels and in the meantime there are diplomatic efforts underway. After we finish with the tunnels, and not a minute earlier, we will be open to talking about a diplomatic deal.

 

Ceasefire efforts began with an Egyptian brokered deal, but after Hamas rejected the proposal, claiming it failed to meet their demands, additional deals were put forth, including a Qatari-Turkish proposal which was backed by the US, causing anger among many in Israel and even the Palestinian Authority.

 

"There is an Egyptian deal and soon everyone will return to it," Lapid said, adding that "this will end with the Egyptian proposal, because we don’t negotiate with Hamas."

 

About 32 tunnels, some as deep as 25 meters (82 feet), and dozens of access shafts have been uncovered since Israeli ground forces moved into Gaza following an air and naval barrage launched on July 8, the military said. The IDF claim dozens of Palestinian gunmen have been killed or captured in clashes at tunnel entrances.

 

Reuters contributed information to this report

 

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