Israel Destroys More Hamas Tunnels, Palestinian Death Toll Nears 500
Israeli officials said Monday that its military destroyed two more hidden tunnels operated by Hamas, killing 10 militants attempting to enter Israel. Israel may not get to finish its operation to destroy all the tunnels, however—Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Cairo to "seek an immediate halt to hostilities."
The Palestinian death toll from the ongoing 14-day conflict now sits at 496, including almost 100 children. Kerry expressed frustration about Palestinian civilian casualties on a hot mic before his Sunday interview with Fox News: "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation, it's a hell of a pinpoint operation," he said. (He was on the phone with one of his top aides.) When asked to clarify his comments, he responded, "It's very difficult in these situations ... I reacted, obviously, in a way that anybody does in respect to young children and civilians." The U.S. has underlined Israel's right to defend itself throughout the conflict.
Israel is now attempting to destroy every hidden tunnel Hamas could use to go behind enemy lines, but officials admit the tunnel system is more vast and complicated than they predicted. According to The New York Times, 16 tunnels with 43 entry points have been discovered since Thursday, when Israel's ground operation in Gaza began. With respect to continuing the mission, one senior Israeli military official told the Times:
It's a very difficult question. We have a mission, and we are going to fulfill it — Israel is not going to leave the threats of tunnels beneath the border between Gaza Strip and Israel. After 13 days of fighting, and so many casualties, I believe that it's the right time for all sides to stop.
At least 13 Israeli soldiers were killed during a ground fighting on Sunday, including one American volunteer for the Israeli army, 24-year-old Max Steinberg from Southern California. Another American died on the ground in Gaza earlier on Sunday: 21-year-old Nissim Sean Carmeli, who was from Texas.
Kerry will now push Hamas to accept a cease-fire proposal offered by Egypt. He said Sunday the militants need to "step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire."
[Image via AP]