Jerusalem: The Israeli army on Tuesday said that it will not cease its Gaza offensive before rooting out the "terror tunnels" that Hamas are using to sneak into Israel, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tried to broker a peace between the Jewish state and the Islamist Hamas movement.
"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," Xinhua quoted army spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner as saying.
He said that during Israel's 15-day offensive in Gaza, the military has 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.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv the UN chief Tuesday urged Israel 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 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 Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon Tuesday, Ban will fly to Ramallah for talks with officials of the Palestinian National Authority on Wednesday.
So far, more than 600 Palestinians have been killed and 3,720 wounded in Israel's bombardment and tank shells, said Gaza authorities Tuesday. Twenty-eight Israeli soldiers and two civilians have also been killed since the Jewish state started its ground invasion in Gaza, according to the Israel Defence Forces.