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TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel on Thursday ruled out a cease-fire for Gaza until it has finished destroying tunnels running between the enclave and Israel. "I won't agree to any proposal that will not enable the Israeli military to finish this important task, for the sake of Israel's security," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement. "We are determined to complete this mission, with or without a cease-fire." Several attempts to halt the deadly fighting have failed. There was no immediate response to the statement from Hamas, which rules Gaza.
A military source in Israel told NBC News that the mission could be completed within four to five days. One of Israel’s stated aims in launching its now three-week offensive has been to destroy the tunnel network, which is essential to the survival of Hamas and which Jerusalem says threatens the lives of its Israelis. The military says it already has uncovered at least 32 of these often highly sophisticated passageways. More than 1,360 Palestinians have been killed in the widening 23-day offensive, among them 315 children and 166 women, according to Palestinian health officials. A total of 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, and three civilians.