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Israeli PM Netanyahu blames Hamas for Gaza deaths

Netanyahu called for banning Hamas from rearming. "When Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire only 180 people were killed - that means that 90% of the casualties took place after the rejection," Netanyahu told a press conference in Jerusalem. At least 1867 Palestinians have been killed and more than 9450 others injured in relentless Israeli attacks on the blockaded Gaza Strip since July 7. Most of the Palestinian fatalities in Gaza were civilians – including women and children - according the U.N. figures. The Israeli army said 64 of its troops had been killed and 651 others injured in the offensive, while three civilians were killed by Palestinian rocket fire. The Israeli offensive came to a halt on Tuesday under a three-day ceasefire brokered by Egypt. The Israeli army has since withdrawn its forces from the Gaza Strip to "defensive positions" outside the enclave. In mid-July, Egypt proposed a ceasefire to halt fighting in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejected the plan, saying it did not meet the "terms of the resistance". Israel claims that the military offensive was meant to destroy Hamas' network of tunnels in Gaza and undermine the ability of Palestinian factions to fire rockets at Israeli cities. "In recent years, Hamas has built a system of tunnels penetrating into Israel to pull off terror attacks... and the IDF [army] has destroyed it," Netanyahu said.

"We left Gaza only after we destroyed the tunnels we knew about and a few we didn't," he added.

The Israeli premier claimed that the situation is "better and safer" than it was before the military operation in the Gaza Strip.

"The situation there is better and safer than it was before operation," he said.

"Israel closely monitoring Gaza ceasefire, and additional forces will remain in Gaza area to better protect the citizens," Netanyahu added.

Palestinian factions and Israel are currently holding indirect talks in Cairo for reaching a durable ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

-Disarming Hamas-

Netanyahu called for banning Hamas from rearming.

"Hamas uses civilian deaths as PR fodder," he said. "Can we accept a situation where terrorists are exonerated, and victims accused?"

Netanyahu denied a rift in relations between Israel and the United States.

"I spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and we had a good talk. I wish to reiterate what he said about the need to disarm Gaza," he said.

Blockaded by Israel since 2006, the Gaza Strip has seven crossings connecting it to the outside world, six of them controlled by Israel and the seventh by Egypt.

Israel closed four crossings in June 2007 soon after Hamas assumed complete control of the Gaza Strip.

It keeps Kerem Shalom (Karam Abu Salem in Arabic) functioning, on and off, for commercial purposes and Erez for the movement of individuals between Gaza and the West Bank.

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