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As Casualties Mount, Netanyahu Vows to Expand Israel's Military Operations in Gaza

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to ramp up military operations in Gaza Monday despite mounting casualties on both sides.

by Olivia Becker
Jul 21 2014, 8:15pm

Photo by Dylan Collins

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday plans to expand Israel’s military offensive of the Gaza strip, which has now entered its 14th day and killed 27 Israelis and more than 500 Palestinians.

"The IDF is advancing on the ground according to plans, and the operation will continue to expand until its goal is achieved — restoring the calm to Israeli citizens for a long time," Netanyahu said. "Achievements in fighting on the ground are clear. I'm impressed by the actions targeting the tunnels, it's been getting results beyond our expectations.”

Netanyahu’s announcement comes amid vocal calls from the international community for Israel to cease hostilities in light of the mounting civilian death toll. The US and the United Nations called for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.

VICE News is on the ground reporting from Gaza and Israel. Watch here.

In a statement of his own on Monday, President Barack Obama expressed his concern over the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza and said Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Egypt to negotiate for an immediate ceasefire.

This comes after the bloodiest day in fighting took place on Sunday, resulting in more than 70 Palestinian deaths during an offensive in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza City that was described as a “massacre.”

The bombardment in Shujaiyeh continued today, as the Israeli military shelled the Al Aqsa hospital, killing at least four Palestinians and wounding at least 16. This is the fourth hospital Israel has bombed in the two-week offensive.

Al Aqsa hospital in Gaza City's Shujaiyeh neighborhood after being shelled by Israel on Sunday.

"We were working and suddenly… you can't imagine the sound. We had many nurses injured," said Jaber Muni, a nursing supervisor in the ER at Al Aqsa. "We had to transfer them to other hospitals because we didn't have room to treat them. Five people were killed in this attack and more than 50 were injured, including medical staff and ambulance drivers. The shells hit all at the same time. They all hit together in about a span of 10 minutes. The people in this area have no other option and there are many injuries coming in from the bombing," Muni added.

Monday morning, Israel destroyed two more Hamas tunnels after militants managed to sneak through into southern Israel. The attack resulted in the deaths of four Israeli soldiers and 10 Hamas members.

Twenty-five Palestinians, all from the same family, were reported killed during an overnight strike, in addition to at least one Palestinian journalist.

Today, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) issued a statement that called for Israel to stop killing civilians in Gaza, and reported the deaths of paramedics and aid workers. “Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza strip, the majority of the dead and wounded in Gaza are civilians, and medical workers are also coming under fire," the statement read.

“While official claims that the objective of the ground offensive is to destroy tunnels into Israel, what we see on the ground is that bombing is indiscriminate and that those who die are civilians,” added Nicolas Palarus, MSF field coordinator in Gaza.

A Palestinian ambulance in Gaza City after a bombing.

Monday evening an Israeli airstrike hit a central building in Gaza City, killing 11 people including as many as seven children. According to initial reports, the strike's intended target were the offices of Al-Quds TV, the second largest Hamas-affiliated channel.

"We never expected something like this to happen," Ahmad Al-'Amwasi, a cardiologist at Al Aqsa hospital, told VICE News. "This place is designed to serve patients, not for militants or anything like that. It should be a safe place."

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

All photos and additional reporting by Dylan Collins. Follow him on Twitter: @collinsdyl

war and conflict
Benjamin Netanyahu
Operation Protective Edge