Israel vows to crush Gaza tunnels, snubs UN

Almost 1,397 people have been killed , two-thirds of them being civilians

GAZA - Israel vowed Thursday it would not pull troops out of Gaza until they finish destroying a network of cross-border tunnels, despite sharp United Nations criticism over the Palestinian death toll.

Speaking at a special cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants to attack Israel.

"Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to finish this mission, with or without a ceasefire," he said at the start of the meeting.

"So I will not accept any proposal that does not allow the military to complete this work for the security of Israel's citizens."

His remarks came after the army confirmed mobilising another 16,000 reservists, hiking the total number called up to 86,000.

Israel does not say how many troops are currently fighting inside the Gaza Strip.

Washington also said it had agreed to restock Israel's dwindling munitions supplies, despite increasing international concern over the death toll in Gaza, where almost 1,397 people have been killed in 24 days of violence.

UN figures indicate two-thirds of the victims were civilians, nearly half of whom were women and children.

The top UN refugee official in Gaza told the security council on Thursday that his UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency was stretched to breaking point by the massive humanitarian fallout from the fighting.

"I believe the population is facing a precipice and appeal to the international community to take the steps necessary to address this extreme situation," Pierre Krdhenbhl said.

Following the shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza on Wednesday which killed 16, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay slammed Israel for attacking homes, schools and hospitals, accusing it of "deliberate defiance" of international law.

"None of this appears to me to be accidental. There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel," she told reporters.

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