Israel must ready for 'prolonged' Gaza campaign: Netanyahu

JERUSALEM, July 28 -- Israel's top political and defense leadership on Monday night defied international calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, determining to continue the massive offensive there until the risk posed by Gaza militant groups is "neutralized."

"We must be prepared for a prolonged campaign," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a joint televised press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

"The campaign will not end until we neutralize the tunnels whose sole purpose is killing our citizens . .. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," he said, adding that any ceasefire agreement will have to include "the disarming of terror organizations and demilitarization of the Gaza Strip."

Earlier on Monday night, the Israeli military said that Gaza militants attempted to infiltrate into Israel from the northern Gaza Strip through a cross-border tunnel.

Israeli media reported casualties among the Palestinian forces. A few hours earlier, a Gaza mortar shell reportedly killed four people in the regional council of Eshkol in Israel's Southern District and wounded 17 more. Hamas took responsibility for the fire.

Netanyahu's speech shattered any hope of a swift end to the 21- day-long raging conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement, which so far has claimed the lives of more than 1,050 Palestinians, over 70 percent being civilians, and 50 Israelis.