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Netanyahu to keep up Gaza war 'as long as necessary'

Israeli prime minister vows to 'exert as much force as needed' in Gaza while Hamas says Netanyahu 'was confused', 'facing a real crisis'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv on July 11, 2014 (AFP)

Israel will keep up its military campaign in Gaza for as long and as forcefully as needed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday in a statement mocked by Hamas.

Netanyahu said that all options were "on the table" to achieve that mission.

"From the beginning, we promised to return the quiet to Israel's citizens and we will continue to act until that aim is achieved. We will take as much time as necessary, and will exert as much force as needed," he said in a public address.

"All options are on the table to return peace to the citizens of Israel."

He also pledged to do whatever necessary to bring home 23-year-old soldier Hadar Goldin, who Israel believes was captured by Palestinian fighters during an ambush in southern Gaza early on Friday.

"Israel will continue to make every effort to bring its missing sons home," he pledged.

He said troops would complete the mission of destroying a complex network of tunnels used by fighters to infiltrate southern Israel before deciding on its next security objectives.

"After the completion of our activity against the tunnels, the IDF (army) will prepare to continue our activities according to security needs, and only according to our security needs, until we achieve the objective of returning security to the citizens of Israel," he said.

Hamas "will pay an insufferable price for continuing to fire", Netanyahu said.

A spokesman for Hamas mocked Netanyahu's statements as "confused" and testimony of the "real crisis" he was facing.

"We will continue our resistance till we achieve our goals," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP after the Israeli leader's speech.

"Netanyahu was confused, which shows he's facing a real crisis," Barhum said.

An Israeli official told AFP that no Israeli delegation would be flying to Cairo to attend talks on a ceasefire, after a Palestinian delegation had already arrived in the Egyptian capital to that end.

But Netanyahu nevertheless did not rule out a diplomatic solution to the conflict which has so far cost the lives of more than 1,700 Palestinians in Gaza.

"I want to achieve the goals of the operation, either militarily, if I can diplomatically, or by a combination of both," Netanyahu said.

Pro-Palestinians take outrage to the White House

Meanwhile, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters, many waving or wrapped in flags, rallied outside the White House Saturday, pushing for peace and an end to fighting in Gaza.

The crowd, young and old from across the United States, including scores of children, chanted "End US Aid to Israel" and "Israel out of Palestine."

"Gaza will not die -- it will never die," said Amar Jamal as he marched through downtown Washington with his family.

"It is the time to make peace because this bloodbath will not stop in Gaza. All the Middle East will be in trouble" if the conflict doesn't end, warned the Palestinian-born 70-year-old.

Many of the protesters voiced anger at Netanyahu, with one waving a banner that read "Netanyahu and Hitler are the same, the only difference is the name."

Others called on Washington to end its military backing of Israel and adopt a harsher stance toward its ally.

Shereen Abdel-Nabi, holding her young son who was wearing a "Jesus is Palestinian" T-shirt, said she participated "to express her concern about what's happening in Gaza and US support for it."

"The US should stop military aid to Israel and use stronger words in condemning its action," said the 34-year-old, who works for a non-profit in the US capital.

"I really think this is a turning point ... it's an issue of humanity. The US government is proving to be on the wrong side of history on this one."

Friends Waleh Kanan and Jasmine Abuhummos, both 15, traveled for hours overnight from Toledo, Ohio, to take part.

"A lot of people are ignorant about what is going on. So we hope this will help get more of the truth out," said Kanan.

"I cannot believe how many people, thousands, came out to support Palestine, and a very diverse crowd. All kinds of people," Abuhummos added.

Organizers claimed that as many as 50,000 people participated in the afternoon rally.

Police did not immediately respond to an AFP request for an official estimate or confirmation that, according to CNN, a small group of Orthodox Jews held a counter-demonstration that led to a minor scuffle.

Regardless of the turnout, Alli McCracken, National Coordinator of the anti-war group CODEPINK, a co-sponsor of the event, said spirits were high "even though there's a massacre going on."

"It was really hard to miss all of us," she said.

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