WASHINGTON - Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday accused Hamas of violating a ceasefire that it had itself called and vowed that Israeli operations in Gaza would continue.
"They are violating their own ceasefire. Under these circumstances, Israel will do what it must do to defend its people," Netanyahu told the news network CNN as part of a series of interviews with US media.
Earlier, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas agreed to halt firing from 1100 GMT in response to a request from the United Nations. AFP reporters in Gaza, however, said explosions could still be heard.
Israel had endorsed a ceasefire plan promoted by Egypt which was not accepted by Hamas. But Netanyahu dismissed Sunday's latest call for a truce, alleging Hamas would exploit any lull in the fighting.
Netanyahu told CBS that Israel would not allow "a ruthless terror organisation... to decide when it's convenient for them to stop for a moment, rearm, and continue firing on our citizens and our people." Netanyahu said Israeli forces will continue operations to dismantle Hamas' cross-border tunnel network and to destroy its rocket arsenal.
"I would say we want to stop firing rockets for sure. We want to dismantle the tunnel, the terror tunnel network we uncovered. I don't know if we'll have 100 per cent success," he said.
"Our soldiers are dealing with it now." Netanyahu insisted Israel does not deliberately target Palestinian civilians, accusing Hamas of provoking conflict in residential areas, and said the long-term goal was to prevent attacks on Israel.
"I hope we achieve a sustainable quiet that will enable us to address the issue of demilitarizing Gaza," he told CBS.
"And if Hamas is weak and discredited and demilitarized then we may have a chance to work something with the more moderate forces and get a better future for all of us."
Since July 8 more than 1,050 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza fighting, while another 6,000 have been injured. A total of 43 Israeli soldiers, two civilians and a Thai migrant worker have died.