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Israel warns Hamas against continued rocket fire

Israeli PM suggests military will reassess Gaza operation once tunnels are destroyed

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    A Palestinians looks for his belongings after a house was destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Israel bombarded Rafah on Saturday as troops searched for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas.

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    Smoke billows from the rubble of the Imam Al Shafaey mosque, destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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    A Palestinian girl cries while mourners carry the body of slain Udai Nafez, 19, into the family house ahead of his funeral procession in the village of Kharbatha, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Udai Nafez was killed during clashes with the Israeli military Friday, following a protest in solidarity with people in Gaza. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

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    Smoke rises after an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

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    An Israeli soldier kisses his girlfriend before he returns to his unit in a staging area near the Israel Gaza border, Saturday, August 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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    An Israeli soldier standing on top of a tank in a staging area near the Israel Gaza border, Saturday, August 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

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    A Palestinian throws into the fire pages of damaged copies of the Holy Quran, Islam's holy book, found on the rubble of the Imam Al Shafaey mosque, that was destroyed in an overnight Israeli strike in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. In accordance with the Islamic tradition, damaged copies of the Quran can not been thrown away but have to be burned instead. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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    Palestinian mourners take the last look at the body of slain Udai Nafez, 19 at the family house ahead of his funeral procession in the village of Kharbatha, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Udai Nafez was killed during clashes with the Israeli military Friday, following a protest in solidarity with people in Gaza. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

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    A medic kneels by bodies of victims of the war in Gaza that are wrapped in blankets in a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Israel bombarded Rafah on Saturday as troops searched for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas in an ambush that shattered a humanitarian cease-fire and set the stage for a major escalation of the 26-day-old war. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

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A Palestinians looks for his belongings after a house was destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Israel bombarded Rafah on Saturday as troops searched for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas.

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hamas on Saturday that it will “pay an intolerable price” if it continues to fire rockets at Israel, but also hinted that Israel would reassess its operations in the Gaza war once troops have demolished Hamas tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

Netanyahu said in televised remarks that Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to the recurring conflict with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, but will keep all military options open to restore security for Israeli civilians.

The Israeli leader spoke after 26 days of Israel-Hamas fighting that Palestinian health officials say has killed at least 1,650 Palestinians, most of them civilians, along with 66 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers.

Hamas has struck a defiant tone throughout the conflict, saying it will not halt fire unless it secures guarantees that Israel and Egypt will lift a seven-year-old border blockade of Gaza.

“We will continue to resist until we achieve our goals,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said after Netanyahu’s speech, dismissing the Israeli leader’s remarks as “confused.”

Earlier Saturday, a Cabinet minister said that Israel won’t be sending a delegation to Egypt-hosted indirect truce negotiations with Hamas for the time being.

The minister, Yuval Steinitz, alleged that Hamas had repeatedly violated cease-fire deals and that “this leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking” about any deal.

An Israeli official told The Associated Press that troops will remain in Gaza to wrap up the demolition of Hamas tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border, but that this is a matter of “not much more time.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss internal government deliberations with reporters.

Israeli media reported that 31 tunnels have already been demolished, and that the mission was close to being complete.

Netanyahu said that “Hamas needs to understand that it will pay an intolerable price” for continuing to fire rockets, but indicated the military will enter a new phase of the operation after the tunnels are demolished.

“After completing the operation against the tunnels, the military will prepare for our continuing action according to our security needs and only according to our security needs, until we obtain the objective of returning security to you the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

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