Israel rebuffs calls for Gaza border observers

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel on Monday rebuffed European proposals for international observers in the Gaza Strip after any ceasefire, pushing instead for teams that will help search out and seal off tunnels that could allow Hamas to rearm.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a leading candidate to become Israel’s next prime minister in a February 10 election, said she saw no reason for an observation and monitoring force, one of several proposals made by European powers in their bid for a truce to end Israel’s 10-day-old military offensive in Gaza.

“I don’t see how this can help,” Livni told reporters during a press conference with visiting European leaders.

Israel wants any international mission on the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt to be focused instead on preventing Hamas from re-establishing a network of underground tunnels that could be used to smuggle in long-range rockets and other weapons, Israeli officials involved in the deliberations said.

Israel’s 10-day-old military offensive in the Gaza Strip has so far killed at least 524 Palestinians and its leaders made clear they were in no rush to enter into a ceasefire despite growing international pressure.

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