'Israel did not request US for ceasefire in Gaza'

Jerusalem, July 30 (IANS) Senior Israeli officials Tuesday denied US Secretary of State John Kerry's claim that Israel had requested the US to extend a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

"Kerry was the one who brought up the option of a ceasefire to (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu, and not the other way around," Xinhua quoted unnamed officials as saying.

"Netanyahu told Kerry that currently the continuation of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) operation is necessary for Israel to protect its citizens and neutralise the underground terror tunnels," they added. "The prime minister said the operation will continue as long the operation to neutralise the tunnels is ongoing."

Kerry said at a press conference earlier Tuesday that Israel was the one asking the US to help facilitate a humanitarian ceasefire with Hamas, as the conflict in the Gaza Strip entered the 22nd day.

Israel wants to demilitarise the Gaza Strip and see international forces deployed in the area, as well as an end to rocket attacks . It wants a complete destruction of the underground "terror" tunnels, some of which have made their way into the surrounding southern Israeli communities.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, since Israeli military operation began July 8, over 1,200 Palestinians have been killed, mostly civilians, and over 6,500 wounded.

Fifty- three soldiers and three Israeli civilians have died since Israel' s ground incursion into the strip began on July 17, while some 106 more soldiers sustained injuries.