Though far from declaring an end to the month-long military assault on the people of Gaza, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, Saturday, that Israeli forces were redeploying out of Gaza urban areas.According to Ma’an News Agency, he said via TV that Hamas would pay a ‘heavy price’ if it continued to fire rockets at Israel, noting that although Israeli troops were redeploying to areas with ‘less friction,’ they would remain prepared to strike.

Israeli media reported, earlier Saturday, that forces were unilaterally withdrawing from Gazan urban centers and re-deploying near the border which, in conjunction with Netanyahu’s statements, suggests that a limited ground re-occupation of the Gaza Strip is still foreseeable, according to Ma’an.

Hamas responded said earlier that it was prepared to continue to defend Gaza, stressing that Israel would have to pay a price for its ‘crimes’ regardless of whether it continued its operation, unilaterally withdrew, or returned to negotiations.

An army spokesman told AFP that Israel was ‘quite close to completing’ the destruction of tunnels used for infiltrating southern Israel — which Israel and international officials have insisted is the main objective of the massive ground operation which began on July 13th.

In alarming contrast with such statements, the actual statistics reveal that no less than 85% of all Gazans killed during operations have been civilians — to include women, children, infants, elderly and disabled — with the current Palestinan death toll now exceeding over 1,500.