The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Sunday, the 13th day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF announced Sunday evening that 13 Golani Brigade soldiers died overnight in fighting in Gaza, raising the Israeli army death toll to 18. The soldiers were killed in heavy combat in the Hamas stronghold of Shejaiya, which also left 60 Palestinians dead, Gaza Health Ministry officials said. Israel said the neighborhood is a Hamas stronghold, and that the army had warned residents to evacuate it. At day’s end, PM Netanyahu vowed that Hamas would be neutralized, and US Secretary said he was heading to Cairo in a ceasefire bid. (Monday’s liveblog is here.) You can also follow @TOIAlerts on Twitter — we’re live-tweeting all the updates there as well.

Blog is now closed

Operation Protective Edge enters its 13th day

Israel’s effort to stop Hamas rocket fire has entered its 13th day. And it has morphed, in the course of the IDF ground offensive launched Thursday night, into an effort heavily focused, too, on Hamas tunnel network.

Hamas gunmen emerging from one such tunnel yesterday morning into Israeli territory killed two IDF soldiers whose jeep happened to be patrolling in the area. A much worse attack was thus foiled, the army said, noting that material found at the scene indicated that the terrorists had intended to kill and kidnap soldiers and/or civilians in a major infiltration.

There is no sign of an imminent ceasefire, although Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal today. The rockets are still battering into Israel, causing one fatality and injuring several more people yesterday.

Stay with us through the day, and we’ll keep you updated.

‘Tens of thousands’ mass at Israeli consulate in Istanbul

Days of mass demonstrations outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul continue, as tens of thousands of Turks gather outside the building once more protest Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

The Turkish humanitarian aid group IHH, whose members were aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010, says tens of thousands are massed in front of the Israeli consulate in Turkey’s largest city Saturday.

Abbas meets with Bahraini king, talks ceasefire

Besides Qatar, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also visiting Bahrain. During a public event in Manama, Abbas reportedly spoke of his efforts stop the fighting in Gaza, according to local reports.

Abbas was greeted by Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who condemned Israel’s “brutal” operation in Gaza but expressed support for the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

In a speech, the tiny Gulf state’s ruler “highlighted Bahrain’s support for Palestine and its people and the need to reach a just, comprehensive and durable solution for the Palestinian cause and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, a full Israeli withdrawal from Arab territories occupied in 1967, an immediate halt to Israeli settlement activities, and the commitment to international legitimacy resolutions related to the Arab peace initiative,” Bahrain News Agency reports.

King Hamad further issued a “strong denunciation and rejection to the brutal Israeli aggression on Gaza,” according to the report. He calls on the international community to compel all parties to respect the international law, to immediately halt the fighting and “provide protection for the innocent Palestinian people.”

Jerusalem and Manama never maintained diplomatic relations, but, in 2005, King Hamad boasted to an American official that his state has contacts with Israel “at the intelligence/security level (i.e., with Mossad),” according to a different secret US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks. The king also indicated willingness “to move forward in other areas, although it will be difficult for Bahrain to be the first.”

In 2009, the Bahraini foreign minister signaled that he was willing to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to try to advance the peace process, but ultimately decided not to go ahead with the plan.

Raphael Ahren

Israel tells Gaza-based reporters it’s not liable for injury

The Israeli Government Press Office warns foreign journalists reporting from the Gaza Strip that covering the conflict in the Gaza Strip “exposes journalists to life-threatening danger.”

“As part of Hamas’ strategy of hiding behind the civilian population it has frequently exploited journalists as human shields, deliberately putting them at risk of injury or death,” the GPO says in a email forwarded to reporters.

“Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting.”

It closes, however, saying, “Be safe in your mission.”

Gaza toll hits 343 dead, 2,600 injured, Palestinians say

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra updates the casualty toll in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to 343 killed, 2,600 injured.

On the Israeli side, two civilians and three soldiers have been killed, and two civilians died of heart attacks during air raid sirens.

Hamas official calls for pressure on Israel to halt fire

Hamas political official Moussa Abu Marzouk tweets Saturday evening calling for international pressure to halt Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“To those who accuse Hamas and want a ceasefire to spare civilians, why don’t they pressure the aggressor, who kills children, to stop killing.”

Elhanan Miller

Hundreds in Denver call for end to strikes on Gaza

DENVER — Hundreds gathered for a rally at the State Capitol and a march through downtown Denver to call for an end to what they called a humanitarian crisis brought on by conflict in Gaza.

Demonstrators waving red, black, white and green Palestinian flags and signs that read “End Collective Punishment” gathered on the Capitol lawn Saturday. Police said the group marched peacefully through Denver.

The rally was organized by a coalition of groups supporting a Palestinian homeland. One of the rally’s leaders is Nadeen Ibrahim, president of the Muslim Student Association at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli military action over 12 days have killed five Israelis and 342 Palestinians. United Nations officials say that about 50,000 Palestinians are already staying in UN shelters.

— Associated Press

Sirens in Sdot Negev, Shaar Hanegev regions

Hamas charges Israel targeted Gaza ambulance

Hamas’s Health Ministry claims Israel targeted an ambulance in the Gaza Strip and calls on international organizations and the Red Cross to pressure Israel “to respect international law and not to target medical personnel.”

The Gaza Health Ministry’s report couldn’t be independently confirmed, nor did it specify where the incident took place.

Reports from Gaza say the IDF is engaging in intense shelling at points across the Strip late into the night, including the cities of Rafah and Gaza.

Israeli website counts down time since rockets

A newly created website counts down the time since Palestinian groups from the Gaza Strip fired the last rocket at Israel.

It is not clear whether the program also includes rockets fired from other neighboring countries, such as Syria, Lebanon or Egypt, in its calculations.

As of the times of this post, Israel was rocket free for 22 minutes.

Violent French anti-Israel protests injure 14 cops

Violent, unauthorized anti-Israel protests in Paris turn violent, and 14 police officers are wounded. At least 38 demonstrators are in police custody. For more on international protests against Israel’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, read our complete coverage.

Three killed in early morning strike on Gaza

Israeli strikes killed three people in southern Gaza early Sunday, medics said, as the bloodiest conflict for years brought the Palestinian death toll to 346.

The first casualty as Israel’s operation entered its 13th day was 56-year-old Hosni al-Absi, who was killed in the southern city of Rafah, emergency spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

It was not immediately clear if the explosion that killed Absi was from an air strike, tank or artillery fire, Qudra said.

Shortly afterwards, an air strike in Rafah killed two young men and wounded 10 more people, Qudra said.

The deaths brought the toll from Israel’s operation to stamp out rocket fire from the besieged Palestinian territory to 346 Palestinians.

Five Israelis, including two civilians, have been killed by cross-border rocket fire and firefights between Hamas and the army.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement early Sunday that Israeli forces had targeted ambulances trying to evacuate wounded from a heavy artillery shelling in the east of Gaza City.

AFP

Israel pounds Gaza as sun rises on Day 13

As the call to prayer echoes over the empty streets of the Gaza Strip for pre-sunup prayers, the buzz of Israeli drones and thud of airstrikes are audible in live video feeds from the Hamas-controlled territory. The orange flash of sporadic fire set the still dark skies aglow for brief moments.

Hamas’s Mashaal arrives in Kuwait

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal arrives in Kuwait to meet with the Gulf state’s emir and discuss ceasefire proposals and the situation in the Gaza Strip. According to a report in Haaretz, Mashaal has rejected the Arab League’s proposal to bring hostilities between Israel and Hamas to an end after nearly two weeks of fighting.

IDF deploys surge of ground troops to Gaza

The IDF has deployed a large number of ground troops into the Gaza Strip overnight as part of the latest phase of Operation Protective Edge, the spokesperson’s unit says in a statement.

“The operation will proceed according to the ongoing situation assessment held by the IDF General Staff,” Spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says in a statement. “In preparation for the mission, the forces have undergone an intensified training and thorough planning period and​ are prepared and stand ready for the task at hand.”

The operation’s goals remain, it says, “to strike a significant blow to Hamas’ terror capabilities and to restore security and stability to Israel’s residents and citizens.”

Two more soldiers killed in two separate incidents

Two more IDF soldiers were killed Saturday in two separate incidents, bringing the total number of soldiers killed since the outset of the current conflict to five.

On Saturday evening, a Hamas gunman emerged from a tunnel in southern Gaza and opened fire at IDF soldiers killing Sgt. Benya Rovel, 20, of Holon and injuring another. The soldiers returned fire, killing the gunman.

Earlier on Saturday, 21-year-old Second Lieutenant Bar Rahav, an IDF combat engineer from Ramat Yishai, was killed by an antitank missile fired at a paratrooper position.

On Saturday morning, two soldiers, including one officer, were killed during a Hamas raid in Ein Hashlosha near the Gaza Strip.

IDF hits house of Hamas official, kills four

Israeli artillery shelling targeted the home of a senior Hamas official east of Gaza City and killed four people on Sunday, medics say, including two children and the son of a senior Hamas official.

The intense bombardment on Shejaiya killed the son of Khalil al-Hayya, a senior member of the Palestinian Islamist movement, as Israeli steps up its 13-day operation in Gaza.

AFP and Times of Israel staff

State Department official tweets #UnitedForGaza

Rick Stengel, the US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, tweets the State Department’s position calling for an international investigation of Malaysian Airlines flight MH14’s crash in eastern Ukraine earlier this week. In the process, however, he apparently adds the pro-Palestinian subject #UnitedForGaza.

There is no immediate word from the State Department about Stengel’s message.

In case the tweet is removed, here’s a photo:

Undersecretary of State Rick Stengel tweets #UnitedforGaza (screen capture: Twitter)

Undersecretary of State Rick Stengel tweets #UnitedforGaza (screen capture: Twitter)

Rocket falls near kibbutz in Sdot Negev region

No injuries or damage are reported after missile from Gaza impacts near Israeli community in South.

Five rockets fell overnight in the Sdot Negev region of southern Israel, inflicting no injuries or damage, Ynet reports.

No Iron Dome intercepts overnight

For the first time since Operation Protective Edge started thirteen days ago, the Iron Dome system goes an entire night without being utilized to intercept rockets or mortars from Gaza.

An Iron Dome missile defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An Iron Dome missile defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

21 IDF soldiers in Israeli hospitals

A total of 21 Israeli soldiers wounded in the Gaza fighting are currently in Israeli hospitals, Israel Radio reports.

Two of the soldiers are suffering from serious wounds, 12 are moderately injured, and the rest are lightly hurt.

Ten of the soldiers are in Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital, eight in Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital, and three in Sheba Hospital near Tel Aviv.

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba serves about 1 million people in the Negev region. (Photo courtesy of Soroka Medical Center)

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba serves about 1 million people in the Negev region. (Photo courtesy of Soroka Medical Center)

 

Hamas claims it struck Israeli APC, tank

Sources in Hamas are claiming its militants struck an IDF armored personnel carrier and a tank in the neighborhood of Sajaiya neighborhood in the eastern Gaza Strip. The terrorist organization is saying it fired an anti-tank missile or detonated an explosive device next to the vehicles.

In addition, Islamic Jihad says it detonated a mine near IDF foot soldiers in the southeastern Gaza neighborhood of Tuffah.

There has been no official Israeli confirmation of the claims.

Warning sirens in Sha’ar Hanegev

‘Meshaal ready to head to Cairo for talks’

Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk says that Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal is ready to discuss the Egyptian ceasefire proposal in Cairo.

“If Egypt invites Khaled Meshaal to visit Cairo to discuss the initiative, he would be ready to come tomorrow,” he tells a-Sharq al-Aqsat, Ynet reports.

Marzouk also says that his organization is not trying to sideline Egypt by turning to Turkey and Qatar. “There is no one in Hamas who can move away from Egypt or embarrass it.”

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (photo credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (photo credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Marzouk also says that Hamas did not reject the Egyptian initiative, but asked for amendments that would help the Palestinian population.

Rocket hits open area near Ofakim

‘Turkish-Israeli relations depend on stopping operation’

Improving relations between Turkey and Israeli depend on bringing the current operation in Gaza to a halt, a Turkish foreign ministry official tells the London-based a-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.

According to Israeli news site Ynet, the official says the relationship can only be fixed if Israel opens the border crossings into Gaza and stops harming Gazan civilians.

Cars transported into Gaza via the Erez crossing (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Cars transported into Gaza via the Erez crossing (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Turkey is working with other countries to apply pressure on Israel to stop Operation Protective Edge, and is not in direct contact with Israel.

‘We’ve hit half of Hamas’s rockets’ — minister

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz tells Channel 2 that Israel has struck 50 percent of Hamas’s rockets.

The Likud lawmaker also says that eventually Israel will be forced to take over the Gaza Strip.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on February 2, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz on February 2, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Nine rockets fall in Sha’ar Hanegev overnight

The Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, adjacent to Gaza, was struck by nine rockets fired from Gaza overnight, Ynet reports. There are no injuries or damage reported.

18 soldiers brought to Ashkelon hospital overnight

Eighteen injured Israeli soldiers are transported to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital overnight, according to Ynet.

Two of them are moderately injured, the condition of the others is still unclear.

Hamas trying to defend tunnels

The operation in Gaza has expanded to keep the pressure on Hamas’s tunnel infrastructure, says IDF spokesman Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner.

The majority of the fighting is in the northern Gaza Strip, he says.

“Hamas is really trying to defend their infrastructure and much of the contact is in and around the tunnel areas,” Lerner explains.

Two tunnels have been fully demolished, one reaching toward Kibbutz Zikim and the other toward Kibbutz Netiv Ha’asarah north of the Gaza Strip.

One of three tunnels that were discovered by soldiers from the Nahal Brigade in the Gaza Strip on July 19, 2014 Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

One of three tunnels that were discovered by soldiers from the Nahal Brigade in the Gaza Strip on July 19, 2014 Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Fourteen other tunnels are being explored. Most of the tunnels found before operation were near Kerem Shalom in the south, but now most are in northern Gaza Strip. This shows the extent of the tunnel infrastructure, says Lerner.

He described the infrastructure as “an entire underground Gaza.”

There has also been an increase of troops on the ground, according to Lerner.

— Mitch Ginsburg

In Kerry call, PM pans Erdogan’s Holocaust comments

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slams his Turkish counterpart over “anti-Semitic” comments he made in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s words “desecrate the memory of the Holocaust,” Netanyahu tells US Secretary of State John Kerry in a telephone conversation overnight.

Erdogan, who is running for president in Turkey, also said Israel’s operation in Gaza accounts to “barbarism that surpasses Hitler.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the parliament in Ankara, July 15, 2014.  (photo credit: AFP/ADEM ALTAN)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the parliament in Ankara, July 15, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ADEM ALTAN)

Netanyahu conducted security consultations in the Defense Ministry’s Tel Aviv headquarters until after midnight, diplomatic sources say. Netanyahu discussed a possible expansion of the ground operation in Gaza with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence agencies and other senior security officials.

On Sunday, the prime minister is set to continue holding security consultations throughout the day, in addition to conducting conversations with foreign heads of state and government, the diplomatic sources say.

— Raphael Ahren

Warning sirens in Beersheba

Details to come.

Thousands flee Gaza’s Shejaiya after heavy shelling

Thousands of people flee Gaza’s eastern Shejaiya district earlier today, many of them on foot, after heavy shelling leaves casualties lying in the streets, an AFP correspondent reports.

Ambulances are unable to reach much of the area along the border because of heavy fire, and emergency services tell AFP there are reports of dead and wounded trapped by the bombardment.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Gaza border area

Sirens in Dan, Sharon regions

Details to follow as central Israel comes under fire.

2 Iron Dome intercepts over Beersheba

After warning sirens sound, the Iron Dome intercepts 2 rockets over Beersheba. Three other rockets fall into open areas.

Interception over Sharon region

After sirens sound in Ra’anana and Herzliya, the Iron Dome successfully shot down at least one rocket.

Hamas says it fired three M-75 rockets at Tel Aviv this morning.

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery set in the Ashdod area, fires an intercepting missile, on July 13, 2014. (Photo credit: David Buimovitch/Flash90)

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery set in the Ashdod area, fires an intercepting missile, on July 13, 2014. (Photo credit: David Buimovitch/Flash90)

Police arrest 21 Haifa demonstrators

Right- and left-wing protests in Haifa turn violent Saturday night, and police arrest 21 people after being forced to separate between the rival camps.

Police also help a bus escape after it was stoned.

Three policemen are lightly injured.

UN hands rockets over to ‘Gaza authorities’

United Nations officials handed the rockets found in Gaza school over to “Gaza authorities,” sources in Jerusalem confirm, raising fears that they will find their way to Hamas and be shot at Israel.

Last week, some 20 rockets were found in a vacant school operated by the UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA quickly condemned the groups storing the rockets after their discovery.

— Raphael Ahren

4 soldiers brought to Tel Hashomer

Four injured soldiers are transported to Tel Hashomer Hospital, Ynet reports.

Direct hit on Ashkelon house

A house in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon is struck by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.

No injuries are reported.

20 reported killed in Gaza neighborhood

As Israeli forces bombard Gaza Sunday morning, Palestinian sources report 20 people killed in the Shejaiya area of northern Gaza City, where some of the heaviest fighting has been concentrated, AFP reports.

Ambulances have been unable to reach much of the area along the border because of heavy fire, and emergency services told AFP there were reports of dead and wounded trapped by the bombardment.

At Shifa hospital, casualties were being brought in by the minute, some in ambulances, but others in cars and trucks.

Among them were screaming children with shrapnel wounds. One of them was clearly already dead, his head hanging lifelessly, the AFP reporter describes.

Fights broke out in the emergency room as hysterical parents banged on the walls in fear and sorrow.

Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, who said the Gazan death toll was now 370, published pictures on Facebook showing the scene outside Shifa hospital.

— Times of Israel staff and AFP

Golani Brigade commander suffers injuries

The commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Ghassan Elian, is lightly-moderately injured in Gaza fighting.

Elian, from the town of Shfaram, made history in 2013 when he was appointed to command the brigade, becoming the IDF’s first Druze brigade commander.

Backstreet Boys postpone Israel shows

To the consternation of their Israeli fans, the hit band Backstreet Boys postpone their upcoming concerts in Ra’anana.

“Very sorry to inform that the concerts on July 29-30-31 at the Raanana Amphitheater have been postponed..,” the band says on its Facebook page.

The Backstreet Boys tickets sold out within minutes (Courtesy Backstreet Boys)

The Backstreet Boys tickets sold out within minutes (Courtesy Backstreet Boys)

Two soldiers brought to Hadassah-Ein Kerem

Two lightly injured soldiers are transferred to the Hadassah Medical Center in the Ein Kerem neighborhood of Jerusalem, Ynet reports.

The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy Hadassah)

The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem (photo credit: Courtesy Hadassah)

Sirens in Rishon, Shfela

Rocket sirens are heard in Rishon Lezion, located south of Tel Aviv, and in the Shfela region, also known as the Judean lowlands.

The attack comes about two hours after rockets targeted Tel Aviv and its northern environs in the Sharon region.

Two rockets shot down over Dan Region

Hamas TV runs video with numerous Sajaiya casualties

Amid accounts of Palestinians fleeing the Gaza neighborhood of Sajaiya, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV is showing a video (Warning: Graphic content) with dead civilians lying in a street after an explosion of some kind. The organization says the dead, including many women and children, were killed in a “Zionist massacre,” with 13 dead and 200 injured.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency says that the death toll is expected to rise.

51 soldiers in Israeli hospitals

The number of IDF soldiers in Israeli hospitals is at 51, Israel Radio reports.

Seven are seriously injured, and 15 moderately hurt. Eight more are being assessed, and the rest are lightly hurt.

Hamas asks for 2-hour ceasefire

After heavy fighting in the Sajaiya neighborhood, and Palestinian reports of numerous civilian casualties, Hamas asks Israel for a two-hour ceasefire in order to retrieve the injured and dead, Ynet reports.

The request is passed through the International Red Cross.

TV shows IDF ambulances reaching hospitals

News broadcasts in Israel are showing footage of incoming IDF ambulances at hospitals bringing injured IDF soldiers in for treatment. At least 51 Israeli soldiers, some seriously injured, are in Israeli hospitals.

IDF intensifies strikes in Gaza

Israeli artillery and planes are intensifying their bombing in the Sajaiya neighborhood of the Gaza Strip, Channel 2 reports. The station is showing live footage of heavy smoke rising from the area.

Hurt Golani commander trying to rejoin action

Col. Ghassan Elian, the Golani Brigade commander injured in overnight clashes in the northern Gaza Strip, is asking doctors to let him rejoin his soldiers.

Elian was injured in his eye, but his vision is not affected. He was airlifted to Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital, where his condition was upgraded from moderate to lightly injured.

“I have many soldiers there. I need to return,” he says, according to Channel 10.

Doctors tell him he still has shrapnel in his body, and cannot leave.

Elian, 42, hails from the northern city of Shfaram.

At least 40 Palestinians killed in Gaza, medics say

At least 40 people were killed and nearly 400 wounded in Israeli shelling of Gaza’s northeastern Shejaiya district overnight, medics say on Sunday.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says 40 bodies had been retrieved from the neighborhood, and at least 380 people had been wounded in shelling that was still continuing.

A Palestinian cameraman and a paramedic were among the dozens killed, medics say.

“Cameraman Khaled Hammad and paramedic Fuad Jaber were killed in a strike on an ambulance, while they were trying to evacuate the wounded from Shejaiya,” al-Qudra tells AFP.

— AFP

Sirens in Beersheba area

Israel refuses ceasefire — Hamas

Hamas says Israel has refused to grant a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire. 

— Avi Issacharoff

Smoke rises over Gaza City

A massive plume of gray smoke is rising over Gaza City, pictures and broadcasts from the Strip show.

The fire is rising from the Shejaiya neighborhood in the east of the city, reportedly the scene of heavy fighting overnight and into the morning.

Palestinian and international sources report 40 killed in the neighborhood, and thousands fleeing for safer ground.

Rockets hit outside Beersheba

Four rockets are reported to land in open areas outside of Beersheba, after sirens are heard across northern Negev.

No injuries or damage are reported.

3 rockets hit in Eshkol region

After sirens sound, three rockets strike near communities in the Eshkol Regional Council on the Gaza border. No injuries are reported.

Israel yet to respond to ceasefire request — report

Despite Hamas reports that Israel turned down a request for a two-hour humanitarian ceasefire, Channel 10 says that Israel received the request through the Red Cross and has yet to respond.

Hamas says it asked for the truce in order to evacuate dead and injured from the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, where dozens are reported killed.

1,780 rockets fired from Gaza, says IDF

The IDF spokesperson’s office says that 1,780 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge began 13 days ago.

Rockets continued to fly toward Ashkelon, Beersheba, Eshkol, and the Dan region Sunday.

Israel to open field hospital for Gaza civilians

The IDF will open a field hospital this evening for injured Gazans, Channel 10 military reporter Gili Cohen reports.

The hospital, which will be protected from rockets, will include recovery rooms and birthing rooms.

Soldiers setting up an Israeli field hospital in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Soldiers setting up an Israeli field hospital in the Golan Heights (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Egypt condemns Shejaiya escalation

Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry releases a statement condemning the escalation of fighting in the Gaza Strip, with an emphasis on the Shejaiya neighborhood.

Palestinian families who fled their homes from Shejaiya neighborhood, arrive to Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Adel Hana)

Palestinian families who fled their homes from Shejaiya neighborhood, arrive to Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip on Sunday, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Adel Hana)

Dozens of Palestinian casualties are reported in overnight fighting in Shejaiya, as well as significant numbers of wounded IDF soldiers.

The announcement also says that Egypt stands with the Palestinian people.

Qatar, Turkey yet to propose truce terms

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says that Hamas has submitted its demands to Qatar and Turkey, but so far there is no ceasefire initiative other than Egypt’s. 

— Elhanan Miller

Presidential inauguration scaled back

Ceremonies marking the inauguration of Reuven Rivlin as the next president will be toned down in light of the difficult fighting in the Gaza Strip, Channel 10 reports.

Rivlin will officially replace Shimon Peres on Thursday.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein has been meeting with the prime minister, religious leaders, Rivlin himself, and other relevant decision-makers in order to strike the right balance in the ceremony. Edelstein weighed both canceling the event entirely and making do with a statement, and holding a regular ceremony in order to project to Hamas that life goes on as usual in Israel.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog is calling for a full ceremony.

Israeli president-elect Reuven Rivlin speaks to members of the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Israeli president-elect Reuven Rivlin speaks to members of the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Israel accepts 2-hour localized humanitarian ceasefire

Despite Hamas claims to the contrary, Israel will accept a 2-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Shejaiya neighborhood in order to allow rescue services to reach dead and wounded Palestinians.

The truce will last from 1:30-3:30 p.m., and is limited only to Shejaiya.

Hamas passed the request to Israel through the Red Cross, and said earlier that Israel rejected the offer.

Palestinian media reports that dozens were killed overnight in fierce fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood.

An injured Palestinian boy is carried into at Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Sunday, July 20, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

An injured Palestinian boy is carried into Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Sunday, July 20, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

Israel denies kidnap rumors

An IDF source firmly denies rumors circulating in Israel that an IDF soldier was kidnapped during heavy fighting overnight in the Gaza Strip.

According to Walla, the sources laments the spread of such rumors, saying they needlessly cause worry among Israeli forces.

‘Hamas never received official Egypt invitation’

Hamas official Hussam Badran tells Hamas news website Al-Resalah that political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal never received an official invitation to to come to Egypt, but only “invitations through mediators.” Badran was refuting earlier reports that said Mashaal had refused Egypt’s invitation to discuss a ceasefire.

Badran adds, however, that Hamas will “never discuss the Egyptian initiative in its current formulation, or consider any initiative that does not comply with the demands of the resistance and express the minimal needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

— Elhanan Miller

IDF hospital for Gazans to open at 8 p.m.

The field hospital Israel is preparing for injured Palestinians at the Erez Crossing will open Sunday night at 8 p.m., the IDF says.

“The hospital will include an emergency clinic, pediatrician and gynecology services, a delivery room and hospitalization when needed. The staff will include doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and lab technicians,” an IDF statement reads.

Journalists say Hamas keeping them in Gaza

International reporters claim that Hamas is preventing them from leaving the Gaza Strip.

On Saturday, Israel warned journalists in the coastal strip that “Gaza and its vicinity are a battleground. Covering the hostilities exposes journalists to life-threatening danger. Israel is not in any way responsible for injury or damage that may occur as a result of field reporting.”

Fake TOI screenshot makes the rounds

A falsified screenshot of The Times of Israel’s homepage makes social media rounds over the weekend, purportedly showing a report of Israel’s airstrikes on the Gaza Strip being screened on a Tel Aviv beach.

The screenshot is, obviously, a doctored photo.

The headline on the supposed screenshot, dating from Thursday, July 17, ungrammatically reads “Tel-Aviv municipality to install giant screens on beach to watch IDF offensive in live.” The picture and text are reminiscent of controversial (and real) photos of Sderot residents sitting on a hilltop to watch the Israeli Air Force conduct air raids on the Strip.

A doctored 'screenshot' of The Times of Israel's homepage, purporting to show the Israel Air Force raids on the Gaza Strip being screened on a beach in Tel Aviv. (screen capture)

A doctored ‘screenshot’ of The Times of Israel’s homepage, purporting to show the Israel Air Force raids on the Gaza Strip being screened on a beach in Tel Aviv. (screen capture)

The underline of the “story” reads: “Finally, IDF supporters will have the opportunity to enjoy their favorite game in an ideal environment. Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to gather on the beach tonight and enjoy the warm summer evening while counting the F-16 strikes on the nearby coastal city of Gaza.”

The original photo was actually taken over a month ago, on June 16, 2014 — not in Tel Aviv, but in Brazil. The shot, taken by Associated Press photographer Wong Maye-E, depicts two men relaxing between games in front of a blank screen erected on the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for fans to watch live broadcasts of the World Cup.

The fake screenshot supposedly taken from The Times of Israel was first posted on Thursday, July 17. It was uploaded to Twitter by user @boun0479, who identifies himself as Nicolas Bousserez, an atmospheric scientist and musician from Boulder, Colorado, and retweeted — at the time of writing — 267 times.

IDF says Hamas breaks ceasefire

The IDF is claiming that Hamas has already broken the humanitarian truce that went into effect 1:30 p.m. “Hamas has not stopped shooting” from Shejaiya, the IDF spokesperson’s office says.

IDF spokesman Peter Lerner tweets that the IDF is responding.

The ceasefire, scheduled from 1:30-3:30 p.m., is meant to allow rescue services to reach Palestinians who were killed or injured in heavy overnight fighting in Shejaiya.

IDF says 10 tunnels found in Shejaiya

Israel says it has found 10 tunnel openings in the Shejaiya neighborhood.

IDF forces were engaged in heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood overnight, leading to significant Israeli and Palestinian casualties.

Israel says gunmen violate truce

After tweeting that Hamas violated the temporary ceasefire, the IDF tells The Times of Israel that gunmen opened fire on a group of IDF soldiers.

The identity of the gunmen is unknown, says the IDF, but it sees the attack as a clear violation of the truce.

The IDF holds Hamas responsible for attacks from Gaza on IDF forces.

— Mitch Ginsburg

Images of Shejaiya destruction emerge

After heavy fighting overnight in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya, photos emerge showing some of the damage. There are images of collapsed buildings, litter-strewn streets, bomb craters, and bodies of dead Palestinians.

Images of destruction have come out the Shejaiya neighborhood after heavy fighting there (Screen capture: Reuters)

Images of destruction in the Shejaiya neighborhood after heavy fighting there (Screen capture: Reuters)

Abbas declares 3 days of mourning

After dozens of Palestinians are reported killed in Shejaiya, PA President Mahmoud Abbas calls for three days of mourning, says Israel Radio’s Gal Berger.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Hamas breaks humanitarian truce, IDF responds

Fighting has resumed in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood less than an hour into a two-hour, humanitarian truce brokered by the Red Cross, Reuters reports.

The IDF says Hamas breached the ceasefire, firing at Israeli troops at an undisclosed location.

The military said it “responded accordingly.”

Over 50 soldiers injured since ground op began

More than 50 IDF soldiers have been injured since the ground incursion began last Thursday, Channel 2 reports. Fourteen are hospitalized at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, including two in moderate to serious condition.

Five Israeli soldiers have died in confrontations with Hamas since the ground operation started, four of them on Saturday.

Two rockets explode in Eshkol region

Two rockets land in open terrain in the Eshkol Regional Council, causing no damage or injuries.

Hamas minister calls on West Bank Palestinians to attack Israelis

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad calls on Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out attacks on Israeli targets, Channel 2 reports.

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad speaks to graduates of the organization's youth camps in Gaza, calling on them to annihilate Israel and take their struggle across the world, in January 2014. (screen capture: MEMRI)

Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad speaks to graduates of the organization’s youth camps in Gaza, calling on them to annihilate Israel and take their struggle across the world, in January 2014. (screen capture: MEMRI)

IDF says will extend truce by an hour

The IDF says it will extend the humanitarian ceasefire brokered by the Red Cross by one hour, even though its forces were shot at by Hamas gunmen, effectively breaching the temporary truce.

France won’t allow internal Jewish-Muslim conflicts, PM says

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls vows not to allow conflicts between the nation’s Jews and Muslims to erupt, even if it means banning protests.

Valls speaks at a memorial ceremony for the more than 13,000 Jews rounded up in the Paris region 72 years ago, with most held at a cycling stadium, known as the “Vel d’Hiv,” before being sent to Auschwitz. The “Vel d’Hiv roundup” was among the darkest days for French Jews in Nazi-occupied France.

The comment comes a day after pro-Palestinian demonstrators defied a Paris protest ban to denounce Israel’s offensive in Gaza and clashed with police. A week earlier, two synagogues were attacked by protesters.

Valls says, “France will not allow provocations to feed … conflicts between communities.”

— AP

Shejaiya neighborhood a Hamas stronghold, says IDF

Military sources say the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City is a Hamas stronghold and that more than 150 rockets have been launched from that area into Israel over the past two weeks.

The area also has several tunnel openings and weapons storage facilities, Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari reports.

According to Gazan medical sources, over 60 Palestinians have been killed so far today in fighting in that neighborhood.

Abbas to meet Hamas’s Mashaal, UN’s Ban Ki-moon

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet with Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal in Doha, Qatar, today to discuss ceasefire efforts between Israel and the terror organization.

Abbas will then meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is also in the Gulf country, after which the two will set off to Cairo to meet with Egyptian mediators.

Ban Ki-moon is expected in Israel on Tuesday.

– Avi Issacharoff

Kerry: Hamas ‘stubbornly’ refusing ceasefire bid

US Secretary of State John Kerry blames Hamas for the continuation of the conflict in Gaza, saying the Islamic militants are refusing all ceasefire efforts.

“They’ve been offered a ceasefire and they’ve refused to take the ceasefire,” Kerry tells ABC television today, adding that Hamas has “stubbornly” refused efforts to defuse the conflict “even though Egypt and others have called for that ceasefire.”

– AFP

Erdogan castigates US over Gaza

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on his NATO ally the United States to engage in “self-criticism” after it labeled his comments on Israel’s Gaza campaign “offensive.”

“If America still says ‘Israel is using its right to self-defense’ it is America that needs to engage in self-criticism,” Erdogan tells the TGRT news channel.

A staunch advocate of the Palestinian cause, Erdogan has stepped up his criticism of Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip, accusing the Jewish state of carrying out “state terrorism” and a “genocide” of Palestinians.

On Friday, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki branded Erdogan’s comments “offensive and wrong.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses supporters in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 29, 2014. (photo credit: AP)

“When there are concerns we have about comments made or actions taken, even when it is a NATO ally, we certainly don’t hesitate to make those concerns known,” she said.

Erdogan says he was sticking to his comments, accusing Israel of using “disproportionate force” and killing Palestinians “mercilessly.”

“How can we ignore this? How can a country like the United States turn a blind eye to this?” he asks. “As a member of the UN Security Council, it needs to act fairly.”

– AFP

Israelis underestimated Hamas — ex-IDF spokesman

Labor MK and former IDF spokesman Nachman Shai says “Israel underestimated Hamas.”

Maybe the government knew, but Israelis didn’t, that Hamas would be able to fire rockets for two weeks while under heavy fire, to attempt sea infiltrations, tunnel attacks and more, he tells Channel 2.

Nachman Shai (photo credit: Flash90)

Nachman Shai (photo credit: Flash90)

IDF extends truce for additional hour

The IDF announces that the humanitarian truce will be extended for an additional hour to allow for the transfer of medical aid and to enable Palestinian civilians to leave the Shejaiya neighborhood.

This is the second extension to a temporary ceasefire that started at 1:30 p.m. local time, even as the IDF says its troops have been shot at by Hamas in that window of time.

Kuwait calls for end to Gaza bloodshed

Kuwait calls on the international community to apply pressure on Israel to “stop its aggression” on Gaza following a visit by Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal to the Gulf state.

Kuwait, which holds the rotating presidency of both the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), also announces its backing for an Egyptian truce proposal that was turned down by Hamas.

Mashaal held talks on the conflict with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and met with Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah, the state KUNA news agency reports.

The foreign minister reiterates “his call on the international community to shoulder humanitarian responsibility by applying pressure on Israel to stop its aggression, and providing protection for the Palestinian people,” KUNA reports.

The minister affirms “Kuwait’s commitment and support for the Egyptian truce initiative which calls for an immediate ceasefire,” the report says.

He also stresses the emirate’s support for the Palestinian people and condemns “all Israeli criminal and aggression acts in Gaza that led to the killing and wounding of scores of innocent victims.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due in Kuwait on Monday for talks with the emir over diplomatic efforts for a Gaza truce, KUNA says.

— AFP

Kerry headed to Israel on Tuesday

US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to arrive in Israel on Tuesday to advance ceasefire efforts between Israel and Hamas, Channel 2 reports.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon is also expected in Israel on that day.

Kerry caught on hot mic seemingly slamming Israel’s Gaza op

US Secretary of State John Kerry was caught on an open mic talking about Israel’s Operation Protective Edge prior to an interview with Fox News today, in comments that are being described as critical.

“‘It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,’ Kerry says to an aide on the phone, with some measure of frustration,” Politico reports.

“We’ve got to get over there…we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around,” he says.

The comments, says Politico, seemed to be criticizing Israel’s “assurances about the limited scope of its attack and ground invasion of Gaza.”

Sirens in Ashkelon, Beersheba, Ofakim

Sirens blare in the southern cities of Ashkelon, Hof Ashkelon, Beersheba, Ofakim and Netivot.

According to initial reports, several rockets were shot down over Beersheba. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Iron Dome intercepts 4 rockets over Ashkelon

Netanyahu to CNN: Gaza op measured, pinpointed

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s operation in Gaza has been “very measured” and “as pinpointed” as possible.

In an interview with CNN, the PM says Israel has “no choice” but to protect itself.

“The Hamas deliberately targets civilians and deliberately hides behind civilians. They embed the rocketeers, the rockets caches, their other weaponry from which they use to fire on us in civilian areas. What choice to we have? We have to protect ourselves. So we try to target the rocketeers, we do. And all civilian casualties are unintended by us, but actually intended by Hamas. They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can, because somebody said, they use, I mean it’s gruesome, they use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better,” he says.

Netanyahu add that Israel regrets and does not seek the deaths of Palestinian civilians but that the responsibility for the loss of life falls on Hamas.

“They use their civilians to protect their missiles. So against such a cynical, brutal, heartless enemy, we try to minimize civilian casualties. We try to target the military targets and unfortunately there are civilian casualties which we regret and we don’t seek. They all fall on the responsibility of Hamas, ” says Netanyahu.

Sirens in Beersheba, 4 rockets in open areas

Sirens blare in Beersheba for the second time in less than 30 minutes.

Four rockets land in open terrain near the city.

Netanyahu urges Gazans to flee homes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu uses an interview to BBC Arabic to directly address the people of Gaza.

“Leave your homes to the places where you’re told to go,” he says. “Leave, don’t stay there. Because Hamas wants you to die, and you shouldn’t die for Hamas. They don’t care about you. But we want you to be safe.”

— Raphael Ahren

PM, top defense brass to address nation at 8

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz are scheduled to deliver remarks and answer questions at 8 pm at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv later today.

– Raphael Ahren

Heavy fighting in Gaza neighborhood

The IDF is currently carrying out heavy strikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. Channel 2 says 52 targets have been hit today, including more than 20 homes from which Hamas operating.

The fighting in Shejaiya has been extremely heavy, Channel 2 says. Palestinian sources report over 60 dead in the Gaza neighborhood today.

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile hits the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014.  (Photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile hits the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, Sunday, July 20, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

5 IDF soldiers killed over weekend laid to rest

IDF soldiers Sgt. Eitan Barak, 20; Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20; and Major (res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, are laid to rest in Herzliya, Nahariya and Hod Hasharon respectively.

Sgt. Bnaya Rubel, 20, and cadet Bar Rahav, 21, will be buried at 7 pm at the military cemeteries in Tivon and Holon respectively.

20-year-old Eitan Barak, who was killed overnight Thursday during IDF activity in the Gaza Strip. (Photo credit: Flash90)

20-year-old Eitan Barak, who was killed overnight Thursday during IDF activity in the Gaza Strip. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Second Lieutenant Bar Rahav, 21, (left) and Sergeant Bnaya Rubel, 20, killed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, July 19. (photo credit: Facebook)

Second Lieutenant Bar Rahav, 21, (left) and Sergeant Bnaya Rubel, 20, killed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, July 19. (photo credit: Facebook)

Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, from Nahariya (left) and Maj. (Res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, from Hod Hasharon, who were killed when Hamas gunmen inflitrated into southern Israel on July 19 (photo credit: Courtesy)

Sgt. Adar Barsano, 20, from Nahariya (left) and Maj. (Res.) Amotz Greenberg, 45, from Hod Hasharon, who were killed when Hamas gunmen inflitrated into southern Israel on July 19 (photo credit: Courtesy)

Egypt summons Turkish envoy over Gaza criticism

Egypt’s foreign ministry summons Turkey’s charge d’affaires over criticism of Cairo’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas in neighboring Gaza.

Turkey and Egypt withdrew their ambassadors last year after the military ousted Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who had forged closer ties with Turkey’s devout premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan on Friday called Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi a tyrant, saying Cairo could not be relied upon to negotiate a truce with Israel.

– AFP

28 soldiers hospitalized in Ashkelon

Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon is treating 28 soldiers injured in the Gaza fighting today. One soldier is in moderate condition while the rest sustained light injuries.

More than 50 soldiers are being treated in hospitals around the country, including Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva and Hadassah Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

13 soldiers killed in Gaza fighting overnight

Thirteen IDF soldiers from the Golani Brigade were killed overnight during battles in Gaza City’s Shejaiyah neighborhood in clashes with Hamas gunmen, bringing the death toll of military fatalities to 18.

The families have been notified.

The IDF says it is is currently “completing the identification process” after which pending the families’ consent, the names will be made public.”

Security cabinet to meet tonight on Gaza op

The eight-member security cabinet is set to convene tonight to discuss the military operation in Gaza.

Sirens sound in Ashkelon, Sdot Negev, Netivot

Sirens blare in Ashkelon, Sdot Negev and Netivot.

A rocket landed in open terrain outside Netivot; there were no reports of injuries or damage.

Gaza ambush kills 13 soldiers from Golani Brigade

Thirteen soldiers were killed overnight when they encountered fierce resistance fighting in the dense urban environment of Gaza City, the IDF announced today.

The central battle began when an anti-tank missile fired from within a Gaza building struck an Israeli armored personnel carrier, killing seven soldiers from the 13th battalion of the Golani Brigade, the army says.

The ambush, supported by machine gun fire, took place in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, in the northern part of the 40-kilometer-long Strip.

In the ensuing fighting, an unspecified number of soldiers were wounded, including Col. Ghassan Elian, the commander of the Golani Brigade, whose wound was deemed light to moderate.

Read the full story here.

IDF chief says army to continue its missions

IDF Chief  Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz tells reporters, following the announcement earlier today that 13 soldiers were killed overnight, that “today, there were more casualties than on previous days, in battles in areas that were complex and difficult.”

“We are in the 13th day of fighting and my impression is that this military campaign is going well and is being managed well,” he says.

“We are determined to fulfill missions and I trust that our forces will know how to deal with the difficulties and continue to operate as necessary.”

“In battle there are casualties, but our role is to fulfill missions – and we will continue in that,” says the commander of the army. “The residents of Shejaiya, too, know that they fell victim to the deployment of Hamas personnel in the neighborhood.”

Gantz says Israel regrets the loss of civilian life but stresses that the IDF does everything it can to get noncombatants to leave areas targeted for strikes.

He adds that, despite the losses on the Israeli side, Hamas is being hit hard, it is losing men and harm is being done to its tunnel infrastructure.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Photo credit: Flash 90)

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Journalist says Gaza gunman dressed as woman

A journalist for Canada’s CTV says that she saw a Palestinian gunman in Shejaiya dressed as a civilian woman, amid reports that Hamas prevented civilians from leaving, using them as human shields.

The Shejaiya neighborhood In Gaza City has been the site of fierce battles over the past 24 hours which have caused the deaths of 13 Israeli soldiers and some 60 Palestinians, according to Gazan medical sources.

 

Hamas tunnels cost hundreds of millions, ex-IDF general says

Retired IDF maj. gen. Giora Eiland tells Channel 2 that Hamas’s terror tunnels cost an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars, funds which were spent while thousands of the Islamist government in Gaza’s civil servants went without pay for months in the lead-up to the current crisis.

Gantz: Hamas built war machine among civilians

IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz says the IDF will not be deterred from its mission to restore sustained security for Israel’s citizens. He says the IDF would “learn from the incident” and that “the enemy had prepared” for conflict with Israel.

To the “misfortune of Gaza’s residents,” Gantz says, Hamas “instead of building houses, schools, hospitals and factories” had built a war machine in residential areas.

He says Israel mourned the loss of life and injury among Gaza civilians, but emphasized that Israel had repeatedly warned residents of the area to evacuate because Hamas had deployed there.

“We issued warning after warning,” he says, making phone calls, distributing leaflets and more. He said the IDF would make “every effort” to prevent civilian casualties, and that Israel was sending aid into Gaza, and had opened a field hospital on the border. No other army or country would act in this way, he said. But “in the end there is a mission, a moral obligation” to protect the people of Israel.

Overall, said Gantz, the IDF offensive against Hamas was proceeding well, and the soldiers were doing “fantastic work.” He says: “I’m proud of them. All of Israel should be proud of them.”

Hamas was losing “more of its people, more capabilities, more infrastructure” hour after hour. “We will maximize our achievements” Gantz says, and “strip them of their capabilities.” He urged the Israeli public to be patient and stand firm.

IDF says 110 terrorists killed, over 1,000 targets hit since ground op began

The IDF says six terror tunnels were destroyed today in Gaza.

Since the ground operation began on Thursday night, the IDF says its forces have killed 110 gunmen and have hit over 1,000 targets across the Gaza Strip.

 

Details emerge on how 13 soldiers died in Gaza battles

The incident in which seven soldiers were killed took place shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, IDF sources say.

Two more soldiers were killed in exchanges of gunfire with Hamas 20 and 30 minutes later.

Three more soldiers were killed when an anti-tank missile was fired into a building in which they were setting up a command post.

The 13th fatality was still being investigated by the IDF late Sunday.

IDF says Hamas tunnels like subway stations

The IDF says it uncovered six “terror tunnels” today with different access points, including several inside Israeli territory.

The military also says that in cooperation with the Shin Bet, “the head of the Hamas observation alignment in the Gaza Strip” was also targeted.

IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says: “Since the beginning of the ground phase of the operation, the IDF has exposed 14 tunnels headed towards Israel, all intended to infiltrate Israel and carry out terror attacks. It’s like the ‘Underground,’ the ‘Metro’ or the ‘Subway.’ These tunnels are all connected. I would describe it as ‘Lower Gaza.'”

The army says it found a 15th Hamas tunnel dug under the Israeli border, near Moshav Netiv Ha’asara, through which Hamas had planned a terror attack on Israeli civilians.

Tunnel opening discovered by IDF in Gaza,  July 20, 2014. (Photo credit: IDF)

Tunnel opening discovered by the IDF in Gaza, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: IDF)

Tunnel opening discovered by IDF in Gaza,  July 20, 2014. (Photo credit: IDF)

Tunnel opening discovered by the IDF in Gaza, July 20, 2014. (photo credit: IDF)

Netanyahu to families of fallen soldiers: Heart of nation is with you

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells the families of the 13 fallen IDF soldiers killed in Gaza overnight that the “heart of the nation” is with them.

At a press conference, Netanyahu addresses the IDF soldiers currently fighting in Gaza, telling them the Israeli people are behind them and praying for their well-being.

“We are doing everything to secure the lives of our citizens and soldiers. Israel did not choose to launch this campaign. It was forced on us,” says Netanyahu.

The PM stresses that there is no guarantee of 100% success, but that the military is doing everything in its power to achieve as much as possible.

“The IDF is exceeding expectations” in Gaza, he says.

The PM promises to “restore quiet to the residents of the south and all our citizens. Every one of us knows at least one person involved in the military campaign. We must stand together, united and strong.”

Ya’alon says many days of fighting ahead

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israel has many more days of fighting Hamas ahead.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Ya’alon says IDF forces have killed dozens of Hamas operatives, uncovered several terror tunnels and destroyed many rocket launchers.

“The price we are paying is great. This is the price of war,” says Ya’alon, after offering his condolences to the families of the 13 fallen soldiers.

The defense minister adds that Hamas is paying a price and will continue to pay a heavy price.

“We are fighting a murderous terror organization intent on killing us,” he continues, promising to carry on targeting tunnels, rocket launchers, and institutions belonging to terror organizations in Gaza.

Expressing regret for civilian deaths in Gaza, Ya’alon says Hamas is responsible for all that goes on in the Palestinian enclave and that it brought the military campaign on itself.

Sirens blare in Ashdod, Yavne, Kfar Hanagid

Netanyahu: Erdogan criticism has ‘anti-Semitic tone’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently doesn’t distinguish between a murderous terrorist organization, Hamas, which is out to destroy the Jewish state, and a democratic state trying to defend itself.

He says the remarks have an “anti-Semitic tone” and “are more appropriate to Tehran or al-Qaeda.”

In a speech on Saturday, Erdogan had accused Israel of “barbarism that surpasses Hitler.”

Netanyahu: ‘Catastrophe’ if we hadn’t tackled the tunnels

More of what Netanyahu has been saying:

“People of Israel, the heart of the whole nation is with the families of the fallen. We feel your pain.” He says Israel bows its head to those who fell “so that we can continue to live in this land.”

He sends condolences to the families of the soldiers “who fell in the battle for the defense of Israel… There is no more just cause than that for which your sons fell,” he says. “We will finish the mission they started… We will restore quiet and security… to the country.”

Netanyahu urges Israel “to be strong in difficult days like these, and those that might still come.

“We are in a war for our home,” he continues. “Our forces are active now in the field, acting with professionalism, determination, great power — great fire power and great spiritual power.

“IDF solders, I want to tell you, the people of Israel stand with you and pray for you.”

Netanyahu tells the families of soldiers now in the field: “I am aware of your fears. We all share them. We are doing everything to safeguard the lives of our civilians and our soldiers.”

He stresses: “We did not choose to enter this conflict,” but once it was imposed, vows to restore calm. “We are not deterred. We will continue this operation as long as necessary.”

Hamas invested “years of work, and immense capital” in the tunnels, aiming to “carry out mega terror attacks and kidnappings… This was a strategic effort by Hamas.

“If we hadn’t exposed these tunnels,” the results would have been attacks “on kindergartens, dining halls — the results could have been catastrophic. That was Hamas’s plan.”

He praises the US, Canada, Germany, Britain, France and other nations for backing Israel’s right to defend itself and to restore security to its people.

He says he just spoke to President Obama and thanked him for US support.

“It cannot be claimed that Israel chose escalation. Therefore, Hamas bears the consequences of its aggression,” he adds.

“We’re making efforts not to harm the residents of Gaza, and Hamas is making every effort that Gaza residents be harmed.” Thus, responsibility for harm to Gazans is “on Hamas, and Hamas alone.”

Hamas had two systems for hurting Israel — rockets and tunnels, both of which are being “significantly harmed” in the current operation.

“We knew this could be a lengthy operation,” he concludes. “But our history speaks a truth — the eternal people is not afraid of a long journey.”

Netanyahu: Hamas expected Tel Aviv to be in ruins

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas has been very surprised by the ferocity of Israel’s campaign, and by the success of the Iron Dome in thwarting its rockets.

“Tel Aviv was supposed to be in ruins. It’s not in ruins,” he says.

The prime minister says that Hamas is being hit very hard, but is still there, underground.

“There are stages [in the operation against Hamas]. They [the Hamas leaders] don’t go down into bomb shelters. They live in bomb shelters, deriding the [exposed] Gaza residents,” he says. “This is a multi-staged operation. The problem will be solved, militarily or diplomatically, or through a combination of both, over time. We’re learning lots of lessons.”

During a Q&A session with reporters following remarks on Operation Protective Edge, Netanyahu recalls his prediction before the 2005 disengagement, that, if we leave Gaza, “we’ll get missiles on Ashdod.” He recalled saying “that if we leave that territory, Iran-backed Hamastan would emerge, and that’s what happened.

“Now we’re trying, as best we can, to reverse this truth: You evacuate territory in the Middle East, you get Islamist forces of one kind or another… That’s the truth,” he says.

Most tunnels will be destroyed in 2-3 days, DM promises

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon promises that most of the tunnels used by Hamas “will be destroyed in the next two or three days.”

Obama voices concern over casualties in chat with Netanyahu

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a second phone conversation in three days and discuss Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro says via Twitter that the commander-in-chief “reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas against Israel, and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Obama expresses concern over the loss of Palestinian civilians and Israeli soldiers in the campaign. He stresses the need to prevent civilian casualties in the operation.

The Palestinian death toll in the past day stands at around 90, according to Hamas government spokespeople. Israel has lost 18 soldiers since launching its ground incursion into the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’s network of attack tunnels.

The president is dispatching US Secretary of State John Kerry to Cairo in order to reach an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to the November 2012 Egyptian-mediated ceasefire that ended Operation Pillar of Defense.

Troops kill 2 gunmen who emerge from Gaza tunnel

The IDF says soldiers from the Armored Corps have killed two gunmen, who emerged from a tunnel in southern Gaza and fired at the troops.

Another synagogue in France attacked during anti-Israel protest

SARCELLES, France — French youth defying a ban on a protest against Israel’s Gaza offensive set fire to cars and garbage cans in a Paris suburb after a calm demonstration today.

According to Le Figaro, a synagogue was attacked with a Molotov cocktail, but did not catch fire. Stores and nearby restaurants were also attacked.

The unrest in Sarcelles, north of Paris, is the second time in two days that pro-Palestinian demonstrations turned violent. The demonstration, like the one in Paris yesterday, had been banned to ensure peace.

Rioters throw projectiles at French riot police officers in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, after clashes following a demonstration denouncing Israel's military campaign in Gaza. (Photo credit: AFP/ PIERRE ANDRIEU

Rioters throw projectiles at French riot police officers in Sarcelles, north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, after clashes following a demonstration denouncing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. (photo credit: AFP/Pierre Andrieu)

Tension mounted as scores of Jewish youth, some armed with iron bars, encircled a synagogue to protect it.

The rampage comes hours after France honored some 13,000 Jews rounded up 72 years ago, most kept in a cycling stadium before being sent to Auschwitz.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls denounced a “new form of anti-Semitism” on the Internet and spreading among youth in working-class neighborhoods.

– AP, Times of Israel staff

LA-based Jewish paper names one of 13 soldiers killed overnight

The Jewish Journal has named one of the 13 soldiers from the Golani Brigade killed in Gaza overnight as an LA native and IDF volunteer.

Kerry due in Cairo tomorrow for ceasefire talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Cairo tomorrow for discussions surrounding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

The White House says Kerry will seek “an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement,” and stressed the need to protect civilian life both “in Gaza and in Israel.”

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Abbas demands emergency Security Council meeting

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demands an emergency UN Security Council meeting after close to 100 Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the past 24 hours, most of them in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, according to Palestinian medical sources.

“I am calling for an urgent session tonight of the UN Security Council,” he says in a televised speech from the Qatari capital, Doha.

“The situation is intolerable,” he says, calling Israel’s actions in Gaza “crimes against humanity.”

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

UN chief urges Israel to ‘do far more’ to spare Gaza civilians

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urges Israel to spare the lives of civilians in its military campaign in Gaza, where today’s Palestinian death toll passed 100, according to Gazan medical sources.

“Israel must do far more to protect civilians,” he tells a press conference in Doha, his first stop on a regional trip aimed at bringing an end to the fighting, which started on July 8.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Hamas says Shejaiya battle ‘like Sabra and Shatila’

Channel 2’s Palestinian Affairs reporter Ohad Chemo, noting that Hamas in Gaza is calling the deaths in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood today “a massacre like [Lebanon’s] Sabra and Shatila” and blaming the evil Israelis, says, however, that a trusted source of his in Gaza reported something rather different.

This source was at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital as the bodies of the dead were brought in, and said that women were screaming that this was all Hamas’s fault and that Hamas was getting all their children killed.

IDF denies Hamas claim to have kidnapped a soldier

Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, announces in a televised broadcast that it has captured an Israeli soldier. The IDF categorically denies the authenticity of the claim.

Hamas’s announcement triggers celebratory gunfire, fireworks and cheers of “Allahu akbar” in Gaza and elsewhere around the Middle East.

IDF names five of 13 slain soldiers

The IDF clears for publication the names of five of the 13 soldiers killed early Sunday morning in the Gaza Strip. They are as follows: Maj. Tsafrir Baror, 32, of Holon; Capt. Tsvi Kaplan, 28, of Kedumim; Sgt. Gilad Rozenthal Yacoby, 21, of Kiryat Ono; Sgt. Oz Mandelovich, 21, of Avtalion; and Nissim Sean Carmeli, 21, of Ra’anana.

Sean Carmeli, a Texan, is identified as one of the two dual US-Israeli citizens.

The five will be laid to rest on Monday.

The end of the 13th day

And so the blackest day of this conflict comes to an end.

Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed, in heavy fighting that is still ongoing in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood, a Hamas stronghold close enough to the border to be the source of numerous Hamas tunnels, the Israeli army says, and the source of some 150 rockets fired at Israel these past two weeks. Palestinian officials say 60 Palestinians have died in the fighting there.

Earlier Sunday, the IDF confirmed the deaths of two other soldiers on Saturday, bringing the toll of the IDF dead to 18. Sending condolences to the families, Netanyahu said all of Israel felt their pain, and that they died in the “most just cause of all,” defending their very home.

Our colleague Itamar Sharon is running Monday’s liveblog here.

May tomorrow be brighter.