Israel’s cabinet said Tuesday morning it would accept an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire with Hamas, after seven days of fighting, but Hamas was quick to reject the offer, continuing rocket salvos across the country. In mid-afternoon, Israel resumed attacks on Hamas targets, as Foreign Minister Liberman called to retake full control of the Strip. Earlier, two rockets hit the city of Eilat at Israel’s southernmost tip, lightly injuring four people in the first attack on the city since the Gaza campaign began. In Gaza, Israeli attacks overnight brought the death toll in the Palestinian enclave to 192. The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Tuesday. (Wednesday’s liveblog is here.)

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Tony Blair welcomes Egyptian ceasefire proposal

Middle East Quartet Representative Tony Blair welcomes the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, saying that it could lead to “genuine change” in Gaza.

“I welcome the statement from Egypt calling on the parties to implement a ceasefire to give a chance for a proper, full and long-term solution to Gaza to be put in place, and welcome the leadership Egypt has shown in doing so,” Blair says. “Such a ceasefire can halt the tragic loss of life, stop the rockets on Israel — and open up the possibility of a genuine change in Gaza.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Middle East Quartet Envoy Tony Blair (L) on June 17, 2014 (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Middle East Quartet Envoy Tony Blair (L) on June 17, 2014 (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)

The only long-term solution “that makes sense” would be one that would open Gaza “up to the world,” he says, possibly referring to an opening of border crossings.

“The hope is that this ceasefire will allow us to put in place such a long-term strategy for the future in Gaza, and the West Bank. The international community will give its full backing to such an initiative,” Blair says.

–Raphael Ahren.

Bennett expected to vote against ceasefire offer

Economy Minister and Jewish Home party chief Naftali Bennett is expected to vote against an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire proposal between Israel and Hamas at a cabinet meeting to discuss the offer on Tuesday, Channel 2 reports.

Mk Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home says a ceasefire at this point would be a “capitulation” to Hamas, Ynet adds.

Rocket warning sirens heard in Eilat

Warning sirens are heard in Eilat and surrounding communities, indicating incoming rockets.

It is not clear where the attack is coming from at this time. There is no word of where the rocket may have hit.

Gaza rocket hits southern city of Eilat

A rocket launched from the Gaza strip hits a parked car in the southern resort city of Eilat, officials say.

There is no word of casualties in the latest attack from the Palestinian territory.

One injured in Eilat after 2 rockets hit the city

One person is reportedly lightly injured in the rocket attack on Eilat, after being hit in the face with shrapnel from the exploding missile. Several other people are reported to suffer shock.

According to current reports two rockets hit the city.

Arab League head says Israel committing war crimes

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi accuses Israel of war crimes, as Egypt asks Arab foreign ministers at a meeting in Cairo to support its initiative to end week-long fighting in Gaza.

“The world is witnessing the reality and nature of Israeli colonialism which is committing war crimes,” Arabi says before the meeting enters a closed session.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri calls on the ministers to back an initiative for a ceasefire his government had prepared.

–AFP

Egypt’s ceasefire terms ignore Hamas’s demands

If Hamas accepts the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, it will be perceived as having been heavily defeated in the latest round of conflict with Israel, ToI’s Avi Issacharoff writes in a new analysis piece.

That’s because the conditions in the Egyptian proposal do not include any of the demands that Hamas has been repeating day and night in the last few days, he notes. “As reported in the Egyptian media, there is no mention in the proposal of Hamas’s oft-repeated demand for the release of the dozens of its operatives, freed in the 2011 Shalit deal, who were rearrested in recent weeks by Israeli forces in the West Bank in the wake of the murders of the three Israeli teenagers. There is also no concrete commitment regarding the opening of the Rafah border crossing or the payments of the salaries of Hamas’s 40,000 clerks in Gaza. And there is no mention whatsoever of the situation in the West Bank. All these demands were raised by the Hamas military wing two days after Israel began Operation Protective Edge, and repeated interminably ever since.”

Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, left, and Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh wave during a news conference upon Mashaal's arrival in the Gaza Strip on December 7. (photo credit: AP/Suhaib Salem, Pool)

Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, left, and Gaza’s former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh wave during a news conference in the Gaza Strip in 2012. (photo credit: AP/Suhaib Salem, Pool)

Adds Issacharoff: “Hamas’s problem is that if it rejects the Egyptian proposal it will find itself unprecedentedly isolated in the international community and the Arab world. Cairo will accuse it of torpedoing the opportunity for calm, and Jerusalem will have the legitimacy to mount a ground offensive into Gaza. Thus the options open to ex-PM Ismail Haniyeh, the military wing in Gaza, and political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Qatar range from bad to worse.”

The leaking of the proposal to the Egyptian media, the fact that it ignores Hamas’s demands, and the further fact that it includes a nod to Israel via its similarities to the 2012 terms, says Issacharoff, “must seem suspicious indeed to Hamas. Could it be that Jerusalem and Cairo hatched this move together, in order to corner Hamas?”

Read the full piece here.

Five people reported lightly injured in attack on Eilat

The number of people injured in the rocket attack on Eilat tonight has risen to five, according to media reports. All suffer light injuries only.

Ten other people are said to be in a state of shock after two rockets hit the city.

Israel radio reported that four cars were damaged by the rockets, with two being destroyed completely.

Photos posted to twitter in the wake of the attack show a small fire at the scene of one of the rocket impact sites.

Army says it cannot confirm source of Eilat rockets

The IDF says it cannot at this time say whether two rockets which hit Eilat on Monday night were launched from the Gaza Strip or from another source.

Rockets have been fired at Eilat in the past from the neighboring Sinai peninsula.

Arab League urges sides to accept ceasefire deal

Arab foreign ministers call on “all parties” to accept an Egyptian proposal to end the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas, after the Palestinian militant group signals its rejection of the truce.

The ministers, meeting for an extraordinary Arab League session, also back a Palestinian demand for “international protection.”

The Arab foreign ministers “demand all parties concerned accept the Egyptian initiative” and commit to its terms, a statement says.

–AFP

Cabinet seen likely to accept ceasefire terms

As ToI’s Raphael Ahren reported late last night, signs are the cabinet, meeting this morning, may accept the Egyptian ceasefire, terms — despite opposition on the right. Whether Hamas will do so is far less clear.

“Those proposals are being considered very seriously,” diplomatic sources told the Times of Israel a few hours ago. Other Israeli media sites are also now quoting Israeli diplomatic sources suggesting that Jerusalem is inclining to accept, though Jewish Homes Naftali Bennett is opposed.

The terms, as published by Egyptian media require that:

1. Israel stops all its hostilities against the Gaza Strip in land, sea and air, committing not to launch a land strike or target civilians.

2. All Gaza factions commit to stopping all hostilities against Israel in land, sea, air and underground and targeting Israeli civilians.

3. Border crossings will be opened (not specifying where, likely with Egypt), allowing for people and commodities to move freely.

The idea would be a de-escalation of violence from 9 a.m. and a truce 12 hours later.

Following the cease-fire, talks about opening crossings between Gaza and Israel to allow more goods into the coastal strip would take place in Cairo, the text said. Cease-fire talks would be held by Egypt separately with both Israel and Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

The proposal emerged hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Egypt to work to end the fighting between the two sides.

– Raphael Ahren, JTA

US welcomes Egyptian ceasefire proposal

The United States welcomes an Egyptian proposal to end the raging conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“We welcome Egypt’s call for a ceasefire and hope this will lead to the restoration of calm as soon as possible,” State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki says in a statement.

–AFP

Eilat rockets apparently fired from Sinai

Rockets fired at the city of Eilat on Monday night were apparently launched from the Sinai Peninsula, Haaretz reports.

The IDF now says three rockets were fired at the city, with two falling inside its territory and one hitting an open field.

It is not clear whether the rockets were fired by members of Hamas, their affiliates or another group altogether.

Hamas hacks broadcasts to private satellite dishes

Hamas has hacked into Israeli private satellite broadcasts, sending propaganda messages to people who use private dishes to watch Channels 2 and 10.

According to Ynet, some viewers were briefly exposed to title screens with various notes such as: “Your government has chosen the timing of this campaign. If your government does not agree to our terms, prepare yourself for a long stay in bomb shelters.”

Another message reads: “To the mothers of IDF soldiers: If you don’t want your children to be imprisoned or killed, hurry and call them back home.”

Obama says Israeli-Palestinian status quo ‘unsustainable’

Even if the Egyptian ceasefire takes effect Tuesday, the current status quo in the region is “unsustainable,” US President Barack Obama tells guests at an official White House Iftar dinner on Monday evening.

Using strong language to condemn rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilians, Obama describes the pictures that are seen from both Gaza and Israel as “heart wrenching.”

“The situation in Gaza reminds us again that the status quo is unsustainable and that the only path to true security is a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, where differences are resolved peacefully and in ways that respect the dignity of all people,” Obama tells attendees, who included elected officials, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, leaders of diverse faiths, and members of the diplomatic corps.

–Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Hamas rejects Egyptian proposal for Gaza ceasefire

The armed wing of Hamas rejects Egyptian proposals for a ceasefire in Gaza, threatening to “intensify” its conflict with Israel if truce terms are unsatisfactory.

“No official or unofficial side has approached us about the ceasefire talked about in the media… (but) if the contents of this proposal are true, it is a surrender and we reject it outright,” the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades says in a statement.

“Our battle with the enemy will intensify.”

–AFP

Rocket hits Hof Ashkelon regional council

Southern Israel residents awaken to Color Red sirens as a rocket fired from Gaza hits an open field in the Hof Ashkelon regional council.

There are no casualties and no damage reported.

Cabinet meets to discuss ceasefire proposal

Israel’s so-called security cabinet of top ministers is set to begin meeting right now to discuss the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which would go into effect at 9 a.m.

Analysts believe Jerusalem is likely to accept the ceasefire, which would have both sides stop hostilities, and Egypt commit to opening the Rafah crossing into Gaza.

“Those proposals are being considered very seriously,” diplomatic sources told the Times of Israel late Monday night.

Hard-liners on both sides are expected to push for fighting to continue. Hamas’s armed wing rejected the proposal earlier Tuesday, and politicians to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have pushed for a ground invasion to disarm Hamas and other Gazan factions.

 

Despite ceasefire talks, IDF continues strikes

As the security cabinet meets to discuss the terms of an Egypt-backed ceasefire, Palestinian sources report that Israel is still attacking targets in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning, Israel Radio reports.

A Palestinian on a motorcycle is killed near Rafah, says a source. The Israeli Air Force is continuing to target the homes of terrorist leaders and operatives, including that of senior Hamas commander Marwan Issa.

Israeli army flares falling into the Gaza Strip on July 14, 2014 (Photo credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Israeli army flares falling into the Gaza Strip on July 14, 2014 (Photo credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP)

At the dawn of the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has attacked more than 1,500 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing almost 190 Palestinian terrorists and civilians.

Israel bombs house of Hamas armed-wing No. 2

The Israeli air raid on Marwan Issa’s house is likely the highest-level strike since Israel began its operation in Gaza a week ago.

Issa is officially the Number Two in Hamas’s armed wing, after Mohammed Deif. He became acting head of the terror group in 2012, after Israel assassinated then-leader Ahmed Jaabari as the first strike in 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.

While Issa’s condition is not know, most Hamas leaders have been staying away from their homes, knowing they will be targeted by Israeli raids.

According to a 2012 Haaretz article on Issa, he “almost never appears in public, doesn’t meet with journalists and avoids the cameras of the press.”

He was also intimately involved with the capture and holding of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and survived a 2006 assassination attempt, according to the paper.

Before ceasefires, attacks often intensify

As Israel and Hamas continue to strike while ceasefire talks are in the air, they might be continuing a pattern seen in recent conflicts — an increase in attacks right before a deal to end hostilities is set to take place.

In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Israel tripled its forces in Lebanon on August 11, despite a UN security council ceasefire that was set to go into effect on August 14 at 8 a.m.  On the last day of the war, Hezbollah fired 250 rockets into Israel, as it sought to demonstrate that it was still standing and punching back.

During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, it appeared by November 20 that a ceasefire was close. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Israel, and both Egypt and Hamas declared that a deal was in the works.

Israeli soldiers preparing their tanks along the Israel-Gaza border for a possible ground operation inside Gaza Strip at the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense. November 16, 2012. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/ Flash90)

Israeli soldiers preparing their tanks along the Israel-Gaza border on the third day of Operation Pillar of Defense, November 16, 2012. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/ Flash90)

But November 21 saw 116 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, compared to 80 the day before. Meanwhile, Israel struck rocket-launching squads in Jabalya and Khan Younis, and hit tunnels and underground rocket launchers. Israeli strikes that day also killed several civilians in Gaza.

Only hours before the ceasefire went into effect at 9 p.m., an 18-year-old Israeli Arab left a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus, which exploded and wounded 28 people. Israel stepped up attacks in response.

Even after the ceasefire went into effect in 2012, over a dozen rockets were shot at Israel, with at least two hitting homes in Ashdod and Beersheba, as terror groups attempted to get off their last shots.

Picture emerges of Eilat damage

After two rockets strike the southern city of Eilat, injuring four, Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld shares a photo showing some of the damage.

A third rocket hit an open area outside the city, according to the IDF.

 

9th Iron Dome battery finished

The ninth Iron Dome battery has been completed, according to Ynet.

The air force should receive it today, but it is still unclear where it will be deployed.

Since the latest conflict with Hamas started eight days ago, Iron Dome has intercepted almost 200 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza.

An Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket from the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)

An Iron Dome air defense system fires to intercept a rocket from the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)

Sirens heard in Ashkelon

After an unusually quiet stretch Tuesday morning, warning sirens are heard in the Ashkelon industrial zone.

Details to come.

After ugly protests, US Jewish groups urged to heighten security

After anti-Israel attacks around the globe turn violent and anti-Semitic in some cases, the ADL releases a security advisory for US synagogues and Jewish institutions, urging them to increase security measures.

“The warning is in response to the violence and anti-Semitic expressions that we have seen at some of these demonstrations,” ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“The tenor of some of these demonstrations has been extreme, with protesters chanting, ‘Death to Israel’ and other hateful messages and slogans,” he added.

Pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles is disturbed by Palestinian activists July 13, 2014. (Kelly Hartog/The Times of Israel)

Pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles is disturbed by Palestinian activists July 13, 2014. (Kelly Hartog/The Times of Israel)

Two synagogues and a kosher market were attacked during a Sunday demonstration in Paris protesting Israel’s operation in Gaza. Two days before, a synagogue outside of Paris had a Molotov cocktail thrown at it.

Four pro-Palestinian protesters brandishing wooden sticks threatened people attending a rally in Los Angeles supporting Israel. There were calls of “death to Jews” at other rallies around the globe.

On Monday, top Department of Homeland Security officials spoke with Jewish leaders concerned about violence at rallies and demonstrations connected to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Speakers on the conference call, organized by the Secure Community Network, the security arm of national Jewish umbrella organizations, included DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Infrastructure Protection William Flynn.

There were 200 Jewish officials on the call, SCN said.

“While the majority of protests have been peaceful, pro-Israeli demonstrators in Boston and Los Angeles were physically assaulted by anti-Israeli protesters this past week, and synagogues in Paris have been attacked by violent protesters,” the statement said.

“SCN discussed the security implications of operations in Gaza on Jewish communities both domestically and worldwide, and reviewed security protocols for planned rallies and demonstrations in support of Israel,” it said.

JTA contributed to this report

Two intercepts over Hof Ashkelon

After sirens are heard in the Ashkelon region, the Iron Dome intercepts two rockets.

The anti-missile system has intercepted almost 200 rockets in the eight-day conflict.

Israel approves ceasefire

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the Israeli cabinet approves the terms of the Egyptian-backed ceasefire. Details to follow.

Only Bennett, Liberman oppose ceasefire

Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett and Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman both vote against the ceasefire proposal that the security cabinet approved Tuesday morning.

The rest of the ministers approve the measure.

Naftali Bennett (Flash90)

Naftali Bennett (Flash90)

Nothing has yet changed, Homefront Command says

Despite the agreement to a ceasefire, the IDF’s Homefront Command is still urging residents to stay alert and keep to the same instructions they have been operating under for the last week.

Hamas’s armed wing previously rejected the proposal, so it’s not clear whether the ceasefire will actually go into effect at 9 a.m. — now — as per the agreement.

There has been no word as yet from Hamas’s politburo.

2 Israelis hurt by Palestinian rioters near Jerusalem

Rioting Palestinians south of Jerusalem injure two Israeli drivers, Israel Radio reports.

One driver was hurt when a Molotov cocktail hit her car, and another was hurt by a stone thrown at his vehicle.

The attack happened near the village of Husan, outside the settlement of Betar Ilit.

Kerry reported to cancel Egypt trip

Israeli news site Ynet reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry, scheduled to arrive in Cairo Tuesday morning to discuss ceasefire efforts, has canceled his trip.

The site reports that Kerry will fly from Vienna to the US today instead.

The news comes on the heels of Israel’s acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal, set to go into effect immediately, pending a Hamas response.

We are attempting to confirm the report.

Israel will respond ‘forcefully’ to rocket fire

Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem say that despite the agreement to halt hostilities, Israel is reserving the right to retaliate against violence from Gaza.

“If Hamas continues to fire rockets after the ceasefire, Israel will respond forcefully,” an official says.

PM to give statement at noon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a statement about the ceasefire from Defense Ministry headquarters at 12 p.m., sources say.

– Raphael Ahren

Terms of ceasefire proposal, per Egyptian media

Egyptian media published yesterday the terms of the ceasefire that Israel’s security cabinet approves Tuesday morning. Here are the reported terms, as of Monday:

1. Israel stops all its hostilities against the Gaza Strip in land, sea and air, committing not to launch a land strike or target civilians.

2. All Gaza factions commit to stopping all hostilities against Israel in land, sea, air and underground and targeting Israeli civilians.

3. Border crossings will be opened (not specifying where, likely with Egypt), allowing for people and commodities to move freely.

The ceasefire will begin at 9 a.m. local time and be implemented within 12 hours, until 9 p.m.. 48 hours later Israeli and Palestinian delegations will arrive in Cairo and discuss final security arrangements.

The talks will be based on the 2012 ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt following Operation Pillar of Defense.

Hamas says it was not consulted on ceasefire

A Hamas spokesman tells CNN that the group did not reject the ceasefire, but was not informed of it.

“We did not receive this declared paper from the Egyptians … which means it’s an initiative for the media. It’s not a political initiative,” Osama Hamdan tells the station’s Wolf Blitzer.

“It’s not really an initiative. It’s not really an idea, what they are trying to do is to corner the Palestinians and to help the Israelis more.”

Earlier, the armed wing of the terror group rejected the offer, saying it also had not been approached by Egypt.

 

IDF sources say operation created deterrence

Israeli army sources say Hamas will be deterred from attacking Israel for the foreseeable future in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, Israel Radio reports.

The IDF has struck over 1,500 targets in the Gaza Strip, and claims to have killed around 100 terrorists.

Smoke rises following an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 13, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Smoke rises following an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on July 13, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Hamas official says group rejects ceasefire

A senior Hamas official says his group rejects the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, according to AP. Details to follow.

Kerry opts against Middle East trip

Confirming earlier reports, US Secretary of State John Kerry has decided not to make an immediate trip to the Middle East to push diplomatic efforts toward a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

For several days Kerry has been weighing whether to extend his current diplomatic swing of Asia and Europe. US officials say he has considered trips to Israel, Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

But officials now say he will end the nine-day trip on Tuesday and head home.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (photo credit: AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (photo credit: AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

Kerry is in Vienna for talks with Iran’s foreign minister and European partners. Together, they are trying to advance struggling negotiations aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.

– The Associated Press

‘Ceasefire will restore status quo, leave Hamas weakened’

Israel accepted the Egyptian ceasefire agreement because it would restore the status quo that preceded Operation Protective Edge but leave Hamas severely weakened, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem says. If Hamas doesn’t accept the ceasefire and continues to shoot rockets at Israel, the Israel Defense Forces “will respond forcefully,” the official warns.

“Hamas didn’t achieve what it had planned to achieve: not in the military campaign itself, where it was dealt a severe blow with more than 1,700 attacks, not in its efforts to harm Israeli civilians, not in its desire to carry out strategic terror attacks from the sea, the air and the ground — which were attempted but thwarted — and not in its ability to recruit the Arab world and Judea and Samaria,” the official says, referring to Palestinians in the West Bank.

Hamas also failed to accomplish anything with the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which does not include any preconditions and does not mention Hamas’ demands for the payment of salaries for its men in Gaza and the release of prisoners, the official says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon consult at the IDF's Southern Command (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon consult at the IDF’s Southern Command (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The official message accepting the ceasefire, issued by the Prime Minister’s Office at 9:00 a.m., was purposefully held very brief and without pomp or gloating “to create legitimacy for the future, so that it shall be clear which side agrees” to the proposal and which side rejected it, the official says. “This decision will create international legitimacy for whatever future scenario.”

Israel will send a representative to Cairo within the next 48 hours to discuss the further details of the agreement. Jerusalem will speak with Egyptian officials, the source added, emphasizing that it does not negotiate with Hamas.

 — Raphael Ahren

After Israel accepts truce, sirens in south

Sirens are heard in communities around the Gaza Strip, less than an hour after Israel announced it would accept the terms of the Egypt-backed ceasefire.

Despite some rocket fire Tuesday morning, the day has started off with relative quiet.

Hamas official calls ceasefire deal ‘unacceptable’

The Associated Press quotes senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri rejecting the ceasefire proposal.

Abu Zuhri tells AP that “this proposal is not acceptable.”

Yishai calls truce ‘slap in the face’

Israel’s acceptance of the Gaza ceasefire is “a slap in the face of all Israeli citizens,” Shas MK Eli Yishai says.

Shas leader Eli Yishai (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Shas leader Eli Yishai (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

“The Israeli government has a commitment to the security of Israeli citizens, and the ceasefire vehemently violates that commitment,” he fumes. “We would have the obligation and the ability to destroy Hamas infrastructure and turn Gaza decades backwards, and a ceasefire at the current time is not only a slap in the face of Israeli citizens but will only be a short break before the rocket fire resumes.”

Raphael Ahren

Islamic Jihad tells members not to discuss truce

The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, called on its members in Gaza “not to respond to media publications regarding a ceasefire.” The group called on its men to stay on high alert and said the battle will continue.

- Elhanan Miller

Australia’s ambassador urges Hamas to accept truce

Australia’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dave Sharma, tweets that he welcomes Israel’s acceptance of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. Sharma urges the “other side” – i.e. Hamas – to agree as well and to end the conflict as soon as possible.

Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma (R) and Australia's representative in Ramallah Tom Wilson (L.) on a tour of Ramallah with local official Amir Dajani (Photo: Courtesy)

Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma (R) and Australia’s representative in Ramallah Tom Wilson (L.) on a tour of Ramallah with local official Amir Dajani (Photo: Courtesy)

— Raphael Ahren

Herzog calls for long-term political deal

Opposition chief Isaac Herzog welcomes Israel’s acceptance of the Egyptian ceasefire terms, calling for the government to use the potential truce to make lasting changes to Israel’s political arrangement with the Palestinians.

“The government must turn the ceasefire into a political change,” the Labor leader says, according to Israel Radio.

If Israel fails to do so, says Herzog, it is only a matter of time until the next outbreak of violence.

Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset on February 03, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Labor Party chairman MK Isaac Herzog leads a party meeting in the Knesset on February 03, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

 

2 rockets hit Eshkol

In the first rocket fire since Israel accepts the ceasefire proposal, two projectiles land in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage are reported.

Update on sisters injured Monday by rocket

One of the sisters injured Monday by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip is still in serious condition. The 11-year-old from the Negev Bedouin town of Lakiya is in intensive care at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

Her 13-year-old sister is in good condition, according to Israel Radio.

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)

Gal-on calls for anti-Hamas summit

Meretz MK Zahava Gal-on says that Israel should hold a summit with neighbors interested in weakening Hamas.

“We got off with relatively light injuries, and it could have been worse,” she tells Ynet. “We are saying the opposite – we must talk.”

“We must advance an urgent summit with all the parties that are not interested in seeing Hamas spread, which is Egypt, Jordan, and of course Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] as well. We must not continue the doctrine of ‘There is no partner’ with whom to talk about peace.”

Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-on, June 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-on, June 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

‘The IDF now holds fire’

After approving the terms of the Egypt-backed ceasefire, Israel has stopped striking targets in Gaza, according to the IDF.

“In according with the government directives, the IDF now holds fire,” say IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “We remain alert and preserve high preparedness levels, both defensive and offensive. If the Hamas terror organization will fire at Israel, we shall respond.”

IDF tanks and soldiers in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on the fifth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 12, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

IDF tanks and soldiers in southern Israel near the border with Gaza, on the fifth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 12, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

‘We can’t find a pro-truce Sderot resident’

Israeli TV news are full of man-on-the-street interviews in southern cities, and residents are not thrilled with news of a possible ceasefire, to say the least.

“We can’t find a single Sderot resident who supports the ceasefire,” says Channel 2’s reporter in the city near the Gaza border.

Still, Shaar Hanegev Regional Council head Alon Schuster expresses satisfaction with the way the decision to accept the ceasefire was handled, and indicates that his counterparts in other regional councils concur.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Sderot

Shortly after the IDF halts attacks in anticipation of a possible ceasefire, warning sirens are heard in Ashkelon and Sderot.

Sirens in Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod, Be’er Tuvia

Warning sirens heard in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, and Be’er Tuvia, in addition to Sderot and Ashkelon, hours after Israel accepts ceasefire terms.

Gaza death toll at 192

The death toll from Israel’s weeklong campaign in Gaza rises Tuesday to 192, after another six Palestinians died, four of them in strikes before Israel accepted an Egyptian ceasefire.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says three people were killed in two separate airstrikes on the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Two other men in the city succumbed to injuries sustained in earlier raids, he says.

Palestinian relatives mourn during the funeral of four members of the Moamer family, including a 26-year-old militant of the Hamas movement, during their funeral in southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on July 14, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian relatives mourn during the funeral of four members of the Moamer family, including a 26-year-old militant of the Hamas movement, during their funeral in southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on July 14, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Also in the south, a woman was killed in an earlier strike on Rafah, taking Tuesday’s toll to six dead, he says.

All of the fatalities took place before Israel accepted a 0600 GMT (9 a.m. Israeli time) ceasefire proposed by Egypt, despite its rejection by Hamas.

Late Monday, the death toll rose above that of the previous major conflict between Israel and Hamas militants, an eight-day confrontation in November 2012 which claimed the lives of 177 Palestinians and six Israelis.

— AFP

Hamas said to be surprised by lack of support

Having gained the upper hand over Hamas, Israel has agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire, an Israeli official told journalists on Tuesday. Hamas was unable to “sell” its rocket fire to the Arab world or even to Palestinians in the West Bank, who remained largely indifferent to Operation Protective Edge. The officer said that Hamas was “unpleasantly surprised” by the small amount of damage it managed to cause Israel and by Arab and international disinterest.

According to the officer, citizens of Gaza were pushing for the rocket launches to end for both financial reasons and given the widespread damage inflicted on the Strip. While the local leadership in Gaza — which hid within the civilian population — has favored a ceasefire, the movement’s leadership in Qatar, primarily Khaled Mashaal, would like to see it continue.

— Elhanan Miller

10 rockets fired, 1 intercepted

After Israel agrees to the terms of a ceasefire, ten rockets are fired toward Ashdod and nearby towns.

Iron Dome knocks down one rocket. Another lands in the yard of a house in Ashdod.

No damage or injuries are reported, and rescue personnel are performing searches to verify that no one is hurt.

Picture emerges of Ashdod rocket strike

Hatzolah Israel tweets out a photograph of the yard in Ashdod that was struck by a rocket minutes ago. The rocket was one of ten fired from Gaza, only hours after Israel announced it would accept a ceasefire.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Netivot, Sderot

Warning sirens sound in the southern cities of Ashkelon, Netivot, and Sderot, as Hamas intensifies its rocket fire after Israel accepts ceasefire terms.

PM threatens to widen attacks

If Hamas doesn’t stop firing, Israel will expand the operation, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After agreeing to an Egyptian-backed ceasefire, Israel is facing renewed rocket strikes from Gaza. Hamas officials say they reject the ceasefire.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during televised interviews with US news networks on July 13, 2014. (photo credit: GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during televised interviews with US news networks on July 13, 2014. (photo credit: GPO)

2 rockets intercepted, soldier injured

Two rockets are intercepted over Netivot, according to the IDF.

In addition, a soldier is lightly hurt by shrapnel after a rocket hits Sderot.

Sirens heard in Shfela, Ashdod

Shortly after barrages on Ashdod and Sderot, warning sirens are heard in the Shfela region, including Rehovot and Nes Ziona. There are more sirens in Ashdod as well.

Sirens near Haifa

As Hamas intensifies its rocket fire midday Tuesday, sirens sound near Haifa and in the Carmel region, including in Zichron Yaakov and Daliat al-Carmel.

Peres says Israel has responsibility to defend itself

As he meets with Quarter representative Tony Blair, President Shimon Peres releases a statement on the fighting in Gaza:

Yesterday Egypt suggested a ceasefire to open a window of opportunity to bring the fighting to an end. This morning the Israeli Security Cabinet accepted the ceasefire. The fire until now brought nothing but death and damage. Hamas isolated itself, the world calls upon them to end the fire. If they continue despite the proposal they will only bring more suffering to their people.

Israel will continue to defend itself – it is our moral responsibility and our sovereign right. Terrorists aim to kill innocent civilians. Mothers and children. Jews and Arabs. However, the rockets did not achieve their aim. The strength of our army, our technological edge and the courage of our people allows Israel to stand strong.

The Israeli public, mothers and children, stood steadfast and with great restraint in the face of this ongoing provocation. Yesterday I met a group of children from one of the communities that was hit hard. They continue to smile, they sing and they dance. They are the proof that terror will not win.

There are two camps. The camp of terror and the camp of peace. Not only here but across the world. This operation is an answer to the camp of terror. The IDF targeted hundreds of rocket launchers, training camps and tunnels. We all wish to lower the flames, we want an end to the fighting and we hope to see it soon. But there can be no compromise with terror. A ceasefire must be on these terms. No more rockets. No more terror.

Many of our neighbors stand with us in this fight. It is a global threat and we must fight it globally. Terror is destroying the fabric of the Arab world, it harms those who allow it as much as those it targets.

I want to thank Mr. Blair for his involvement and support. And thank the leaders of the world who support our right to defend ourselves.

We must turn again to the camp of peace. We stand loud and clear for peace with our neighbors. The Palestinian people are not our enemies, the people of Gaza are not our enemies. We share the same aim which is an end to terror. Security and calm for civilians everywhere.

A return to peace talks to achieve the only viable, long term solution – two states for two peoples. I want to say something to the people of Gaza. This operation was the third major escalation in the past 6 years. Each time it is innocent civilians that suffer and pay the price.

Rockets and terror bring you no closer to your national aspirations. Terrorism will not deliver for the Palestinian people. We withdrew from Gaza unilaterally, of our own free will. Gaza had an opportunity to become a flourishing place, a great economy. Instead Hamas overpowered the Palestinian Authority and instead of investing in their people, they wasted money on rockets and tunnels. Without reason, without purpose and without results.

The children of Gaza deserve the same opportunities as children everywhere which is to be secure and free. But Hamas continues to hold them hostage. They seek death over life. They seek destruction over growth. They act out of hate and are bringing a tragedy upon their own people.

President Abbas is not only a partner for Israel but is the best hope for the Palestinians for a future of stability, respect, independence and prosperity. He is a man of peace, a responsible leader.

This is a time for peace, not war. Our hand will always be raised to defend ourselves against those who seek to harm us. And stretched out in friendship to those who seek peace.

PM’s statement on the proposed ceasefire

Netanyahu says during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

“The goal of Operation Protective Edge was and remains to restore peace and quiet for all of Israel’s citizens, by severely damaging Hamas and the other terrorist organizations. And indeed, over the course of the last week we accomplished this while prevented their efforts to harm Israeli citizens.”

“We accepted the Egyptian proposal in order to present an opportunity for Gaza to be disarmed of its missiles, rockets, and tunnels through political means, but if Hamas does not accept this proposed ceasefire — and this is how it appears at present — Israel will have full international legitimacy for an expanded military operation to return the necessary quiet.”

Rockets fired toward Haifa area intercepted

The Iron Dome shoots down the rocket barrage fired toward areas near Haifa, Channel 2 reports.

Kerry ‘welcomes’ Israel’s ceasefire stance

US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomes Israel’s acceptance of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, tweets Washington’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro.

“The Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire and negotiations provides an opportunity to end the violence and restore calm,” Shapiro quotes Kerry as saying. “We welcome the Israeli cabinet’s decision to accept it. We urge all other parties to accept the proposal.”

— Raphael Ahren

Hamas closes Erez Crossing, blocking cancer patients

Hamas says it has closed the Erez border crossing due to Israeli shelling, in a move that stranded a group of Palestinians planning to cross into Israel for medical treatment.

A group of about 20 Palestinians, some of whom were scheduled to enter Israel for cancer treatment, arrived at the crossing early on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent says.

There is no immediate confirmation of the closure from COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry unit responsible for the crossing.

But a Hamas official at the site insists the crossing was not open, and the gate leading to the tunnel that connects the Israeli and Gaza sides of the crossing is closed.

“The border has been closed because of constant Israeli shelling,” he says.

The crossing area has been hit previously, but there were no reports of shelling on Monday or Tuesday.

A second official says the crossing will remain closed until they receive international assurances that the terminal would be protected from Israeli airstrikes.

“We need an international guarantee that the crossing, and the route between the two sides of the crossing, will not be bombed by Israel,” he says.

The Erez crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel is ordinarily open for Palestinians granted rare permission to enter the Jewish state, usually for medical purposes.

Earlier in the week, Palestinians holding foreign passports evacuated through the crossing, fleeing an Israeli aerial campaign that has killed more than 185 people in response to Hamas rocket fire onto Israeli cities.

— AFP

Turkish PM accuses Israel of ‘state terrorism’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Israel of committing “state terrorism” in its deadly air offensive on Gaza, his latest tirade of criticism against the policies of the Jewish state.

“Israel is continuing to carry out state terrorism in the region. Nobody, except us, tells it to stop,” Erdogan tells members of his ruling party in parliament, accusing Israel of perpetrating a “massacre” of Palestinians. “To what extent will the world remain silent to this state terrorism?”

– AFP

Ashdod, Shfela hear sirens

Sirens sound in Ashdod and the Shfela region, as Hamas continues its increased rocket fire midday Tuesday.

Almost 35 rockets since 9 a.m.

Gaza terrorists have fired nearly 35 rockets at Israel since 9 a.m., the IDF reports, when Israel announced it would accept a Egyptian ceasefire offer.

Three of those rockets are intercepted Tuesday afternoon over Ashkelon, Ofakim, and Rehovot.

‘If Hamas rejects truce, Israel is free to act’

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri tells Ynet that “we are not looking for wars and conflict, but if someone answers the Israeli government’s clear signals with missile fire, he assumes an extremely heavy responsibility upon himself and on his citizens.”

The former Shin Bet head also indicates that if Hamas rejects the ceasefire, “the State of Israel is free to act with almost no limits.”

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Sirens heard in Rishon, Palmahim

Warning sirens are heard near Rishon Lezion and in the Shfela region.

Rocket shot down over Rishon Lezion

Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over Rishon Lezion, in central Israel.

‘Terror brings you no closer to state’ — Peres

Meeting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem Tuesday, President Shimon Peres and Quartet envoy Tony Blair express their support for the Egyptian-backed ceasefire.

Directing his remarks to the Palestinian people, Peres says, “the Palestinian people are not our enemies, the people of Gaza are not our enemies. We share the same aim which is an end to terror, security and calm for civilians everywhere. We must return to peace talks to achieve the only viable, long term solution — two states for two peoples.

“I want to say something to the people of Gaza. This was the third major escalation in the past 6 years. Each time it is innocent civilians that suffer and pay the price. Rockets and terror bring you no closer to your national aspirations. Terrorism will not deliver for the Palestinian people. The children of Gaza deserve the same opportunities as children everywhere which is to be secure and free. But Hamas continues to hold them hostage. They seek death over life.”

Shimon Peres and Tony Blair meeting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, July 15 (photo Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

Shimon Peres and Tony Blair meeting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, July 15 (photo Credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

Peres also praises PA President Mahmoud Abbas: “President Abbas is not only a partner for Israel but is the best hope for the Palestinians for a future of stability, respect, independence and prosperity. He is a man of peace, a responsible leader. Our hand will always be raised to defend ourselves against those who seek to harm us. And stretched out in friendship to those who seek peace.”

Turning to the former British prime minister, Peres says, “I want to thank Mr. Blair for his involvement and support. He belongs to those who won’t compromise in the fight for peace. Thank you for your courage and your devotion.”

Blair says he welcomes the Egyptian initiative, and thanks the leadership in Cairo for its leadership. “This has now been accepted and endorsed by the Arab League, by President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and now by the Government of Israel and the whole of the international community. The ceasefire is important because it gives us the opportunity to stop the tragic loss of life, the misery and the fear. The number of people who have died in Gaza is indeed tragic, people in Israel in these last days living in fear of terror and rocket attacks.”

“The purpose is also to give us the opportunity to put in place a long term solution,” says Blair. “This is not a ceasefire which ends with the fact of the absence of immediate rocket attacks and retaliation. The purpose of this ceasefire is to give us an opportunity to bring genuine hope for the future for the people of Gaza, to have Gaza opened up again to the world, to have Gaza and the West Bank re-united but to do so in a way that gives real and permanent security to the people of Israel, the freedom from rocket attacks, from tunnels, from terrorism.”

Fatah group claims Grad fire on Ashdod

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed movement of Fatah, claims responsibility for launching two Grad missiles at Ashdod at 12:30 p.m.

In a statement posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page, the movement writes: “We continue pummeling the enemy’s settlements everywhere. We will not back down at any cost.”

— Elhanan Miller

Two rockets shot down over central Israel

As Hamas and other groups continue to fire Tuesday afternoon, Iron Dome intercepts two missiles over central Israel, the IDF says.

Israeli soldiers walk by an Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near Jerusalem (photo credit Flash90)

Israeli soldiers walk by an Iron Dome missile defense system deployed near Jerusalem (photo credit Flash90)

‘Very easy to be armchair generals’ — Hoenlein

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells the Times of Israel during a solidarity mission to the Knesset this morning that the proper time for a ceasefire is “when Hamas can be decapitated or contained.”

“It is very easy to be armchair generals,” said Hoenlein. “But there are consequences to decisions… We’re here to support the government of Israel — and its decisions — regardless of external pressures.”

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hoenlein says much American media has been devoted to the plight of the Palestinians during Operation Protective Edge because, “blood gets attention. Gore gets attention… This is a price I’m willing to pay for Israel to be safe.”

“The time for memorials to the Jewish people is over. I want a safe and vibrant Jewish state and people,” said Hoenlein.

The Conference of Presidents came to Israel on an ad hoc mission “to experience what the people of Israel experience everyday.” Members are party to all-day briefings at the Knesset with top politicians, including president-elect Ruby Rivlin who thanked the mission profusely for its presence.

Hoenlein credits his organization with raising pro-Israel awareness among high profile celebrities and politicians in the US.

“It’s a man bites dog situation,” say Hoenlein, explaining positive items are rarely news.

Americans, say Hoenlein, are used to viewing the news through a distorted image in which the arsonists are the victims, and the firefighters are not heroes.

The one-sided acceptance today of the ceasefire agreement is an important indication of Israel’s intentions, says Hoenlein.

“They (Hamas) exist to kill, Israel kills to exist,” said Hoenlein.

— Amanda Borschel-Dan

Abbas to visit Cairo tomorrow

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be in Cairo tomorrow to discuss the Egyptian ceasefire proposal to end the fighting in Gaza, according to Channel 2.

The PA, Israel, Arab League, and others support the truce, but to this point, Hamas has rejected it.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab foreign ministers' meeting at Arab League headquarters in Cairo, on April 9, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting at Arab League headquarters in Cairo, on April 9, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed)

Kerry ready to fly to Middle East ‘tomorrow’

US Secretary of State John Kerry warns of the “great risks” that the violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip could spiral out of control.

“There are great risks of even an escalation of the violence,” Kerry tells reporters in Vienna, adding that the United States wants to give an Egyptian ceasefire initiative time to work, but that he is ready to fly back to Middle East “tomorrow” if needed.

Kerry was scheduled to visit Cairo on Tuesday, but canceled the trip earlier in the day.

He also says he will seek to extend nuclear talks with Iran, scheduled to end on July 20.

— AP, AFP and Times of Israel staff

Hamas officials says group discussing ceasefire

Hamas is still debating the terms of the Egypt-backed ceasefire to bring the fighting in Gaza to an end, says Reuters.

“We are still in consultation and there has been no official position made by the movement regarding the Egyptian proposal,” senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk writes on Facebook from Cairo.

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

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

MK Elkin says no choice but to reenter Gaza

Speaking at the Knesset, MK Ze’ev Elkin tells US Jewish leaders that when Israel leaves territory it once held, it leads to more attacks on Israel and provides opportunities for its enemies.

“We have seen that every place we decide to leave — south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip — has become a new base for radical Islam,” Elkin says to members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, adding in an apparent exaggeration that since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, 100,000 rockets have been launched from former IDF strongholds.

Elkin says that the disengagement from Gaza has taught Israel three key lessons: not to rely on foreign forces, not to leave territory without a security arrangement, and to prevent weapons — especially rockets — from being brought into territory formerly held by Israel.

MK Zee'v Elkin (LIkud), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in  the Knesset on Monday, May 12, 2014. (photo credit: Flash 90)

MK Zee’v Elkin (Likud), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in the Knesset on Monday, May 12, 2014. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Retaking Gaza, however, would be a complicated endeavor.

“If you try to imagine what is the feeling of Israelis — I made aliya in 1990 from the eastern part of Ukraine — had someone at that time said Ashdod, Ashkelon will be under attack, it would have been ridiculous… Now it is a daily reality.”

However “without doubt the main security threat for the State of Israel is not Gaza, is not Lebanon — it is Iran.”

“We will probably not have an alternative than entering Gaza, but our concern is the basic security of our people,” he says. “Only we can do our choice. We will probably not have any choice but to return to Gaza for a short period.”

— Amanda Borschel-Dan

Italian FM to visit Ashdod, Ramallah

Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini will today visit an Israeli town hit by rocket strikes from Gaza and meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as part of a diplomatic push for peace, Mogherini’s ministry says.

Together with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Mogherini will travel to Ashdod, a southern port town close to the border with the Gaza Strip, and visit a home struck by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip.

Mogherini will also visit Ramallah this afternoon to meet Abbas and Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki.

A Gaza rocket struck Ashdod earlier today, just hours after Israel agreed to abide by an Egyptian truce that was rejected by Hamas.

Tomorrow Mogherini is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and outgoing President Shimon Peres, as well as visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.

A 41-year-old who has only been in government since February, Mogherini is seen as a possible pick for a European Commission post or to be the EU’s next foreign policy chief.

— AFP

Love on the Gaza border

After holding a formal engagement ceremony in Bnei Brak this past Saturday, a young ultra-Orthodox Israeli man finds what may be the most unexpected and unromantic place to symbolically propose to his fiancé — again.

27-year-old Berale Yackobovitz takes his intended, Margalit Shmilovich, to the border with the Gaza Strip, and with the help of soldiers who had prepared a sign, gets down on bended knee and asks for her hand in marriage for the second time.

Unsurprisingly, she says yes!

He should get points for creativity, at the very least.

Berale Yackobovitz goes to his knees to propose to Margalit near a tank near the border with Gaza in South Israel, during Operation Protective Edge, July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

Berale Yackobovitz gets down on bended knee to ‘propose’ to Margalit by a tank near the Gaza border on the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, Tuesday, July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

IDF to renew attacks on Gaza

Israeli media reports that the IDF will renew its attacks on the Gaza Strip, after Hamas intensified its rocket fire on Tuesday morning.

Israel announced at 9 a.m. that it accepted the Egyptian-backed ceasefire, but Hamas indicated it rejects it, and launched a number of volleys at Israel.

Israel strikes targets in Gaza

A live broadcast of Gaza shows several plumes of smoke rise as Israeli forces resume operations against terror groups in the Strip.

Gazans on Twitter report a number of large explosions.

The airstrikes are the first since before 9 a.m., when Jerusalem ordered the IDF to hold fire to give the ceasefire a chance.

The IDF strikes come as Gazan terrorists have continued to fire rockets at Israel throughout the day.

Netanyahu orders IDF strikes

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs the Israel Defense Forces to “act forcefully against terror targets in Gaza,” after Hamas and Islamic Jihad refused to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and fired dozens of rockets at Israel, diplomatic sources say.

– Raphael Ahren

IDF Spokesman confirms military action in Gaza

Hamas fires 50 rockets since start of ceasefire

IDF Spokesperson: “After six hours of unilateral attacks by Hamas, the IDF has resumed operational activity in the Gaza Strip. Since 9am Tuesday, about 50 rockets were fired at Israel.”

Rocket strikes Sderot, no injuries

Jews and Muslims brave rockets in Ashkelon

Jews, Muslims and Christians who work side-by-side in a nursery run by the Hishtil global nursery corporation in Ashkelon brave the incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip together.

Hishtil, founded in 1974, specializes in the production and sale of vegetables, herbs, seedlings and young plants for the professional and hobby markets, which it grows in five sites in Israel and six joint venture nurseries in Turkey, Italy, South Africa, Bulgaria, France and Bosnia.

These days, as rockets rain on southern Israel, Jews, Muslims and Christians work together in Hishtil’s Ashkelon nursery. The Muslims and Christians, who are undergoing advanced agricultural training at Hishtil for a period of 11 months, hail from the Philippines, Rwanda, Sudan and Eritrea.

“The rocket fire over Israel does not discriminate between the different faiths,” reads a statement released by the nursery this afternoon.

Together, said the statement, the workers are “coping with barrages of rockets, parts and shrapnel that fall around the nursery.”

Israeli planes striking Gaza Strip

Southern Command chief Sami Turgeman says Israeli warplanes are striking targets in the Gaza Strip. Here are photos:

IDF firing upon targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

IDF firing upon targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

IDF firing upon targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

IDF firing upon targets in the Gaza Strip. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Rocket intercepted over Ashkelon

The Iron Dome system intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza over Ashkelon, after sirens sounded in the city and the surrounding communities.

Hamas has fired some 50 rockets into Israel since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was supposed to go into effect at 9:00am.

Ayelet Shaked spars with Turkish PM

Referring to Jewish Home MK Ayelet Shaked’s controversial Facebook posts during an AKP party meeting Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the Israeli legislator has a mindset similar to that of Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Shaked countered through her party’s website saying “I guess this is the end of all-inclusive vacations,” in reference to Turkey’s popularity as a vacation destination for Israeli tourists.

FM: Any ceasefire is preparation for next war

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says any ceasefire with Hamas is mere preparation for the next round of violence.

“Israel must go all the way in Gaza. The world must give us its full backing to go all the way,” he says at a press conference.

Liberman says a truce will only allow Hamas to replenish its stock and build more rockets.

“An end result to the operation would see the IDF control Gaza,” he says “Given Hamas’s blatant rejection [of the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire], we must make a clear decision. All this hesitation works against us. We must go all the way. There is no alternative,” he says.

Liberman says that the current situation in the Middle East, in which Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria, Iran is preoccupied with the P5+1 nuclear talks, as well as Syria and Iraq, allows Israel to undertake such an operation. “I hope the [security] cabinet takes this decision,” he says.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addresses the press on Wednesday, July 15, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman addresses the press on Wednesday, July 15, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Sirens sound in Eshkol region

Sirens warning of incoming rockets blare in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza Strip. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Islamic Jihad says it was not involved in forging truce

A spokesman for Palestinian Islamic Jihad says the terror group was not involved in forging the ceasefire proposal, and adds that it was surprised by the initiative.

“Islamic Jihad has reservations regarding the ceasefire [proposal] since we were not involved in forging [it]. We are still considering [the ceasefire]. Our reservations will be brought before the Egyptian side,” says Yousef al-Hasayana according to Ynet.

MK Erdan: Clear Gaza of rockets, tunnels

Minister of Communications and Home Front Defense Gilad Erdan (Likud) says that Israel must not stop Operation Protective Edge until the Gaza Strip is clear of tunnels and rockets.

“Israel must destroy Hamas’s infrastructure and not stop until it is done, until the rocket fire on Israelis stops and the Gaza Strip is demilitarized of rockets and tunnels,” says Erdan

“Israel’s willingness to agree to a truce brokered by the Egyptian president [and Hamas's rejection of the deal] has exposed before the whole world that Hamas has only one goal — to murder as many Israelis as possible,” he adds.

UN describes ‘immense’ damage in Gaza

The UN aid agency for Palestinians describes the damage wrought by Israel’s air offensive on Gaza as “immense,” with more than 500 homes razed.

“The level of human losses and destruction in Gaza is really immense,” says UNWRA spokesman Sami Mshasha.

“According to our latest figure, we are talking about 174 killed and well over 1,100 injured. This number will increase. The numbers are increasing by hours,” he tells reporters.

“A good number of those killed and injured are women and children. That is a cause of concern for UNRWA,” he adds.

The death toll on Tuesday had risen to 192, according to local officials in Gaza.

Mshasha says that 560 homes had been totally destroyed, while thousands of buildings had suffered damage.

Mshasha says that 47 UNRWA facilities had also been damaged by bombing.

— AFP

Sirens sound in Sha’ar Hanegev

Sirens blare in Sha’ar Hanegev and the surrounding area.

Over 60 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza so far today. 10 have been intercepted by Iron Dome.

Deputy DM: Cabinet was wrong to accept truce

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud) says Israel must “correct” the security cabinet decision made earlier to accept an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire with Hamas.

“Once again, Hamas is dictating the terms. We must not be humiliated. We must correct the mistake of accepting the ceasefire proposal made this morning and let the military do its job,” he says.

Danny Danon (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Danny Danon (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sirens blare in Ashkelon, surrounding area

Sirens sound in Ashkelon and the surrounding region.

A salvo of up to six rockets was fired from Gaza toward the area, Channel 2 reports.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Ashkelon

Iron Dome intercepts at least two rockets over Ashkelon, after sirens sounded in the city and the surrounding area signaling an incoming salvo.

Palestinians say one dead in renewed Israeli strikes

According to Palestinian sources, at least one person is dead following renewed Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.

IAF strikes 20 Hamas rocket launchers, tunnels

The Israel Air Force has struck several Hamas tunnels, 20 rocket launchers, weapons facilities and other infrastructure sites so far today after it renewed its airstrikes in the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian-brokered truce proposal.

Gaza death toll reaches 193, say Palestinians

A 77-year-old man is killed in Gaza after Israel renewed its airstrikes, the first fatality since efforts for an Egyptian truce collapsed after a Hamas rejection.

The death of the man, in southern Khan Younis, brings the toll in eight days of violence to 193, according to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

- AFP, Times of Israel staff

Rocket intercepted over Netivot

The Iron Dome system intercepts a rocket over Netivot, near the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Spokesperson’s office says over 70 rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip so far today.

Barrage of rockets fired at communities near Gaza

A fresh salvo of rockets is fired at communities near the Gaza Strip, triggering sirens in Yad Mordechai.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Sirens sound in Sderot, Sha’ar Hanegev

A barrage of rockets is fired at Sderot and the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, triggering sirens in the area.

Protesters chase PA minister out of Gaza

Palestinian Authority health minister Jawad Awad cancels a trip to Gaza City’s Shifa hospital after being confronted by angry protesters as he arrived from Egypt, officials said.

Witnesses say protesters threw shoes and eggs at Awad’s car as he entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Officials said he left the Palestinian enclave shortly afterwards.

Protesters also gathered at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, carrying posters criticizing Awad and the recently formed government of technocrats to which he belongs.

The unity government was sworn in on June 2 following a deal between the Hamas and PA President Mahmoud Abbas which ended seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Gaza has been bombed, and Gaza has been destroyed, and now he comes to visit?” protester Ahmed Murtaja said incredulously.

“We don’t want this visit and all the Palestinian people are opposed to it and reject it,” he told AFP.

Protesters said they were angry that it had taken Awad eight days to visit Gaza, where 193 people have been killed in Israeli airstrikes.

They also condemned the Palestinian Authority president for failing to do more to halt the Israeli campaign, with some chanting: “Abu Mazen (Abbas) is a collaborator.”

In a statement, the health ministry condemned the “flagrant and brutal assault” on the minister and his delegation in Rafah, blaming the incident on “media affiliated with Hamas.”

“The ministry of health will continue to stand by our people in Gaza,” the statement said, pledging to secure medical supplies for the wounded.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, but a top member of its exiled politburo, Mussa Abu Marzuq, condemned the incident as “irresponsible and improper” on his Facebook page.

He called for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible.

- AFP, Times of Israel staff

Sirens in Beersheba, surrounding area

Sirens warning of incoming rocket fire blare in Beersheba and the surrounding communities including Omer and Lehavim.

An explosion is heard over Beersheba, signaling an interception by Iron Dome.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Ashdod, surrounding area

Sirens blare in Ashkelon, Hof Ashkelon, Ashdod and the surrounding communities, warning of incoming rocket fire.

There were no immediate reports of interceptions, damage or injuries.

Sirens blare in Tel Aviv, greater region

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv and the greater Tel Aviv region.

Rockets intercepted over central Israel

At least three rockets were intercepted over central Israel, including one over Rishon Lezion after a barrahe of rockets was fired toward the greater Tel Aviv region, triggering sirens.

There were no immediate reports on injuries or damage.

Sirens in Beersheba, Negev area

Sirens wail in Beersheba, Ashkelon and other communities in southern Israel.

No immediate reports on injuries.

Sirens wail in Dimona, Yerucham, Mitzpe Ramon

Sirens blare in Dimona, Mitzpe Ramon and Yerucham in southern Israel, moments after at least three rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome over central Israel.

Australian envoy visits Beersheba amid rocket fire

The Australian ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma travels to Beersheba to visit the two Bedouin girls injured on Monday in a rocket attack on the nearby village of Lakiya.

The ambassador brought with him a toy koala to give to 10-year-old Mar’am Alwakili who remains unconscious at Soroka Medical Center in the city. Her sister Atil is in moderate condition.

Sharma also met with Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich and toured the city to see some of the damage caused by the rockets, including in the home of an 84-year-old resident.

“The destroyed home and the fate of the Bedouin children encapsulate the indiscriminate nature of rocket fire, which continues to emanate from Gaza,” said the ambassador in a statement posted to Facebook.

Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, Ambassador Dave Sharma and Amit Rayngold, deputy manager of the department of general administration, in a bunker in Beersheba, July 15, 2014. (Photo credit: Courtesy of the Australian embassy)

Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, Ambassador Dave Sharma and Amit Rayngold, deputy manager of the department of general administration, in a bunker in Beersheba, July 15, 2014. (Photo credit: Courtesy of the Australian embassy)

Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma in Beersheba, July 15, 2014. (Photo credit: Courtesy of the Australian embassy)

Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma in Beersheba, July 15, 2014. (Photo credit: Courtesy of the Australian embassy)

One severely wounded after mortar attack

One person is seriously injured near the Erez border crossing after suffering a direct hit from a mortar launched by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The person receives emergency treatment and is rushed to a nearby hospital.

Journalist explains pic of Israelis watching airstrike

A Danish journalist who last week uploaded an image to Twitter, showing Israeli citizens in Sderot sitting on beach chairs while viewing IDF strikes on the Gaza Strip, speaks to Channel 2.

“I showed the situation as it was,” Allan Sorensen says, insisting he hold no anti-Israel views.

“I have shown Palestinians dancing on roofs after rockets landed in Israel as well.”

Sorensen’s tweet caused a media stir, as it seemed to portray Israelis as eager to watch violence against residents of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli watch an airstrike on Gaza (photo credit: Allan Sorensen/Twitter)

Israeli watch an airstrike on Gaza (photo credit: Allan Sorensen/Twitter)

Sirens in Sderot, Sha’ar Hanegev

Sirens were heard in the city of Sderot and in the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council. No injuries reported.

Earlier, Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim joint responsibility for firing four M-75 rockets at Tel Aviv.

One killed near Erez border crossing

One person was killed near the Erez border crossing after suffering a direct hit from a mortar fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The person had received emergency treatment and was rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors announced him dead.

The person was visiting IDF soldiers in the area and had come to bring them food, Channel 2 reports.

36 rockets fired at Israel in past minutes

Thirty-six rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip in the past several minutes. Sirens were heard in Ashkelon, Sderot, and the Shaar Hanegev regional council.

Two buildings in Ashkelon suffered direct hits but no injuries were reported in either case.

Iron Dome intercepts 15 rockets today

At least 15 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system today. Two rockets were intercepted above Tel Aviv. Palestinian organizations launched more than 100 rockets during the day, Ynet reports.

PM, knocking Liberman, says he’ll ignore ‘background noise’ in tackling Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will do all in its power to protect its citizens.

“This morning, we decided that Israel will accept the ceasefire deal,” he says, at a brief press conference alongside Defense Minister Ya’alon and IDF Chief Gantz. But, he adds, he made clear that if “Hamas and Islamic Jihad don’t accept the ceasefire, they will pay a heavy price.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the press ahead of consultations at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Tuesday, June 15, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the press ahead of consultations at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Tuesday, June 15, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

And that, he says, is what is now happening, as Israel steps up its attacks on Hamas and other terror targets.

“Whoever tries to harm Israel, Israel will harm them,” the prime minister adds.

“Hamas leaves us no choice but to respond. We will not stop until we have rid Israel of the threats. We will do all we can in order for quiet to return to the people of Israel.”

Netanyahu says that “when there’s no ceasefire, the response will be fire.”

He does not specify new means that Israel will use, making no mention, for instance, of a possible ground offensive.

He does appear to respond to Liberman’s veiled attack on him earlier this afternoon, by noting that these are moments for taking decisions calmly, not hastily. “I am determined to do the right thing,” he says, and turning to the people of Israel, adds, “I know you are relying on me and on us.” In a slap at his foreign minister, he promises to “ignore the background noise.”

Ya’alon says Israel will continue operation

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israel is “determined to continue the operation” in the Gaza Strip and “will not compromise the security of the state.”

Six Palestinians will complete prison terms

The Justice Ministry decides that six Palestinians who were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal and were later rearrested in the West Bank following the murder of three Israeli teenagers will serve their entire original prison term.

All six prisoners are residents of East Jerusalem and were previously released before completing their sentences, which ranged from 11 to 36 years in prison.

Man was delivering food to soldiers when he was killed

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says that the Israeli man who was killed this evening was delivering food to soldiers Tuesday at the Erez Crossing with Gaza when he was struck by a mortar.

Rosenfeld says at least 15 Israelis, including several children, have been injured by the Palestinian rocket fire since the fighting began.

— AP

Israelis against ceasefire, poll finds

53% of Israelis are against a ceasefire with Hamas, a Channel 2 poll finds.

However, 92% of the polled population assert that an operation will not halt Hamas rocket attacks in the long run.

57% of Israelis are confident that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is handling the situation responsibly, while 35% are dissatisfied with the prime minister.

Netanyahu fires Danon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fires fellow Likud member Danny Danon from his position as deputy defense minister. Earlier today, Danon said Israel must “correct” the security cabinet decision made earlier to accept an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire with Hamas.

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Once again, Hamas is dictating the terms. We must not be humiliated. We must correct the mistake of accepting the ceasefire proposal made this morning and let the military do its job,” he said.

Danon says will not go along with PM’s ‘leftist attitude’

Moments after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu removes Danny Danon (Likud) as deputy defense minister, Danon fires back at Netanyahu, saying he will not “toe the line” with the prime minister’s “flimsy leftist attitude” surrounding Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

“The prime minister does not accept that there were views that differ from his,” Danon says in a statement, adding that the hesitation to undertake a ground operation in Gaza is seen as weakness and that the government’s acceptance of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire will leave millions of Israelis in the line of fire.

“I will not sell my ideology for an office and a driver,” he says.

Rocket hits school in Rishon Lezion, no injuries

A rocket fired from Gaza hits a school in Rishon Lezion, causing damage to the building.

There are no injuries as the school was empty.

Sirens sound in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera

Sirens blare in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gedera and Gan Yavne.

Some 125 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza throughout the day, with 20 being intercepted by Iron Dome, the IDF says.

Netanyahu convenes security cabinet

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is convening the security cabinet tonight to discuss Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and a possible if unlikely ceasefire with Hamas, brokered by the Egyptians.

Earlier, the PM warned that “whoever tries to harm Israel, Israel will harm them,” adding that “when there’s no ceasefire, the response will be fire.”

He did not specify new means that Israel will use, making no mention, for instance, of a possible ground offensive.

Sirens blare near Jerusalem, in West Bank

Sirens sound across in several settlements in the West Bank including Ma’aleh Michmash and the surrounding communities in the Binyamin area.

The Code Red alert also sound in Beit Shemesh and Neve Ilan, near Jerusalem.

Rockets hit Hebron area, IDF says in deleted tweet

Two rockets fired from Gaza hit the Hebron area, in the West Bank, the IDF says in a tweet, which is then deleted.

Canadian FM says Hamas not interested in peace

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire proves that it is not interested in peace.

“We have long believed that innocent Palestinian people living in Gaza deserve far better than the reckless actions of this terrorist organization. Make no mistake, Canada views Hamas as an international terrorist organization that is bent on the destruction of the State of Israel,” he says.

“We believe that Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself, from the continued campaign of terror being waged by Hamas,” he adds.

Stones thrown at Jerusalem light rail

Stones are hurled at the Jerusalem light rail in two separate incidents in the Shuafat area in the north of of the city.

There are no injuries reported but the train sustains light damage.

Sirens sound in Eshkol region

Sirens blare in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Bedouin girl injured by rocket on the mend

The condition of a 10-year-old Bedouin girl seriously injured in a rocket attack on the village of Lakiya, near Beersheba on Monday, is improving.

Mar’am Alwaliki regains consciousness after having been in a coma since her injury from shrapnel. Her sister Atil, 13, was moderately wounded. Both remain hospitalized at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

US says still working for Israel-Hamas ceasefire

Washington says it remains committed to pressing for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas despite Palestinian terrorists rejecting a short-lived truce and Israel resuming its air campaign against Gaza.

US Secretary of State John Kerry says that he would be willing to return to the region at a moment’s notice if it would help bring the parties to a truce.

But with the Egyptian plan failing to end eight days of cross-border fire, Washington is still seeking a negotiated halt to the deadly attacks which have left at least 194 Palestinians and one Israeli dead.

“We’re going to stay at it. The secretary will remain engaged with the parties,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tells reporters.

“In our view we need to all remember what’s at stake here: we will continue to work for a ceasefire.”

While Psaki stresses that President Barack Obama’s administration’s position remains that Israel has a right to defend itself, she says the goal is de-escalation on both sides.

Psaki adds that while Washington does not engage with Hamas, which the United States has classified as a terrorist organization, “there are countries in the region that are, that we remain engaged with.”

The State Department official also condemns the civilian loss of life in the conflict.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Iron Dome downs rocket over Kiryat Gat

Iron Dome shoots down a rocket over Kiryat Gat, after sirens sound in the city and the surrounding area.

IDF says 1 in 10 rockets fall inside Gaza

The IDF says that out of over 1,000 rockets launched from Gaza since Operation Protective Edge began, some 100 landed within the Palestinian enclave.

Earlier this week, a rocket fired by Hamas hit a power line in Gaza, cutting off electricity to 70,000 Palestinians.

Peres defends Gaza operation

President Shimon Peres says that the killing of Palestinian civilians by air raids on Gaza presents a moral dilemma, but argues there is scant alternative as long as the Islamic militants who rule the strip refuse to stop sustained rocket fire against Israel.

“There is a moral problem, but I don’t have a moral answer to it,” the 1994 Nobel Peace laureate tells The Associated Press. “If they are shooting at us, and don’t let our mothers and their children … have a full night’s sleep, what can we do?”

- AP

Two Palestinians killed in strike in Rafah

Two Palestinians are killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, near the border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli media reports that one of the men was a terror operative.

Earlier tonight, a 77-year-old Palestinian man was killed in an air strike in Khan Younis, also in southern Gaza, as Israel resumed its airstrikes in the Palestinian enclave following Hamas’s rejection of an Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire.

House of Hamas minister targeted by Israel

The house of Hamas interior minister Fathi Hamad is hit in an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Residents in north, east of Gaza City told to leave homes

Residents in northern and eastern neighborhoods of Gaza City are told by the IDF to leave their homes, in recorded messages made by phone.

Such warnings are usually given pending imminent strikes and to avoid civilian casualties.

Three Palestinians killed in 2 Israeli air strikes

Three Palestinians are killed in two Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, raising the toll in eight days of violence to 197 deaths, medics said.

One strike killed two men in a car in southern Rafah, and a second in central Johr al-Deeq killed one man, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Israeli media reports that one of the men killed in Rafah attack was a terrorist.

- AFP, Times of Israel staff

Protective Edge now longer than Pillar of Defense

It’s the end of the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, and signs of a ceasefire this morning have entirely disappeared, with Hamas brusquely rejecting the notion, stepping up rocket fire, taking a first Israeli fatality, and prompting a promise from Netanyahu of intensified military action.

As the conflict extends into its ninth day, it has now gone on longer than the previous round of such hostilities, Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012.

We’re going to close this liveblog now, and our colleague Ilan Ben-David is now live blogging into Wednesday here.