The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Monday, the 21st day of Operation Protective Edge. Four Israelis were killed and several more injured after a mortar round landed near a community outside Gaza, as fighting picked up Monday after a brief Eid al-Fitr holiday respite. Gazans reported several killed in a strike near Gaza’s largest hospital, but the IDF said a Hamas or other Islamist group’s rocket misfire was responsible.

At the same time, diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire chugged along, with the UN Security Council drafting a statement, rejected by Israel as one-sided, calling for a halt in fighting. Forty-eight Israeli soldiers, two civilians and a foreign worker have been confirmed killed in three weeks of fighting, while Gazan health officials put the death toll there at over 1,000. Israel says hundreds of those are Hamas fighters. (Tuesday’s liveblog is here.)

You can also follow @TOIAlerts on Twitter — we’re live-tweeting all the updates there as well.

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Day 21 of Hamas conflict begins after Obama demands ceasefire

We are now entering Day 21 of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s effort to stop Hamas’s rocket fire, demolish its cross-border tunnels and degrade its military infrastructure.

Late Sunday night, Israel time, President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu and urges an immediate ceasefire.

He also condemned Hamas attacks and reaffirmed “Israel’s right to defend itself.”

US President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on July 14, 2014. Obama said he hopes Egypt's ceasefire plan can restore calm in Gaza (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP)

US President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on July 14, 2014. Obama said he hopes Egypt’s ceasefire plan can restore calm in Gaza (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP)

The president told the prime minister that any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.”

The critical element of the conversation: He called for an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

It’s not immediately clear how that demand is being received. Israeli military officials have said they’ve found most of Hamas’s cross-border tunnels but need more time to demolish them and find others. And some ministers have been pushing for a much-expanded ground offensive.

Apropos that Obama call, 87% of Israelis apparently disagree

A Channel 10 poll late Sunday showed 87 percent of the public would like Operation Protective Edge to continue, and 69 percent want Hamas to be toppled entirely.

Only seven percent say they want an immediate ceasefire, and six percent answer that they don’t know.

Netanyahu was robust in US TV interviews before Obama call

AP has a piece summing up Netanyahu’s US TV appearances Sunday, in which he said every Palestinian civilian’s death costs Israel in its fight for world opinion, but the Jewish state must not cede its security for the sake of public relations.

Netanyahu said Palestinians are trying to shape global opinion with images of piled-up, slain civilians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (screen capture: Fox News)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (screen capture: Fox News)

“We’re telling the civilians to leave, Hamas is telling them to stay,” Netanyahu said in satellite interviews from Israel. “Why is it telling them to stay? Because it wants to pile up their own dead bodies.”

He added, “They not only want to kill our people, they want to sacrifice their own people.”

A Palestinian official countered that Israel’s actions are unjustified.

“The Israeli aggression on Gaza does not bring peace to Israel,” said Mohammad Shtayyeh, minister of the Palestinian Economic Council for Research and Development.

Netanyahu said his nation’s efforts to secure itself will not yield despite growing concern about deaths at the hands of Israeli forces. But that was before the Obama phone call.

“Hamas is a terror organization that is committed to our destruction,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu spoke to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” ”Fox News Sunday” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Shtayyeh and Netanyahu appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

– AP

‘Over half of Hamas’s rocket arsenal destroyed’

A reporter for Defense News quotes an IDF intelligence officer saying that Hamas’s rocket arsenal has been cut in half since Operation Protective Edge began three weeks ago. The officer also tells Barbara Opall-Rome that over 300 of the more than 1000 Gazans killed thus far, according to the Hamas Health Ministry, were not innocent civilians.

Gaza TV claims three rockets fired, but no launches detected

Al Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip claims the al-Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees launched three 107 rockets at the Israeli town of Netiv Ha’asarah, but there are no reports of sirens or rocket launches.

Jewish group urges Washington to keep N. Korean arms from Hamas

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, urges the Obama administration to adopt whatever measures necessary to prevent North Korea from resupplying Hamas’s rocket arsenal.

“No one should be surprised that the Pyongyang regime, with the world’s worst record of human rights abuses, would be sought out by the murderous Hamas terrorists who use their own civilians as human shields,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says in a statement. “But the last thing that the Middle East needs now is a new source for terror weapons to find its way into Hamas’ hands.”

“Such a development would only stiffen Hamas’ resolve to continue on its murderous path, one that has needlessly brought death devastation to the people of Gaza and the loss of many Israeli lives,” Cooper says.

Hamas official dismisses Obama’s call for demilitarization of Gaza

Hamas official Izzat Al-Rishq responds on Facebook to US President Barack Obama’s call for an immediate ceasefire and demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.

“We say for the millionth time,” Al-Rishq writes. “Those who try to take our weapons, we will take their life.”

— Elhanan Miller

Fatah condemns Hamas for arresting its members in Gaza

Fatah in the Gaza Strip is condemning Hamas for placing a number of Fatah members under house arrest across the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Protective Edge.

According to the PA’s official WAFA news agency, Fatah appealed to Hamas to stop arresting its members, and was told the detentions were carried out by individuals and was not official Hamas policy. The house arrests continued.

Fatah calls on Hamas in a communique to stop harassing its members in Gaza, saying “at the moment what we need most is national solidarity to strengthen the home front.”

— Elhanan Miller

Qatari FM blames Israel for scuttling US ceasefire efforts

Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya blames Israel for scuttling US Secretary of State John Kerry’s seven-day humanitarian ceasefire proposal. According to al-Attiya in remarks made to al-Hayat, Israel rejected Kerry’s draft before the discussions between him, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Palestinian factions were over.

“We were at the conclusion of a positive discussion when Israel announced that it rejected Kerry’s proposal,” al-Attiya says. “The refusal arrived before we reached a final position on the matter.” Al-Attiya says he’ll continue to work with Davutoglu and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to reach a ceasefire agreement.

122 IDF soldiers currently hospitalized

Right now there are 122 IDF soldiers in Israeli hospitals receiving treatment for injuries sustained in the Gaza Strip operation. According to a report on Ynet, one soldier is in critical condition and another is in serious condition. The remainder suffer from shrapnel wounds and orthopedic injuries.

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba is attending to 38 soldiers, the Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv is treating 30, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon has 34, and 19 are receiving care at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. One soldier is hospitalized at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital.

All quiet in southern Israel, Gaza since midnight

All’s quiet along Israel’s southern border, with no reports of rocket fire or sirens since midnight. There are also no reports of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

While international media attention has focused on the unrelenting conflict between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, the outbreak of incurable Ebola virus in West Africa has not slowed. According to AFP, two Americans helping treat the deadly hemorrhagic fever in Liberia are contaminated and hospitalized.

The World Health Organization says Ebola outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. In the past several months of this latest outbreak there have been 1,093 reported cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Guinea. A reported 660 people have died, the WHO says.

Abbas meets with Saudi King Abdullah in Jeddah

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday night at the royal palace in Jeddah, the official Saudi press agency reports.

Seated in a room bedecked with a garishly colored, floral carpet, the two Arab leaders discussed the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Further details of the meeting have not been disclosed.

PFLP chief says Iran, Syria, Hezbollah armed and trained Hamas

PFLP-GC Secretary-General Ahmad Jibril tells Lebanon’s Al-Manar TV that Hamas received arms and training from Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.

“After 2008, hundreds of our young people left the Gaza Strip for Syria, Lebanon, and Tehran, to train and to learn how to improve these weapons. Allah be praised, these weapons indeed were improved,” Jibril says in the interview aired on July 17 and translated by MEMRI. “The brothers in Syria, in Iran, and even in Hezbollah provided a lot of help both in the scientific sense and in transferring weapons and equipment.”

Jibril describes the route by which arms were smuggled from Syria to the blockaded Gaza Strip, explaining that the arms from Iran can’t be transferred by the Persian Gulf because it “is under surveillance.”

“We transferred [the missiles] from the airports in Damascus to Khartoum, from Khartoum to Port Sudan, and from there to the Sinai. From the Sinai, they were transferred via tunnels to the Gaza Strip,” the Palestinian faction leader explains. “The brothers in Hezbollah established cells of Bedouin and so on in the Sinai Desert. You could transfer the weapons to them, and they would get them into Gaza.”

Draft Security Council statement on Gaza leaked

A draft of the Security Council president’s statement on the three-week-long conflict between Israel and Hamas calls for an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip.

The document, leaked online by UN headquarters-based reporter Nabil Abi Saab, “calls on parties to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative.”

The draft makes no mention of Israel’s right to self-defense — nor does it mention Hamas or Israel in the context of the conflict — but it makes a blanket statement expressing “grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties.”

The council is set to adopt the statement during a meeting on the situation in Gaza at 7 a.m. local time in Israel.

Security Council to hold emergency session on Gaza

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency session Sunday night on the situation in Gaza, diplomats said.

The session will take place at midnight local time (0400 GMT). The 15 members of the panel are expected to adopt a declaration calling for a ceasefire in the war-torn enclave, the diplomats said.

— AFP

Security Council set to convene to call for unilateral ceasefire in Gaza

The UN Security Council is getting set to hold an emergency session in 10 minutes to discuss the conflict in the Gaza Strip and issue a statement calling for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire” in the Palestinian territory.

A draft of the statement released earlier makes no mention of either Hamas or Israel whatsoever. It remains to be seen whether any last minute amendments were made before showtime.

For the time being, things have been quiet between Israel and Hamas for nearly seven hours, since last rockets were fired at southern Israel. There have been no reports of Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip either.

Security Council members vote for tough, new sanctions against North Korea for its latest nuclear test, during a meeting at UN headquarters Thursday, March 7. (photo credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews)

UN Security Council members vote during a March meeting (photo credit: AP/Bebeto Matthews/File)

UN Security Council calls for immediate ceasefire

Echoing a leaked draft released Sunday, the United Nations Security Council calls for an immediate, unconditional, open-ended humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas, followed by a negotiated long-term ceasefire based on the Egyptian initiative.

Siren sounds near Ashkelon

An incoming rocket alert sounds in Ashkelon, but there are no immediate reports of explosions, indicating that it may be a false alarm.

Rocket falls in Ashkelon; no casualties

A rocket falls in an open area in the coastal city of Ashkelon. There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Official says truce with Hamas ‘open-ended’

A senior military official tells Army Radio that the security establishment is viewing the current humanitarian truce with Hamas as an “open-ended respite” from the fighting.

Despite the relative quiet since Sunday, the IDF continues to destroy attack tunnels in the Strip, and the military official says that if Hamas breaks the humanitarian truce, the army will respond forcefully.

Hamas blames Israel for lack of ceasefire

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says that continued fighting during the festival that ends the month of Ramadan is an insult to Muslims everywhere.

“The occupier is still refusing to a humanitarian lull with regards to the Eid al-Fitr festival,” he says, according to Ynet. “It is a disregard for the feelings of Muslims and their rituals.”

Zuhri says that Israel is to blame for any fighting during the festival today.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Hamas Interior Ministry cautions Gaza Strip residents that there is no formal agreement with Israel over a humanitarian truce.

The current relative quiet is not based on any deal, Iyad Al-Buzum says and warns residents to take care.

IDF returns fire after rocket hits Ashkelon

The IDF says that it fired artillery shells at the spot in Gaza from where a rocket was launched at Ashkelon earlier this morning.

The rocket was fired from an area in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, the army says.

‘Last time we listened to the US, Hamas took Gaza’

MK Ze’ev Elkin, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, rejects the Obama administration’s calls for an immediate ceasefire, recalling Palestinian elections in 2006.

“The international pressure has begun,” Elkin tells Ynet. “When we once listened to the Americans and allowed Hamas to participate in elections, Hamas took over Gaza and we received a terrorist entity. Hamas is a terrorist organization just like Al-Qaeda, so there is no reason to talk about negotiations.”

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)

“The fact that Hamas is firing means that it is still not deterred, and did not reach a real breaking point,” he says.

Israel’s UN envoy slams Security Council

Israel’s ambassador to the UN criticizes a UN Security Council presidential statement that demanded an immediate ceasefire and calls on the world to stand with Israel against terror.

Prosor notes the absence of any reference to Hamas rocket fire in the statement.

“The presidential statement miraculously managed to not mention the Hamas or rockets or Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” he says and declares he is appealing not to world leaders, but rather to public common sense.

“Tonight I want to speak as the voice of reason to the citizens of the world who need to hear the unvarnished truth,” he says. “We have grown tired of the vilification and demonization of the only democracy in the Middle East.”

“Don’t be misled by Hamas’s propaganda,” Prosor adds, and compares Hamas to the extremist organizations al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Islamic State. “It [Hamas] is also an extremist Islamist organization, with a jihadist ideology and a mission to eradicate Israel.”

Prosor says that attack tunnels have been dug under the Gaza border, right into the heart of Israeli communities.

“Hamas has abused the hundreds of millions of dollars donated by your governments to build these terror tunnels,” he says. “Your tax dollars are not being used toward education, civil services, or development. They are being used to develop a terrorist stronghold. The people of the world should be shocked by what we have uncovered in Gaza.

“Don’t believe the newspapers that claim both sides are equally to blame,” Prosor warns. “We did everything we could to avoid this conflict, but Hamas refused to stop the attacks.

“Every time the international community calls for a ceasefire, we cease and Hamas fires.”

Prosor goes on to point a finger at Hamas’s allies Qatar and Iran.

“Make no mistake: Hamas is not working alone. It is funded by Qatar and Iran. Every rocket flying out of Gaza could bear the imprint ‘courtesy of Iran’ while every terror tunnel could have a sign ‘made possible through a kind donation of the Emir of Qatar’.”

The ambassador repeats Israel’s message, that if it is quiet in Israel it will be quiet in Gaza and calls on the international community to stand with Israel.

“Stand with a nation that fights terrorism,” he implores. “Stand with good against evil, and for right against wrong.”

Voices from left, right wary of US ceasefire proposal

Politicians from the right and the left continue to find common ground in their opposition to US ceasefire efforts in their current form.

Labor MK Nachman Shai tells Channel 10 that President Obama “stopped Israel with his action. He didn’t think far enough ahead.” Earlier, Shai told Ynet that “the United States imposed a ceasefire upon us too early.” But, he emphasizes, Israel cannot say no to the US.

Nachman Shai (photo credit: Flash90)

Nachman Shai (photo credit: Flash90)

Former Ambassador to the US Michael Oren says, according to Ynet, that Israel cannot ignore Obama’s proposal, but Israel “doesn’t have to answer this demand immediately. It could be that we are at the beginning of the end, but not at the end.”

Late Sunday night, Israel time, Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu and urged an immediate ceasefire.

He also condemned Hamas attacks and reaffirmed “Israel’s right to defend itself.”

The president told the prime minister that any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.”

The critical element of the conversation: He called for an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

2,538 rockets fired at Israel in conflict

According to IDF figures, 2,538 rockets have been fired at Israel since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 8.

IDF soldier lightly wounded in Gaza

Despite a tentative ceasefire between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, an IDF soldier is lightly wounded in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, according to Army Radio. The army is investigating the incident, which appears to have been a firefight with terrorists.

The soldier is being treated at the Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer.

Abbas says Egypt’s proposal acceptable

Speaking to the Saudi newspaper Al-Ukaz, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says that the “Egyptian [ceasefire] proposal meets all the demands of the Palestinians, including opening the crossings and lifting the siege. We boycotted the Paris conference because Egypt was not invited there.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as he meets with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on July 22, 2014, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas  meets with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on July 22, 2014, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo credit: AFP/ABBAS MOMANI)

Israeli jets attack Beit Hanun launchers

Despite an ongoing humanitarian truce in Gaza, the Israeli air force responds to rocket fire on Ashkelon, striking two launchers in Beit Hanun from which the rockets were fired.

Channel 10 reports on other explosions in the northern Gaza Strip, possibly from other IAF strikes.

An IAF F-16 (illustrative photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

An IAF F-16 (illustrative photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Flash90)

UN imagery shows Shejaiya damage

The United Nations publishes satellite imagery showing the Shejaiya neighborhood before and after intense ground battles and airstrikes there.

Called “Damage Assessment in Northeastern Gaza Strip – Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the images, published Saturday by the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Program, shows two localized zones of intense damage in the neighborhood, in which structures were completely destroyed, with the rest of Shejaiya relatively intact save for scattered damaged and ruined buildings.

According to the document, the UN claims to have identified 886 damaged structures, including 604 which were completely destroyed.

UN satellite imagery of damage in Shejaiya in Gaza City (photo credit: UNITAR)

UN satellite imagery of damage in Shejaiya in Gaza City (photo credit: UNITAR)

Rockets fall inside Gaza Strip

After sirens sound in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, rockets fall inside Gaza.

Bedouin unit to celebrate Eid holiday on base

Because of the fighting in the Gaza Strip, soldiers in the Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion 585, known in Israel as Gadsar Habedoui, will not be heading home today for the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Instead, a celebratory barbecue will be held on the unit’s base in Kerem Shalom on the Gaza Border, hosted by Lt. Col. Zahi Rahal, the battalion commander.

The battalion is made up of soldiers from Israel’s Arabic-speaking communities, with the exception of Druze. This includes Bedouin, Arab Muslims from Israel’s cities, and Arab Christians.

The unit holds a sector along the Israel-Gaza border.

Gazans report toddler killed by tank fire

Israeli tank fire kills a four-year-old boy in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday in the first death since the two sides began observing an unofficial lull, Palestinian medics say.

According to emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, employed by the Hamas-run health ministry, the child was killed when a shell hit a house to the east of Jabaliya where clashes had recently erupted between Israeli troops and Hamas militants.

— AFP

‘Criticism of the US should be toned down’

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz tells Israel Radio that Israel should tone down its public criticism of the United States in the wake of its latest ceasefire proposal. The Hatnua parliamentarian also calls for PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt to lead ceasefire efforts in place of Qatar.

Peretz also criticizes ministers on the right who are assailing the PM for agreeing to a humanitarian truce. “The conduct of Netanyahu and the cabinet is well-informed and brings international legitimacy.”

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (photo credit: Flash90)

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz (photo credit: Flash90)

Knesset science c’tee to discuss tunnel threat

The Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee will convene a special session on ways to deal with the threat of terror tunnels from Gaza, the committee’s chairman, MK Moshe Gafni, says.

MK Moshe Gafni addressing the Knesset (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

MK Moshe Gafni addressing the Knesset (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“In the discussion, scientific and technological solutions will be presented and the relevant representatives will be present,” he pledges.

It has yet to be decided whether the session, which is planned to be held as soon as Operation Protective Edge is concluded, will be open to the public or secret, but “it’s the first debate of this kind to be taking place in the Knesset,” he says.

— Raphael Ahren

Al-Aqsa worshipers call for more kidnappings

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rally in support of war-torn Gaza on Monday as they gathered to pray at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Police put the number of worshipers at 45,000 people, with an AFP correspondent saying many were dressed in black T-shirts emblazoned with slogans reading “Gaza, supporting you is our Eid” and “We are all Gaza.”

Others wore T-shirts proclaiming support for Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad Din al-Qassam Brigades, which has been locked in a 21-day confrontation with Israeli troops in Gaza.

The conflict has so far claimed 1,036 lives in Gaza, many of them gunmen, and 46 in Israel.

Among the crowds was a young child on someone’s shoulders holding up a plastic gun.

“Kidnap more soldiers!” they chanted. “Our blood for Gaza.”

Police distanced themselves from the crowd which soon dispersed without incident, the correspondent said.

— AFP

Pro-Israel rally in Vancouver looks like fun

Israel supporters demonstrating near the Vancouver Art Gallery enjoy themselves with accordion music, balloons, and songs. One witness says close to 200 people attended.

Rocket fire on Gaza border towns continues

Six rockets have been fired at communities near the border with the Gaza Strip, despite a humanitarian ceasefire that is supposed to be in place.

The IAF has struck back at rocket launchers in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip.

IDF soldiers come under mortar fire

Israeli troops operating in the northern Gaza Strip come under mortar attack early Monday afternoon, according to the IDF.

One of the mortars also hits inside the Eshkol Regional Council.

Seven bodies found in Gaza ruins

Searchers found the bodies of seven Palestinians among ruins in the town of Khiz’ah near Khan Younis, Walla reports.

Hamas, PA heading to Cairo discuss truce

And back we go to Egypt’s version of ceasefire parameters.

In the next couple of days, a delegation from Fatah and the Palestinian Authority will set off for Cairo in order conduct talks there with senior Hamas officials in the presence of Egyptian representatives. They will discuss the ceasefire terms that Cairo presented earlier in the conflict, according to senior Palestinian officials who spoke to The Times of Israel.

Azam al-Ahmed, a confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, will lead the PA delegation along with PA security chief Majed Faraj. Hamas will be represented by its deputy political chief, Moussa Abu Marzouk, and it is still unclear whether other senior officials will join him. Egyptian intelligence officials will moderate.

According to the sources, the Egyptian proposal is the only one that will be discussed in Cairo. The talks will be held despite US Secretary of State John Kerry’s participation in a conference this weekend in Paris alongside Qatar and Turkey, which was interpreted as Washington moving away from the Egyptian plan.

Russia has expressed support for the Egyptian ceasefire terms.

— Avi Issacharoff

Israeli MMA fighter wins in San Jose, heads to Gaza

MMA fighter Noad Lahat, who hails from Alfei Menashe, gives an atypical post-fight interview after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship martial-arts fight in San Jose, California, Saturday night.

Lahat is heading back to Israel to join his reserve unit fighting in Gaza.

“I will have nowhere to go back home to if I won’t go there,” Lahat tells commentator Joe Rogin.

“My mom and my dad have 15 seconds to run to get a shelter when missiles are falling on them,” he adds.

“I love California, but I have to go defend my home.”

Egypt’s Morsi praises Palestinian ‘resistance’

Ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi praises Palestinian “resistance” over the 21-day conflict with Israel in Gaza.

The Islamist leader, overthrown last July by Egypt’s then army chief and now President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, is on trial on charges for which he faces the death penalty.

Egypt's ousted president Mohammed Morsi in a soundproof barred glass cage is seen on a monitor. Morsi and 35 others are facing charges of conspiring with foreign groups and undermining national security. (AP Photo/Mohammed al-Law, File)

Egypt’s ousted president Mohammed Morsi in a soundproof barred glass cage is seen on a monitor. Morsi and 35 others are facing charges of conspiring with foreign groups and undermining national security. (AP Photo/Mohammed al-Law, File)

Under Morsi’s rule, Egypt brokered a truce in 2012 between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, after they fought a similar deadly war. Hamas is an offshoot of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group.

“Our compass is set on supporting Palestine against the usurping occupier and we are with any resistance against any occupier,” Morsi says in a message posted on his official Facebook page late Sunday.

“A full salute to those who resist and to the revolutionaries,” he says in remarks marking the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

– AFP

Erdogan pledges to keep Turkish Jews safe

Turkey will keep its Jewish citizens safe, but the Jewish community should denounce Israel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tells a Turkish newspaper.

“Jews in Turkey are our citizens. We are responsible for their security of life and property,” Erdogan tells the Daily Sabah.

He adds: “I talked with our Jewish citizens’ leaders on Thursday and I stated that they should adopt a firm stance and release a statement against the Israeli government. I will contact them [Jewish leaders in Turkey] again, but whether or not they release a statement, we will never let Jewish people in Turkey get hurt.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan weara a keffiyeh during a July 22, 2014 AKP party meeting as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people (photo credit: AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wears a keffiyeh during a July 22, 2014 AKP party meeting as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people (photo credit: AFP/Adem Altan)

He says, according to the newspaper, that the Jewish leaders in Turkey should criticize “Israeli aggression,” and that the Israeli government “abuses all Jewish people around the world for its fraudulent policies.”

Erdogan on Friday criticized the United Nations for being “silent” on Israel’s operation in Gaza and said that Turkey has had difficulty delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza because of Israeli restrictions.

In an interview with CNN, Erdogan says that “if Israel is sincere on establishing a ceasefire, we will convince Hamas [to do the same].”

– JTA

The ongoing dispute with Kerry

Labor opposition leader Isaac Herzog told Channel 2 earlier that Secretary Kerry, with whom he says he speaks often, has been “hurt to the depths of his soul” by the criticisms he’s received in Israel for his handling of the ceasefire effort.

ToI’s Avi Issacharoff explains in an analysis piece why Kerry has so infuriated his allies.

One key point: “Kerry and his staff made an outrageous decision to turn their backs on the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire in a manner that encouraged Hamas to continue shooting rockets… By turning to Doha and Ankara behind the backs of Cairo and Jerusalem, Washington — no doubt unintentionally — strengthened Hamas’s resolve against Egypt and Israel.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry steps out from his plane at Ben Gurion airport as he arrives in Israel on July 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

US Secretary of State John Kerry steps out from his plane at Ben Gurion airport as he arrives in Israel on July 23, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/STR)

Another: “The farce continued with the amateurish draft that was immediately rejected by Israel’s security cabinet.”

And a third: “It then reached new heights on Saturday in Paris, when Kerry decided to participate in an international summit on Gaza, attended by his new friends al-Attiyah and Davutoglu (the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey) as well as the foreign ministers of the European Union, but not by a few players that Kerry apparently perceives as marginal – representatives of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel. It’s hard to say what caused the Obama administration to join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood of all camps — loyally represented by Turkey and Qatar — and turn its back on the movement’s sworn enemy, the Egyptian government. The best case scenario is that it might have been amateurism or a misreading of the situation. In a less ideal scenario, Washington decided to forge an alliance with organizations and entities that would be happy to see Israel disappear from the map.”

Says Issacharoff: “I prefer to bet on the first option… that Kerry just doesn’t understand who’s playing against whom in the Wild Mideast.

– Read the full piece here.

Over 100 anti-Semitic acts in UK in past month

More than 100 hate crimes have been committed against Jews this month in the UK, reports the Daily Mail. The number is more than twice the normal figure.

The rise comes during fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, who are joined by other terrorist groups.

Over the past month, four Muslim teenagers attacked a rabbi outside a Jewish school in Gateshead. In Belfast, bricks were thrown through the windows of the city’s only synagogue on two consecutive nights.

A London pro-Israel organization received a bomb threat, says the Daily Mail, and a woman in a niqab threw a stone at a Jewish boy on a bicycle.

Anti-Israel marches regularly feature calls of “Heil Hitler,” and social media is rife with anti-Semitism.

The pattern has been recorded on the European continent as well, especially in France, where synagogues and Jewish businesses have been attacked.

Netanyahu’s face plastered on signs in Istanbul

Posters in central Istanbul feature Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face over the misspelled Hebrew word for “sorry,” in an apparent reference to the ongoing Israeli-Turkish diplomatic tensions over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident in which nine pro-Gaza Turkish activists were killed by Israeli forces.

Another sign shows the prime minister’s face over the caption “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

Israel said to reject UN call for ceasefire

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects the UN Security Council call for an immediate ceasefire.

In a telephone conversation this afternoon, Netanyahu tells UN chief Ban Ki-Moon that the UN statement does not address Israel’s security concerns. He says the UN notice did not mention that Hamas is launching attacks on Israeli citizens, and that UN facilities are being used toward this aim.

Netanyahu also says that the world must ensure Gaza is demilitarized and that international donations do not go toward its terrorism infrastructure. Israel will continue to demolish the attack tunnels, and this is only the first stage of demilitarization, he says.

Netanyahu notes that Israel has agreed three times to the UN requests for humanitarian truces, but Hamas violated all three.

Earlier, the UN Security Council and Ban released separate statements calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“As people around the world mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan and a time for overcoming differences, the Secretary-General calls on parties to build on the current calm,” Ban’s spokesman says.

The suspension of fighting should be prolonged for an extra 24 hours to allow humanitarian efforts to continue, he says.

Ban “calls on the parties to renew a humanitarian pause in Gaza and reiterates his demand for a durable ceasefire that could set the ground for the start of comprehensive negotiations.”

The statement says: “With hundreds of Palestinians already killed in Gaza and horrifying levels of physical destruction, he urges those responsible to step back from provoking or inflicting yet more tragic violence on civilians there.”

Ban makes no mention of Hamas, rocket fire at southern Israel, or Israeli casualties in his remarks.

Meanwhile, rocket fire continues in the south, striking open areas in the Eshkol and Hof Ashkelon regions.

AFP and Times of Israel staff

Israel continues to strike targets in Gaza

With rocket fire ongoing, the Israeli air force targets various sites throughout the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports.

Netanyahu’s conversation with Ban Ki-moon

The Prime Minister’s Office has just sent a partial transcript of Benjamin Netanyahu’s conversation with Ban Ki-moon, in which the prime minister lays out the reasons for rejecting the UN Security Council’s statement on a ceasefire:

The Security Council Presidential Statement relates to the needs of a murderous terrorist organization that is attacking Israeli civilians and does not address Israel’s security needs, including the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip according to the principle laid down in the interim agreements with the Palestinians. The statement does not refer to attacks on Israeli civilians, or to the fact that Hamas has turned the residents of Gaza into human shields and uses UN facilities to attack Israeli civilians. Israel accepted three UN proposals for humanitarian truces, and Hamas violated them all. Even now they are continuing to fire at Israeli civilians. Israel will continue to deal with the terrorist tunnels, and this is only the first step in the demilitarization. Instead of the funds of the international community serving the construction of terrorist tunnels for perpetrating large-scale attacks against Israeli civilians, the international community needs to act toward the demilitarization of Gaza.

The UN has not released a readout of the conversation.

‘Compassionate leadership’ is needed — UN chief

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon strongly criticizes the respective leaderships of “the parties,” namely Hamas and Israel, for failing to care for the well-being of their citizens through the continuation of hostilities.

That the leaders are making decisions that get citizens killed is “morally wrong” and “not responsible,” he says. It’s an issue of “compassionate leadership,” he adds.

He also strongly condemns the alleged Israeli attack on an UNRWA facility on Thursday, saying that “every refuge has become a target,” and that it “raises serious questions about proportionality.”

The IDF said Sunday that an internal probe showed that the army shot at an empty schoolyard at the UNRWA school, injuring no one, and that it was not responsible for the 16 deaths.

Ban reiterates his call to stop the violence, lift the blockade on Gaza, and end “nearly half a century of occupation,” and warns that Israel may isolate itself internationally if it does not cooperate.

Sirens in Ashkelon

Explosion reported at Gaza’s Shifa hospital

Palestinian sources report a huge blast in the outpatient section of Gaza City’s Shifa hospital.

Initial reports indicate there are casualties at the scene. Pictures of the hospital broadcast on television show a scene of chaos as people seek treatment.

The IDF has not confirmed the strike.

Hamas spokesmen have been based in that area, Israel’s Channel 2 reports.

5 terrorists killed in Gaza

Five Palestinian operatives are killed in clashes with the IDF near Jabaliya.

According to Ynet, one of the killed is a senior Hamas member in charge of its Jabaliya-based commando unit.

‘Netanyahu’s no to UN was a polite way of saying no to Obama’

Channel 2’s Udi Segal suggests that Netanyahu’s phone call to Ban Ki-moon just now, rejecting the UN Security Council’s ceasefire call, was his polite way of rejecting President Obama’s demand for an immediate ceasefire without a direct confrontation.

Hence, says Segal, Netanyahu stressed to Ban the need for “the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip according to the principles laid down in the interim agreements with the Palestinians.”

When they spoke last night, Obama said that “any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.”

Netanyahu, according to Segal, is making the point that the disarmament of the terror groups is what the IDF is currently working toward, and that a credible framework for a demilitarized Gaza needs to be part of the ceasefire terms.

Palestinians say 10 killed in hospital blast

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports that 10 people are killed in an explosion at the Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, including several children.

Iron Dome intercepts several rockets over Ashkelon

‘Attack on hospital may have been from Hamas fire’

Channel 2 reports there are “indications” that the explosion in the area of Shifa hospital are the result of Hamas fire.

He says the blast may have been the result of a technical malfunction in an attempt to fire a long-range Fajr-5 rocket at central Israel from Gaza.

On the Gaza border, a Channel 2 reporter adds that the IDF has no immediate information on any firing by Israeli forces in the area.

IDF says it was not operating near hospital

A military source tells Channel 2 that the IDF was not operating in the area of the Shifa hospital when the attack occurred.

Camera crews barred from site of hospital blast

Camera crews are prevented from filming the area of impact at Shifa Hospital.

Health official Ayman Sahabani says several people were wounded in the strike.

AP

Several injured by mortar in southern Israel

Several people are wounded after a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip hits the Eshkol region, Channel 2 reports.

Details to come.

10 injured in mortar attack

The Magen David Adom spokesman tells Channel 2 that ten people are wounded by a mortar attack in the Eshkol region. Four of them are critically wounded, three are in serious condition, and three in moderate condition.

Emergency medical teams are at the scene.

Sirens in Gaza border towns

Shifa blast a failed Gaza rocket attack — IDF

The IDF denies involvement in the blast at the Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, stating that the site is “struck by failed rocket attacks launched by Gaza terrorists.”

Sirens in Ashdod

Ex-intel chief urges expanded ground offensive

Amos Yadlin, a former IDF Military Intelligence chief, says Israel must stop treading water and dramatically expand its ground offensive in Gaza.

Actions that take the IDF “deeper into Gaza” are necessary, he tells Channel 2, to the areas where much of the Hamas military wing is concentrated. Gaza City itself has not been a focus, he notes.

“I’m not one of those who think we should reconquer Gaza,” Yadlin says. But the Hamas military wing is “pretty satisfied now” and must not be allowed to emerge from this conflict relatively intact.

Palestinians report casualties in Al-Shati refugee camp blast

A Palestinian health official says at least 10 people are killed and 46 wounded in an Israeli strike on a park in the Gaza Strip at the al-Shati refugee camp.

Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at the Shifa hospital, which was also hit, gave the casualty toll in Monday’s strike.

The IDF maintains that the two incidents were the result of failed rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas operatives.

AP and Times of Israel staff

4 said killed in Eshkol mortar attack

Four people are pronounced dead from a mortar attack in the Eshkol region, and three others remain in serious condition.

Iron Dome downs 3 rockets over Ashdod

Netanyahu to address public at 8 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to give an address outside the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv at 8 p.m.

Hamas rocket said to have 100 kg warhead

The Hamas Fajr-5 rocket aimed at central Israel, which was fired from a playground outside the Shifa hospital and exploded on the site causing casualties, had at least a 100 kg (220 lbs) warhead, Channel 2 reports.

Sirens in Beersheba, Ofakim, Ashkelon

IDF needs another week to deal with tunnels

The IDF has located more than 30 Hamas cross-border tunnels, military sources tell Channel 2.

Two-thirds of them have been dealt with, and the IDF believes it needs another week to deal with the rest of those found.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon indicated last week that it would only take two or three days to deal with most of the tunnels. But the work of demolishing the tunnels is proving harder than expected, military sources have said, especially given that it is being conducted under Hamas fire.

Islamic Jihad behind Shifa explosion — IDF

The army says that the Islamic Jihad is responsible for the blast at the Shifa hospital and at a nearby playground in the Gaza Strip, according to Ynet.

Thousands attend funeral of slain soldier

Thousands gather in the military cemetery in Meitar for the funeral of Capt. Liad Lavi, 22, of Sde Nitzan, Ynet reports.

“In our last conversations, you said you didn’t want to stay in the army, because the higher you’re promoted, the more the connection with soldiers lessens, and this you didn’t want,” his mother, Drora, says in the eulogy.

“I have so much to tell the world about you, and to you personally. All of your actions were done modestly. You took on responsibility beyond what is required, but you didn’t forget that you must take care of your mother, and you were willing to fight the world for me.”

Liad Lavi (Courtesy family)

Liad Lavi (Courtesy family)

Criticism of Kerry could jeopardize Israeli-US ties — US officials

Obama administration officials are fuming over Israeli criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest bid to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

In unusually harsh language, officials say the criticism of Kerry could put the relationship between the US and Israel in jeopardy. They also say the personal attacks on Kerry cross a line and are particularly disappointing at a time of active conflict.

AP

Hamas condemns ‘slaughter of children’ at Al-Shati

Israel Radio’s Gal Berger quotes Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri on Twitter condemning the attacks on Shifa hospital and the Al-Shati refugee camp, which the IDF says were the result of an Islamic Jihad rocket misfire.

“The slaughter of children in the Al-Shati refugee camp is a war crime and a result of silence of the international [community]. Our spirit won’t be broken, and the occupation will pay the price,” he says.

Sirens in northern Israel

Sirens sound in the Carmel, Menashe regions in northern Israel.

Sirens sound for a second time in northern Israel

Sirens sound in Caesarea, Hadera, as well as Carmel region.

Shaar Hanegev residents told to stay indoors

The residents of the Shaar Hanegev region are instructed to stay in their houses in light of a security threat.

Hamas celebrates fatal Eshkol mortar attack

Hamas is celebrating the “success” of the mortar shelling at the Eshkol region, and says it has been firing at areas where IDF troops gather, Channel 2 reports.

IDF warns some Gaza residents to clear out

The IDF sends text messages and places phone calls to residents of Shejaiya, Zeitoun, and eastern Jabaliya urging them to evacuate immediately and head toward central Gaza City, the army says in a statement.

Rockets at northern Israel fall in open areas

The two missiles targeting northern Israel fall in open areas, causing no damage or injuries, Channel 2 reports.

Negev highway closed over security risk

Police say highway 232 in the Negev is closed to traffic from the Saad junction to the Gabim junction due to a suspected infiltration.

The public is asked to stay away from the area.

US, EU nations urge more pressure for ceasefire

The United States and major EU nations call for more pressure to get a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, the French presidency says.

The leaders of the United States, Germany, France, Britain and Italy “agreed to redouble their efforts to obtain a ceasefire. Pressure must increase to get there,” the French presidency says.

It issued its statement after President Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi held phone calls to establish their joint position.

“The deterioration of the situation just plays into the hands of extremists,” the presidency says in a statement.

AFP

Clashes in East Jerusalem

Police say dozens of masked Palestinians hurl stones, firebombs at police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya. Police respond with riot control measures.

‘We are meant to live together,’ president tells Israeli Muslims

President Reuven Rivlin posts a message on his Facebook page in Hebrew and Arabic, offering good wishes to Israel’s Muslim citizens on the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, and issuing a message of coexistence:

The sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael are measured by their ability to respect the beliefs of others, even during these difficult, blood-filled times. In the shadow of these days, my belief is strengthened that trust-building, not only between leaders, but between nations living here, is a crucial condition for our founding a life of hope and a joint future. The establishment of this trust requires listening, constant dialogue, and understanding of the other.

We the sons of Abraham must live knowing that we weren’t doomed to live together; we are meant to live together.

President Reuven Rivlin pays a visit to the family of a wounded soldier, Monday, July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin pays a visit to the family of a wounded soldier, Monday, July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin pays a visit to a soldier wounded in Operation Protective Edge, Monday, July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin pays a visit to a soldier wounded in Operation Protective Edge, Monday, July 28, 2014. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

Short truces best way to achieve ceasefire — Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry says that short-term humanitarian truces between Israel and Hamas are the most effective method for achieving a longer ceasefire deal. He says the US continues to work toward an unconditional 24-hour truce that will be respected by both sides.

Infiltration thwarted in southern Israel

Five terrorists infiltrate into Israel through a cross-border tunnel in southern Israel, Channel 2 reports.

Israeli troops locate the gunmen and kill them.

Sweeps of the area to ensure no other terrorists successfully infiltrated are ongoing.

This is the sixth attempt by Hamas to send terrorists into Israel through the tunnels this month.

The thwarted attack underlines that Hamas still has tunnels through which it can try to attack Israel, even though the IDF has located more than 30 such tunnels in the past week and a half.

After issuing warning, IDF strikes Jabaliya

The IDF is currently striking a row of buildings overlooking Gaza’s Jabaliya area — buildings known as the “officers’ homes” — which had not previously been hit.

If the IDF is planning to step up its operations in Jabaliya, controlling this area would be important, Channel 2 reports.

A row of buildings on a ridge in Jabaliya in Gaza being bombed Monday. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

A row of buildings on a ridge in Jabaliya in Gaza being bombed Monday. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

US voters split on Mideast involvement, poll shows

With the US struggling to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and nuclear talks with Iran working under a four-month extension, US voters express more confidence than they did last year that US involvement in the Middle East is good for both the region and the United States. In a poll released Monday morning, Rasmussen polling discovered that Americans are evenly split as to whether US involvement in the region is good or bad for stability.

The pollsters noted that “voters have long expressed little enthusiasm for getting more involved in Middle East politics, but they are slightly less likely to think this involvement hurts both the region and the United States.”

The poll, conducted last week, found that thirty-two percent of likely US voters now believe that US involvement in Middle Eastern politics hurts stability in that region — down five points from 37% last August. At the same time, the poll found a six point increase – from 25% to 31% — of likely voters who believe that US involvement helps stability in the Middle East.

Twenty-two percent (22%) believe US involvement has no impact on that region, while 15% more aren’t sure. The margin of error for the poll was three percentage points, meaning that while the optimists and the pessimists remain in a dead heat, the relative increases and decreases are outside of the margin of error.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Miami Beach synagogue vandalized

Nazi swastikas and the name of the Islamist movement Hamas are spray-painted in red on the entrance to a Jewish synagogue in Miami Beach, local media report Monday.

The vandalism, which authorities are investigating as a probable hate crime, is discovered by a neighborhood watch patrol where the Torah V’Emunah synagogue is located.

Yona Lunger, a volunteer patrol member, says she did a double-take when she came upon the graffiti.

“I saw this and then I stopped and I said, ‘Wait a minute. What am I seeing here?’ and then I backed up again and I looked again and I immediately sent a text to the two supervisors,” she tells Miami’s Channel 7 news.

Television images show swastikas and the name “Hamas” spray-painted on the synagogue’s columns.

The incident follows another on Saturday in which a Miami Beach family found their cars covered in eggs and the words “Hamas” and “Jew” written on the windows.

“I mean, honestly, it makes you question if it’s safe to walk around wearing your yarmulke, like how safe you really are in America,” says Josh Rosenberg, one of the family’s neighbors.

AFP

Hamas takes responsibility for fatal shelling

Hamas claims responsibility for shellfire that kills four civilians in southern Israel and wounds another 10 people on Monday, and insists the victims were soldiers.

“The Zionist enemy acknowledges that four of its soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in a Qassam shelling in Eshkol,” said a statement from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

AFP

Infiltrators opened fire on troops, IDF says

The IDF says the Gazan tunnel infiltrators opened fire on Israeli troops, and searches are being conducted in the area.

Haaretz reports Israeli soldiers are injured in the assault.

Kerry calls for Gaza disarmament

US Secretary of State John Kerry says international efforts to agree to a truce between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.

Kerry, who arrived back in Washington late Sunday after a week-long mission in the Middle East to try to stop the fighting, tells reporters he was continuing to work “toward establishing an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”

Such a truce “could honor Eid which begins now and that will stop the fighting, allow desperately needed food and medicine and other supplies into Gaza and enable Israel to address the threat which we fully understand and which is real, the threat posed by tunnel attacks.

“We believe the momentum generated by a humanitarian ceasefire is the best way to be able to begin to negotiate and find out if you can put in place a sustainable ceasefire that addresses all of the concerns,” the top US diplomat insists.

But he adds: “We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups.

“Regrettably, there were misunderstandings about 12 hours versus 24 hours,” which blighted his efforts last week to extend a short 12-hour ceasefire, Kerry says.

“So we are trying to work hard to see if these issues can be clarified in a way that allows Israel and the Palestinian Authority and factions, the other countries involved, working through the Egyptian initiative, to be able to find a way to silence the weapons long enough to be able to begin to negotiate.”

AFP

Israeli criticism alters US ceasefire terms

While American officials continue to fume at the Israeli media for its harsh criticism of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to reach a ceasefire last week, apparently it had some effect. During a speech, Kerry says that “any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza… must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.” In a ceasefire proposal Kerry had submitted to Israel on Friday, no disarmament of Hamas was mentioned.

Israeli ministers had unanimously rejected the draft, arguing that it undermined the Egyptian ceasefire proposal that Israel had previously accepted and Hamas had rejected, and reflected the input of Turkey and Qatar to the clear benefit of Hamas, sources told TOI earlier Monday.

The wording marked an upgrading of Hamas’s standing, to an entity on an equivalent level with Israel, the sources said. And it provided specific gains for Hamas, while including only amorphous language regarding Israel’s security needs, they said.

However, Kerry’s proposal did reflect “a position that both demilitarization and the reconstruction of Gaza are important agenda items that follow negotiations that follow a ceasefire,” a senior US official insisted Sunday night.

Raphael Ahren

‘This is a painful day,’ Netanyahu says

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins a press conference, offering condolences to the mortar-shell victims.

“There is no more justified war than this,” he says.

“We knew there would be difficult days. This was a difficult and painful day,” he adds.

“We must finish the goal of the operation — to destroy the tunnels. This is a first, and crucial step in disarming Gaza,  continues Netanyahu.

He says disarming terror groups and demilitarizing Gaza must be part of any solution, and urges the international community to push for this.

Intolerable for Israelis to face ‘death from above, death from below,’ says PM

Materials such as concrete supplied to Gaza have been diverted by Hamas to build its terror tunnels. This cannot continue, says the PM. Israel’s concerns to this effect have not been taken seriously.

It cannot be that Israeli citizens live under threat of rockets and the tunnel threat — “Death from above, death from below” — Netanyahu says.

Hamas is a cruel enemy, who is also cruel to its own citizens, and takes advantage of its own citizens, putting them in the line of fire, he adds.

Netanyahu reminds Israelis that he said this would be a lengthy operation. It will continue “until our mission is completed — to protect our citizens, our children, our people.”

Ya’alon says Israel won’t hesitate to expand op

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says Israel will continue to strike Gaza in the coming days.

“We will strike them hard,” he claims.

He adds that the IDF has made significant gains so far, and that Israel will not hesitate to expand the operation.

At this time, we are finishing the process of destroying the tunnels, he says.

Defense minister urges patience

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also calls for patience, as the operation may take a long time until quiet is restored in the south.

Gantz says Hamas responsible for Shifa Hospital blast

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says the IDF is dismantling tunnels, targeting rocket launchers, and has made impressive gains.

He reports there is unprecedented cooperation between the air, ground and naval forces, and says Israel will continue as necessary.

He adds the IDF is doing its best to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza, but emphasizes that Hamas operates from within the civilian population. He urges Gazans to distance themselves from areas where Hamas operates, “because we will get there.”

Hamas is responsible for the explosion at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza, he says.

Sirens in northern Israel

IDF warns more Gazans to evacuate

The IDF issues warnings to Palestinian residents of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya to evacuate.

State Department denies ceasefire draft was unfair

The State Department goes on the defensive Monday afternoon, critiquing Israeli sources for leaking details of a Gaza ceasefire draft, and then denying allegations that the draft represented a capitulation to Hamas demands.

Leaks and criticism of the sort that Secretary of State John Kerry faced over the weekend are “simply not the way allies and partners treat each other,” State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki complains.

“We were surprised that the draft was leaked to the press,” Psaki tells reporters Monday.

Psaki emphasizes that “there was never a formal US proposal presented,” explaining that the US had instead “sent a confidential-labeled draft of ideas based on an Egyptian proposal.”

Far from including Hamas demands — which, according to complaints by Israeli officials, the US plan did — Psaki says that the “main difference” was that the US draft included more specific language regarding humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Defending against Israeli complaints that the document did not address the problems of Hamas terror tunnels into Israel, Psaki said that there was no mention of tunnels in the Egyptian ceasefire proposal that Israel had already approved, and which Hamas rejected.

The “US objective has been, and remains, stopping the rocket fire against Israeli citizens,” Psaki continues, adding that the first step to such an outcome is the maintenance of a humanitarian ceasefire.

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

2 rockets fired from Lebanon

Two rockets are shot from Lebanon, triggering sirens in the Upper Galilee, Channel 2 reports.

The missiles fall within Lebanese territory.

PM’s statements reflect defeat, Hamas says

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements will not deter the Palestinian people, Israel Radio’s Gal Berger reports.

“Netanyahu’s statements are an expression of defeat in the face of the resistance. His threats don’t scare Hamas or the Palestinian people.”

IDF confirms one infiltrator killed in thwarted attack

The IDF says it killed one terror operative in an attempted infiltration near the southern kibbutz of Nahal Oz.

Earlier media reports indicated five infiltrators had been killed.

The army continues its searches in the area.

IDF confirms 4 mortar fatalities are soldiers

The IDF confirms that the four killed by mortar fire in the Eshkol Region earlier today are soldiers.

Their families have been notified, but the names of the victims have not yet been released.

IDF soldier Moshe Davino killed in Gaza

Staff Sergeant Moshe Davino, 20, of Jerusalem, is killed in the Gaza Strip, the IDF says.

According to the IDF, Davino was killed by anti-tank fire in Khan Younis.

The IDF death toll climbs to 48 since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.

Egypt slams ‘excessive’ Israeli force

Egypt condemns Israel for using what it said was “excessive force” against civilians in the Gaza Strip.

It also urges Israel and Hamas to abide by the “humanitarian truce” proposed by Cairo and backed by the United Nations to end the 21-day conflict.

“Egypt condemns the excessive use of force from the Israeli side against civilians” in the coastal enclave, the Foreign Ministry says in a statement.

It particularly condemned strikes on a hospital and a beachfront refugee camp in Gaza City, but did not blame either the Israeli military or Hamas.

The ceasefire is the “only way to preserve civilian lives, innocent blood and end the siege on Gaza that will allow our Palestinian brothers to achieve their legitimate aspiration of an independent state,” the ministry says.

AFP

England cricket player in trouble for ‘Save Gaza’ wristband

England cricketer Moeen Ali risks disciplinary action after the International Cricket Council (ICC) said Monday they are “investigating” his decision to wear wristbands in support of Gaza during the ongoing third Test match against India on Monday.

Ali wore wristbands that read “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine,” while batting during England’s first innings at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.

An ICC spokesman told AFP: “We’re investigating and will report in due course.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board has yet to comment on Ali’s gesture.

The 27-year-old Ali, a practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, was photographed earlier this week helping raise funds for Gaza relief efforts in his home city of Birmingham in central England.

AFP

IDF launching heavy strikes in Gaza

The IDF continues to target sites in the coastal enclave, and Palestinians report heavy artillery fire throughout the Gaza Strip.

40% of US citizens say Hamas responsible for op — poll

In a Pew Research Center poll published today, some 40% of US respondents say Hamas is responsible for the current round of violence, while 19% pin the blame on Israel.

The survey of 1,005 participants shows that 35% think the Israeli response “has been about right, 25% say Israel went too far, and 15% maintain Israel “has not gone far enough.”

Among Republicans, 60% believe Hamas is most responsible for the conflict, and nearly half say Israel’s response has been appropriate (46%) and 19% maintain Israel hasn’t gone far enough.

Democrats, however, are divided: 29% blame Hamas, 26% say the conflict is Israel’s fault, and 18% say both are equally responsible. Some 35% of Democrats say the Israeli military response is excessive, and 31% believe it’s about right.

Hamas says it tried to kidnap soldier

Hamas says it attempted to kidnap a soldier in the tunnel attack earlier this evening, but failed to carry it out.

Palestinian death toll said to hit 1,067

Palestinian emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra says five Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on Khan Yunis in southern Gaza late on Monday.

The strike hit close to the city’s Islamic University, killing four members of one family, and leaving another 20 people injured, he announces.

Their deaths raised the overall Palestinian death toll in Gaza to 1,067, he says.

Israel says hundreds of the dead are Hamas gunmen.

On Sunday, Palestinian officials said that the death toll stood at 1,031, retracting an earlier announcement that placed it at 1,060, Ynet reports. Officials had mistakenly counted 147 bodies retrieved from rubble in the Gaza Strip, and later said there were actually 117.

AFP and Times of Israel staff

More details emerge on soldier’s death

The army releases some additional information about the incident this afternoon in which Staff Sergeant Moshe Davino, a soldier in the Combat Engineering Corps, was killed.

The incident occurred at 2 p.m. in the southern sector of the Gaza Strip, in Khan Yunis, as Givati Brigade soldiers operated in tandem with soldiers from the Combat Engineering Corps. The soldiers were working to uncover a tunnel shaft, the army says, when an eight-man squad of militants fired an anti-tank missile at a 50-ton, bulletproof bulldozer called a Caterpillar D9. Davino was killed in the explosion and two other soldiers were wounded.

The gunmen retreated to a nearby building. The army says that the D9 charged the building and toppled it, apparently killing all eight attackers.

Later in the day, at 5 p.m., a Hamas mortar squad fired mortar rounds at an army staging area in the Eshkol Region, killing four soldiers and wounding six others. The soldiers in the field were not warned of incoming projectiles and had no time to seek shelter.

Mitch Ginsburg

IDF releases names of four slain soldiers

The army releases the names of the four IDF soldiers of the Armored Corps killed by mortar fire earlier today.

The soldiers are:

SSgt. Eliav Eliyahu Haim Kahlon, 22, of Safed;

Cpl. Meidan Maymon Biton, 20, of Netivot;

Cpl. Niram Cohen, 20, of Tiberias;

SSgt. Adi Briga, 23, of Beit Shikma.

All of the slain soldiers are promoted posthumously. Funeral details have not yet been announced.