The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Friday, the 25th day of Operation Protective Edge. The US and UN announced a 72-hour truce from Friday morning to be followed by negotiations, but the truce quickly collapsed as Hamas carried out an attack in Rafah in which a soldier was kidnapped and two soldiers were killed.

Five IDF soldiers had been killed late Thursday in a mortar attack inside the Israeli border, meaning 63 soldiers and three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side in the 25 days of fighting, while Gazan health officials put the death toll there at over 1,500. Israel says hundreds of those are Hamas fighters. (Saturday’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 25 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: We now enter the twenty-fifth day of Operation Protective Edge, with conflict still raging heavily.

Thursday saw 90 rockets fired at Israel, several Israelis hurt by mortar fire, ongoing IDF strikes at Hamas targets in Gaza and tunnel demolitions, and US criticism of an Israeli strike that killed a reported 15 people at a UN school in Gaza on Wednesday.

The Israeli full cabinet met in Tel Aviv, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he would not agree to any ceasefire proposal that prevented the IDF from finishing dealing with Hamas’s network of terror tunnels.

Earlier Thursday, ToI’s Avi Issacharoff returned from seeing that work first-hand, in Khan Younis.

Here’s an excerpt from his piece:

“Toledano, 40, explained that the tunnel was about 2 kilometers long (slightly more than a mile). Presumably acting on intelligence information of some kind, his brigade had begun moving into the area 12 hours ago to find and destroy it. He pointed to the building, which was punched all over with bullet holes. The tunnel shaft was discovered in the backyard, Toledano said.

A soldier leading journalists through a tunnel in Khan Yunis. (screen capture: Walla! News)

A soldier leading journalists through a tunnel in Khan Yunis. (screen capture: Walla! News)

“In the yard, a giant D9 bulldozer had exposed one of the tunnel entrances. It only took a glimpse into the shaft to recognize that Hamas had spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money on its construction. The walls were lined with concrete, and the shaft went down far into the depths of the earth.

“The house belonged to a Hamas member, and a large amount of weaponry, including an RPG launcher and ammunition, as well as various propaganda booklets, were found here, we were told.”

– The full story is here.

Hard to understand Israeli attacks on Kerry, says Indyk

Speaking on Channel 2, former US special Middle East envoy for peace talks Martin Indyk says that attacks in the Israeli media on John Kerry are “a little hard to understand.”

“People in Washington are scratching heads wondering what caused such a response in Israel. People in Israel should understand there’s strong support for what Israel’s going through.”

Indyk adds that there is concern for civilian casualties on Palestinian side. “The pictures here of children dead or wounded is really heartbreaking. And that’s why the President and Secretary Kerry are working hard to try to get a ceasefire, and they’re doing that in close coordination with Prime Minister Netanyahu…So why the Israeli press in particular have launched this attack on the Secretary is something that people find a little hard to understand.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk, right, at Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 5, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk, right, at Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel, on January 5, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

“I think what happened was there was a common desire to achieve a ceasefire,” Indyk explains. “After all, Israel has said it is willing to have a ceasefire really from the outset of this war. And the Secretary came out to work on that. I think when he got to Egypt, he discovered that the Egyptians for their own reasons were not particularly interested in a ceasefire, so he went to work with those who have some influence on hamas [Qatar and Turkey], who can stop them from firing the rockets.”

“It’s important to understand that when Hamas made its reconciliation agreement with Fatah, which was renounced in Israel, but which provided for Abu Mazen to take control in Gaza, [it] meant that Hamas resigned its government positions there, accepted that the Palestinian Authority can take control.”

“There is an opportunity now is what I’m saying, because in Palestinian politics Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority has been designated as taking control of Gaza. But what does that mean if you have militias with arms and trained men. That why disarmament becomes important.”

“Disarmament is important not because Israel demands it, but because Abu Mazen strongly believes in the principle of one government, one gun…That’s not going to happen overnight. There’s no magic wand here.”

“If the Israeli army had gone into Gaza, taken over, toppled Hamas and disarmed it, there’d be very different circumstances. But Hamas will still have its arms, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militias as well.”

“Establishing order there is going to be a real challenge.”

Horovitz on the trouble with UNRWA

ToI editor David Horovitz has just published an op-ed on UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian refugee welfare agency that Israel relentlessly complains about.

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Notes Horovitz: “Israeli officials argue privately that UNRWA simply should not exist. They say Palestinian refugees should be defined and treated like any other refugee group around the world. They say UNRWA serves a Palestinian narrative fundamentally intolerant of Israel’s existence. They say UNRWA disseminates a relentless, one-sided, emotional and problematic message that is implicitly anti-Israel…”

So you’d assume, he continues, “that Israel is doing everything in its (limited) power to have UNRWA closed down. If so, you’d be mistaken. Israel is not doing anything of the kind.”

And why would that be?

Read the full piece here.

Hamas in West Bank calls for ‘day of rage’

Hamas leaders in the West Bank call for a “day of rage” Friday against the IDF and settlers, Ynet reports. The movement asks for worshippers to march after Friday prayers in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

A primer on Hamas’s deadly capabilities

Another must-read piece is Elhanan Miller’s primer on Hamas — “the full story of the subterranean passages, thousands of foot soldiers, and large supplies of rockets and bombs, that turned Hamas into a sophisticated enemy.”

Here’s one of the many striking passages: “Inside Gaza, Hamas has booby-trapped hundreds of homes and installations with improvised bombs. One such IED killed three Israeli soldiers on Wednesday in a building labeled as an UNRWA clinic in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, where IDF soldiers were searching for a tunnel shaft. IDF’s Gaza Division commander, Brig. Gen. Micky Edelstein, told journalists that in one Khan Younis street he encountered, 19 of the 28 homes were booby-trapped, ready to explode over IDF soldiers who enter them.”

Full story: From tunnels to R-160s, a primer on Hamas and its deadly capabilities

Parties agree to 72-hour ceasefire, says UN

The UN releases a statement saying that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire, starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

“Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry announce that the United Nations Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” the statement reads.

“This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

“We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.

“This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

The statement also says Israeli and Palestinians delegations will be heading immediately to Egypt for negotiations on a long-term ceasefire. “The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.”

“We thank key regional stakeholders for their vital support of this process, and count on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties reach a durable ceasefire as soon as possible.”

‘Hours before ceasefire can be most violent’

Israel Radio reminds listeners that the hours before a ceasefire can sometimes be the most violent, as the UN announces a 72-hour ceasefire.

Its diplomatic reporter Chico Menashe says the announced deal may mark a moment when Israel and Hamas have a common interest in calm, but stresses the situation is extremely fragile.

He notes that the joint US-UN text provides that during the 72 hour truce, “the forces on the ground will remain in place.” This clause reflects Netanyahu’s insistence that he would not agree to a deal that requires the IDF to stop looking for and demolishing Hamas’s terror tunnels.

Ceasefire if Israel acts accordingly, says Qatar

Israel Radio says Qatar confirms the temporary ceasefire provided “the other side” acts accordingly.

TV analysts not optimistic about ceasefire

Channel 2’s analysts, including diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal and Palestinian affairs correspondent Ohad Hemo, sound a pessimistic note about the ceasefire, noting that earlier attempts at a truce have not held.

As if on schedule, rocket warning sirens sound in the Judean lowlands region between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

‘Israel will continue to deal with tunnels’

A cabinet member says Israel will continue its operations against tunnels during the ceasefire, according to Ynet.

‘Hamas is committed to the ceasefire as long as other side is’

A Hamas spokesman says that the organization is committed to a ceasefire “as long as the other side is,” Ynet reports.

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinians receive their monthly food aid at a United Nations distribution center (UNRWA) in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on July 31, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Rocket intercepted over Ramle

After sirens sound in the lowlands between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Iron Dome intercepts one rocket over Ramle, while two others strike open areas.

Fallen soldier’s widow gives birth to baby girl

Ten days after her husband was killed in battle by Hamas gunmen inside the Israeli border with Gaza, the widow of Warrant Officer Bayhesain Kshaun, 39, gives birth to a baby girl early Thursday.

Holding her fourth child — whom she named Tal-Or, or “light,” a harbinger of happier days, of “light for us, light in the house, even though he’s gone” — in her arms, a visibly forlorn Galaitu Kshaun speaks of her pride in her husband and of the difficulty of carrying on without him.

Galaitu Kshaun, widow of slain IDF soldier Bayhesain Kshaun, speaks to Channel 2, Thursday, July 31, 2014, with her new daughter in her arms. Sgt.-Maj. Kshaun was killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from a tunnel inside Israel last week (screen capture)

Galaitu Kshaun, widow of slain IDF soldier Bayhesain Kshaun, speaks to Channel 2, Thursday, July 31, 2014, with her new daughter in her arms. Sgt.-Maj. Kshaun was killed by Hamas gunmen emerging from a tunnel inside Israel last week (screen capture)

“Another day goes by, another day that we didn’t hear his voice. It’s not easy,” Galaitu says. “It becomes more difficult with each day that passes.”

Read the full story by Yifa Yaakov here.

Small US delegation to head to Cairo

A small American team will travel to Cairo to participate in talks with Israeli and Palestinian delegations about ending the fighting in Gaza.

The US and Israeli delegations will not speak directly with Hamas, says a senior Israeli official, according to Ynet.

IDF to continue ‘defensive’ operations, says Kerry

Israel will keep up “defensive” operations against tunnels during a 72-hour truce in Gaza, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.

Kerry, announcing the ceasefire deal in the early morning on a visit to India, said Israel and Hamas will “cease all offensive military activities and neither side will advance beyond its current locations.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah Saturday, July 26, 2014, at the US ambassador's residence in Paris (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah Saturday, July 26, 2014, at the US ambassador’s residence in Paris (photo credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)

“Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines, and the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine and additional humanitarian assistance as well as to be able to tend to their wounded,” the top US diplomat told reporters.

A senior US official said Israel would make clear to the United Nations where its military lines are drawn in Gaza.

“They will continue to do operations to destroy tunnels that pose a threat to Israeli territory … as long as those tunnels exist on the Israeli side of their lines,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

— AFP

IDF releases footage of tunnel destruction

On its YouTube page, the IDF releases a video of forces from the Armored Corps destroying a Gaza tunnel on July 30.

Senior official in PMO confirms ceasefire

According to Israel Radio, a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office confirms that Israel agrees to the 72-hour ceasefire.

Callers threaten to kill staff at store selling Israeli goods

A cosmetics store in Manchester, England, that sells Israeli products has been victimized by callers threatening to kill the staff and burn down the store.

Local police are investigating the ongoing threats, the Jewish Chronicle reported. The store, called Kedem, has been the scene of daily anti-Israel protests since the start of Israel’s operation in Gaza. Six anti-Israel protesters have been arrested.

Pro-Palestinian protesters also have posted threatening messages on the store’s Facebook page.

— JTA

Palestinians say 8 dead in Khan Younis

Palestinian sources say 8 people were killed in a strike in Khan Younis, Ynet reports.

Ceasefire ‘a moment of opportunity’ — Kerry

“This is not a time for congratulations and joy, or anything except a serious determination, a focus, by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead,” Kerry tells a half-dozen reporters who were hastily summoned to his hotel suite only 45 minutes after the ceasefire deal was struck. “This is a respite. It’s a moment of opportunity, not an end; it’s not a solution. It’s the opportunity to find the solution.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says the cease-fire announcement was the result of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s trip recent trip to the region as well as 48 hours of “extremely active diplomacy at all levels” — including Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

— AP

5 soldiers killed by mortar fire

Five IDF soldiers are killed by mortar fire Thursday evening along the Gaza border, the army confirms. The soldiers’ families have been notified.

Nineteen other soldiers have been injured over the past 24 hours.

The IDF death toll now stands at 61.

Palestinians say 6 dead in Khan Younis

According to Palestinian sources, 6 died in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis, Ynet reports.

Hamas’s favorite rocket attack times

Hamas has launched the most rockets at Israel at 11:00 a.m., 6:00 -7:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m., Channel 2 reports.

Sirens sound in Sha’ar Hanegev

Sirens in Beersheba, Ofakim

Rockets hit south before truce takes hold

An hour before a humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip is set to take effect, rocket fire at Israeli towns is picking up. Ynet reports two rockets exploded in the Merhavim and Sdot Negev regions of southern Israel. No injuries or damage are reported.

Sirens in Ashdod, Gan Yavne and surrounding areas

Two rockets downed over Ashdod

Two rockets were just intercepted over the port city of Ashdod in the latest barrage. No reports of injuries or damage have come in.

With 15 minutes remaining until the truce is to take effect, it remains to be seen whether the humanitarian ceasefire will hold.

Police deployed to Old City ahead of Friday prayers

Large police forces have been deployed to the Old City ahead of Friday prayers after Hamas leaders in the West Bank call for a “day of rage” against the IDF and settlers. Israeli authorities have limited entrance to the Temple Mount to men aged 50 and older and women of all ages.

Hamas reports airstrikes just as truce took effect

Hamas’s TV station claims that the Israeli Air Force struck targets along the Philadelphi Corridor, along Gaza’s border with Egypt, after the humanitarian truce took effect at 8 a.m. Moments after eight o’clock struck, reports in the Gaza Strip said Israeli artillery fired on the Palestinian territory.

Despite those reports, the three-day truce has held for nearly 20 minutes now.

Minutes before ceasefire, Iron Dome intercepts 6

In the bombardment of Ashdod just before the ceasefire took effect, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted six incoming rockets, and three exploded outside town. No injuries or damage are reported.

Hamas official says 17 Palestinians killed Friday morning

Palestinian officials say 17 Palestinians, including 10 members of one family, were killed in Israeli strikes ahead of a the three-day ceasefire in the Gaza war.

Hamas Health official Ashraf al-Kidra says the family members were killed in an airstrike early Friday on their home in the southern town of Khan Yunis. Gaza police reported heavy Israeli tank shelling in northern and eastern Gaza.

The Associated Press. 

US diplomat heads to Cairo to negotiate Gaza ceasefire

A senior American official says that the State Department’s second-in-command is heading to Cairo to seek an extension of the 72-hour truce reached by Israel and Hamas. For more, read our full coverage.

Hundreds express support for IDF at air base

Roughly 500 Israelis gathered outside the Hazor air force base to demonstrate support for the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports.

Gazan fishermen cast their nets as truce holds

With the three-day humanitarian truce in effect, Gazans are beginning to leave shelter and go about the business of getting life back in order.

Reporters in the Gaza Strip say fishing ships are heading offshore to make a catch, but won’t venture out past 100 meters from land.

Meanwhile, there’s been no rocket fire at Israel for nearly two hours.

Breaking the silence, sirens go off adjacent to Gaza

Air raid sirens are wailing in Kerem Shalom. It’s the first time rockets have been fired since the ceasefire took effect at 8 a.m.

IDF releases 3 names of soldiers killed

The IDF releases the names of three of the five soldiers killed Thursday in the Gaza Strip. The armored corps soldiers killed are named as Cpt. Omri Tal, 22, of Yehud, SSgt Daniel Marash, 22, of Rishon Lezion, and SSgt Shay Kushnir, 20, of Kiryat Motzkin.

The families of the slain have been notified.

Israeli artillery hits targets in Gaza, more rockets rain down

Israeli artillery have started a heavy bombardment of targets in the Gaza Strip following rocket attacks into Israel. The artillery strikes are the first since the humanitarian truce took effect nearly three hours ago.

The Kerem Shalom crossing, which came under fire in the past hour, has been closed, as more rockets are raining down on the area along the border

— Elhanan Miller

Heavy fighting reported in Rafah

Heavy firefights have erupted in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, Ynet and Haaretz report, as the 72-hour humanitarian truce negotiated by the UN appears to be in shambles.

IDF names fourth soldier killed Thursday

The IDF names SSgt Noam Rosenthal, 20, of Meitar as the fourth of five soldiers killed Thursday. Rosenthal was an armored corps combat medic.

Four Palestinians killed in Gaza Strip fighting

Four Palestinians have been killed in heavy fighting with the IDF in Rafah, after fighting recommenced in the Gaza Strip and the three day ceasefire that began at 8 a.m. fell to pieces.

4 Palestinians killed, 15 injured in shelling near Rafah

Gaza officials say at least four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli tank fire nearly two hours after Israel and Hamas began observing a three-day cease-fire.

Hamas Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra and Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji say 15 other Palestinians were wounded in the shelling east of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

An Israeli Army spokesman in Jerusalem said the military was looking into the incident.

The Associated Press.

‘Truce over,’ Israel reportedly tells UN envoy

A Palestinian Authority official tells the Times of Israel that Jerusalem told UN envoy Robert Serry that the truce in the Gaza Strip is over.

According to AFP, Israel says Hamas has committed a “flagrant breach” of the Gaza truce

According to the IDF, Hamas fighters attacked Israeli soldiers from tunnel near Rafah. Palestinian officials in the Gaza Strip say eight were killed from IDF retaliatory fire.

– Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report. 

10 killed in Rafah strikes, Palestinians say

Palestinian media reports 10 killed and at least 50 injured in the latest Israeli strikes on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Egypt said to revoke Palestinians’ invite to ceasefire talks

According to the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news station, Egypt has withdrawn its invitation to Palestinian factions to participate in ceasefire negotiations in Cairo. The announcement comes amid a breakdown in the humanitarian truce and a renewal of fighting by Hamas and Israel.

Avi Issacharoff

Israel tells UN envoy that truce is over

A senior Israeli official says that Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai contacted UN envoy Robert Serry and informed him that as far as Israel’s concerned, the humanitarian truce is over.

Sirens in Beersheba

Hamas claims it’s killed 131 IDF soldiers

Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades tweets that since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, it has killed 131 Israeli soldiers and officers “in direct clashes,” not including those killed by rocket and mortar fire.

The IDF says that 61 soldiers have been killed in combat in the Gaza Strip, including five on Thursday.

Rocket intercepted over Beersheba

At least one rocket was intercepted by Iron Dome over Beersheba moments ago, and three exploded in open areas in the Eshkol region, adjacent to the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage are reported.

Hamas may have broken truce unaware it started, ex-intel chief says

Amos Yadlin, former IDF Military Intelligence chief, says the truce may have been broken by Hamas gunmen unaware that it had come into force.

“Hamas is nothing like the IDF,” he stresses, in all aspects and certainly in terms of communication with all its gunmen.

Erez hospital empty, IDF says Hamas not letting Gazans seek care

Times of Israel reporter Elhanan Miller is at the IDF field hospital at Erez, which, he reports, is empty of Palestinian patients. The IDF tells him that Hamas is not letting people seek humanitarian care and come through the crossing.

IDF releases fifth slain soldier’s name

The IDF releases the name of the fifth soldier killed on Thursday, reservist Cpt. Liran Adir (Edry), 31, of Azuz. It also releases the photos of three of the other Armored Corps soldiers killed, along with Adir, near the border with Gaza.

Fallen IDF Cpt. Omri Tal, 22, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Fallen IDF Cpt. Omri Tal, 22, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Fallen IDF SSgt Shay Kushnir, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Fallen IDF SSgt Shay Kushnir, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Fallen IDF SSgt Noam Rosenthal, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Fallen IDF SSgt Noam Rosenthal, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Sirens wail in Gaza periphery

Channel 10’s Alon Ben David says that 20 of the 61 Israeli soldiers killed thus far have died not on Gaza soil, but in the area immediately outside the Strip in southern Israel.

The five soldiers killed Thursday were hit by a mortar shell on the Israeli side of the border, at an IDF gathering point. “This is unforgivable,” says Channel 2’s Roni Daniel, who notes that 9 soldiers have now been killed in this way. He says such gathering points must be out of enemy range.

IDF sets up checkpoints along highway near Gaza

The army has set up roadblocks along Route 232, the highway running parallel to the border with the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Hamas Health Ministry says 27 Palestinians have been killed in southern Gaza after the ceasefire unraveled.

IDF concerned soldier kidnapped in Rafah

The IDF fears an Israeli soldier may have been kidnapped around 9:30 a.m. in the vicinity of Rafah.

This occurred when gunmen opened fire on IDF troops in the southern Gaza Strip city. The IDF suspects terrorists kidnapped a soldier, and is conducting extensive searches and efforts to resolve the situation.

The IDF has constantly warned of the dangers of Hamas attempts to kidnap soldiers, and has thwarted several such efforts in the last few days.

Kidnapping would be Hamas’s ‘biggest achievement’

If confirmed, Channel 2 notes that this kidnapping would be Hamas’s “biggest achievement” in the war to date. The station stresses that the kidnapping attempt was carried out during the humanitarian truce, which took effect at 8 a.m.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Gaza periphery

UN envoy condemns report of ‘serious’ Hamas truce violation

UN special envoy Robert Serry says in a statement that he was informed by Israel of “a serious incident this morning” during the truce involving ” “a tunnel behind IDF lines in the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip,” in which two soldiers and multiple Palestinians were killed.

“The United Nations is not in a position to independently confirm these reports,” Serry says. If confirmed, however, “this would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian ceasefire in place since 8 a.m. this morning by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms.”

Serry calls on the Palestinian factions to observe the humanitarian truce, and voices concern about “serious consequences on the ground that could arise as a result of this incident.”

Hamas claims capture of IDF soldier

Hamas’s military wing claims it has captured an Israeli soldier, shortly after the IDF confirms in a statement that “initial indication suggests that an IDF soldier has been abducted by terrorists” during an attack around 9:30 a.m.

Former national security adviser Giora Eiland says this means “an escalation” in the Rafah area of the Strip where the kidnapping took place, as the IDF hunts for the soldier, but may also mark an escalation of the entire conflict.

Israel slams Hamas for breaking commitments to US, UN

In the first official response to the events unfolding in Gaza this morning, a senior Israeli official slams Hamas for again violating a humanitarian truce.

“It’s clear that Hamas has violated, yet again, another human ceasefire,” the senior official tells The Times of Israel. “They broke commitments given to the United Nations secretary-general and to the United States secretary of state. This is obviously a flagrant violation of the ceasefire arrangement, which specifically allowed Israeli troops to remain in place and allow us to continue to work on tunnels.”

Raphael Ahren

Army in ‘race against time’ to get captured soldier back

Omer Bar-Lev, the Labor MK who was the commander of Israel’s most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, says the IDF is presumably now deployed deep inside Rafah, searching for the kidnapped soldier, moving house to house if necessary. The IDF “has to physically close off the area.”

Israel Labour party member Omer Bar-Lev. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israel Labour party member Omer Bar-Lev. (photo credit: Flash90)

The Givati soldier was kidnapped around 9:30 a.m. near Rafah when his unit was attacked, including by a suicide bomber and by gunmen who emerged from a tunnel.

The terrorists will have tried to get the soldier out of the area via tunnels. “It’s a race against time… by the ground forces, to close off the area, and search house by house.”

Sirens in Ashkelon

Hamas leader says IDF soldier kidnapped before truce

Hamas’s Moussa Abu Marzouk says Hamas captured an Israeli soldier. He tells the Turkish Anadolu news agency that the kidnapping took place shortly before the since-collapsed truce went into effect.

Israel says the incident in which the soldier was kidnapped occurred at about 9.30, more than an hour into the supposed truce.

Two rockets downed over Sderot

Two rockets are intercepted over Sderot and the outskirts of Ashkelon, and another two explode in open areas. No injuries or damage reported.

Givati Brigade leading hunt for kidnapped soldier

IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner says that only a short while elapsed between the attack in Rafah this morning and the realization that a soldier had gone missing.

IDF Col. Ofer Winter (left). (YouTube Screenshot)

IDF Col. Ofer Winter (left). (YouTube Screenshot)

He says the searches are being led by Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Brigade, and that the soldier’s family has been updated on the situation.

– Mitch Ginsburg’s story on the kidnapping is here.

Kinapped soldier named as Hadar Goldin

The soldier kidnapped this morning in Rafah is 2nd.-Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba, an officer in the Givati Brigade, the IDF says.

If Hamas kidnaps a soldier, ‘then they win’

A platoon sergeant who recently completed a week of duty in Gaza discusses the army’s focus on preventing the abduction of a soldier. Sitting in a staging area a few kilometers east of the Gaza border, he says that dead soldiers are a natural outcome of war, “but an abducted soldier — no such thing.”

He describes all soldiers is his platoon as permanently linked to a buddy, in a system the army calls “steel pairs,” saying that “no one goes alone anywhere, not even a meter.”

He adds that officers have told the soldiers repeatedly that Hamas’s goal is to kidnap a soldier. “If we kill 100,000 and they kidnap one,” he says of Hamas’s apparent calculus, “then they win.”

Hamas leader outside Gaza says he has no details of kidnapping

A senior Hamas official outside the Gaza Strip says he has no information about the soldier his armed wing claims to have taken captive, Ynet reports.

Two IDF soldiers killed in Rafah attack

The IDF announces that two soldiers were killed in the kidnapping of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin in Rafah this morning.

The identities of the soldiers have not yet been announced, but their families have been notified.

Their deaths raise the IDF’s toll to 63 since the start of Operation Protective Edge.

White House calls soldier kidnapping ‘barbaric violation’ of truce

White House press secretary Josh Earnest calls the reported kidnapping of an IDF soldier by Hamas a “barbaric violation of ceasefire agreement” negotiated by the United States and United Nations.

Will needed to bring down Hamas ‘isn’t there,’ ex-minister says

Former Labor minister and IDF general Efraim Sneh tells Channel 2 that “the oxygen” to now launch a major offensive to bring down Hamas, after kidnapping, “simply isn’t there… That was never the government’s intention.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, sitting alongside, does not contradict him.

Security cabinet to meet this evening to discuss Gaza op

Israel’s security cabinet is scheduled to convene at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Tel Aviv. On the agenda: Whether to expand the offensive or stick to original agenda.

No more ceasefires in near future, says ex commander of Gaza division

The former commander of the Gaza Division, Maj. Gen. (res) Israel Ziv, says the suicide attack and subsequent abduction of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin of the Givati Brigade, “brought to its end” the understanding of the need for, and the will to attain, a ceasefire in the immediate future.

“I believe we will now face a new strategy by the Israeli government,” he says in an Israel Project conference call.

He says the attack proves that Hamas “is not there,” in terms of its desire for a ceasefire, and that Israel will, therefore, “have to adjust” and “to move ahead.”

Ziv, a former head of the army’s operational branch, says that the IDF “has several plans” and that while the plans may stop short of a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, the army could well increase pressure on the urban areas in the days ahead.

He does not dismiss out of hand the notion of an offensive around Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where the Hamas leadership is said to be hiding, but says that the first step would likely be an ultimatum to the parties of the ceasefire talks in Cairo, to pressure Hamas to return the missing soldier without preconditions.

– Mitch Ginsburg

Hamas spokesmen not confirming abduction of soldier

Hamas is refusing to confirm whether its gunmen abducted an Israeli soldier. This, after Hamas spokesman Moussa Abu Marzouk had earlier claimed the kidnapping, and said Hamas was holding a soldier alive.

Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari says Hamas clearly has decided it is not in its interest to acknowledge that it is holding a soldier, and also that it may not actually know exactly what is going on in Rafah.

PM to Kerry: Hamas will pay

In phone call to Secretary Kerry, PM Netanyahu says Hamas breached the ceasefire in kidnapping and killing two soldiers in Rafah this morning.

Netanyahu says Hamas will bear the consequences.

Soldier captured by Hamas reportedly British-born distant cousin of defense minister

The soldier captured this morning by Hamas gunmen, 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin is a British-born distant cousin of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the UK’s Channel 4 reports.

Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba is the son of British immigrants to Israel.

2nd.-Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba was captured August 1, 2014 in the southern Gaza Strip by Hamas gunmen, on the 25th day of Operation Protective Edge.

2nd.-Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba was captured August 1, 2014 in the southern Gaza Strip by Hamas gunmen, on the 25th day of Operation Protective Edge.

PM to Kerry: Hamas broke the promises it gave you

Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza will “bear the consequences of their actions,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells US Secretary John Kerry this afternoon during a phone conversation. “Israel will take all necessary actions against those who call for its destruction and carry out terror attacks against its citizens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary Of State John Kerry hold a joint press conference at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem. December 05, 2013. Photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary Of State John Kerry hold a joint press conference at PM Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem. December 05, 2013. Photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy/Flash90)

In their conversation, Netanyahu tells Kerry that despite the joint statement that Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which said that they received guarantees from Hamas and the other terror groups in the strip, the Palestinians “unilaterally and blatantly” broke the ceasefire.

The Israeli soldiers were attacked more than one hour after the humanitarian ceasefire had gone into effect at 8:00 a.m. “As a result of this attack, two IDF soldiers were killed and there is a suspicion of that another soldier was kidnapped – this happened after the ceasefire went into effect,” he tells Kerry.

Sirens sound in communities around Gaza Strip

Livni: IDF actions in Gaza ‘righteous,’ Hamas responsible for bloodshed

The IDF’s actions in Gaza are righteous and fully backed by all of us, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says.

“Hamas paid and will continue pay a heavy price. And if it wasn’t sufficiently clear to anyone yet, now the world knows who’s responsible for the destruction and the bloodshed of civilians in Gaza.”

– Raphael Ahren

Hamas says 120 bus passengers stuck at Rafah border with Egypt

Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad Al-Bozom reports on his Facebook page that at 12:00 pm Egypt had closed the Rafah border crossing to two buses with 120 passengers about to leave through Sinai.

Bozom says the travelers are in grave danger due to the heavy Israeli shelling of Rafah and calls on the International Red Cross to rescue them from the area. “We charge the Israeli occupation with responsibility for their lives,” Bozom writes.

– Elhanan Miller

Joint Palestinian delegation still headed to Cairo for truce talks

A joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is set to travel to Cairo on Saturday for ceasefire talks despite the renewed fighting in Gaza, the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announces.

“Abbas has formed the delegation, which will head Saturday for Cairo whatever the circumstances,” his office says in a statement, giving the names of the 12-member delegation.

They include Abbas aide Azzam al-Ahmed, Palestinian Authority security head Majed Faraj, several senior Hamas officials including Moussa Abu Marzuk and a leading member of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhale.

The statement says they would discuss with Egyptian officials the “next steps” in trying to reach a ceasefire in a war that has killed nearly 1,500 Palestinians in 25 days, according to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Health Ministry, as well as 63 IDF soldiers and 3 civilians inside Israel, and has led to the capture of one Israeli soldier

The announcement came after Islamic Jihad said Egypt was delaying talks on a long-term truce.

“The Egyptians contacted the Islamic Jihad and said Israel told them that a soldier has been captured,” the group’s deputy leader Ziad al-Nakhale told AFP. “The talks have been postponed.”

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 8 to stop indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli cities and to destroy Hamas’s “terror tunnels” that infiltrate into Israel and are aimed at killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians and soldiers.

Terror groups in the Gaza Strip have fired over 2,500 rockets into Israel and gunmen have ambushed IDF troops, emerging from tunnels that run into Israeli territory, at least five times since the ground operation began on July 17.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff.

White House: Kidnapped soldier must be returned

The White House says the apparent abduction of Hadar Goldin would be an “absolutely outrageous” action by Hamas.

Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken says the US strongly condemns the alleged abduction. He says that if the soldier has been kidnapped, he must be released, AP reports.

Earlier, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the abduction a “barbaric violation” of the ceasefire agreement, and said it merited international condemnation.

Thousands protest in Jordan against Israel

Thousands of Jordanians in Amman are reportedly protesting against Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.

Many are expressing support for Hamas, Ynet reports.

Security cabinet meeting postponed to 6:30pm

The security cabinet meeting set up to discuss the Gaza operation that was due to take place at 5:30 pm is pushed back an hour.

The cabinet will convene at 6:30 pm.

Palestinian man killed in West Bank clashes

A Palestinian man was killed during clashes in the northern West Bank on Friday, Palestinian security sources tell AFP.

They say Tamer Smour, 22, was hit by a live bullet in the chest in the city of Tulkarem.

A spokesman for the Red Crescent tells AFP that 39 Palestinians were wounded by live ammunition and rubber bullets fired by Israeli forces during clashes throughout the West Bank today.

In east Jerusalem, Israeli police arrested two Palestinians during a clash that took place outside the Old City after Friday prayers earlier today.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

IDF releases names of 2 soldiers killed today

The IDF releases the names of the two soldiers killed this morning in the attack on troops in the southern Gaza Strip in which 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured.

Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba. He was posthumously promoted from the rank of captain.

First Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem.

Both served in the Givati Brigade.Their families were notified.

 

Three of five soldiers killed yesterday laid to rest

Three of the five IDF soldiers killed yesterday in a mortar attack were laid to rest today.

Staff Sgt. Noam Rosenthal, an armored corps combat medic, 20, from Meitar was buried in the military cemetery in the community.

IDF SSgt Noam Rosenthal, 20, who was killed in a mortar attack inside the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

IDF SSgt Noam Rosenthal, 20, who was killed in a mortar attack inside the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Staff Sgt Shay Kushnir, 20, from Kiryat Motzkin was buried at the military cemetery in Kiryat Ata.

SSgt Shay Kushnir, 20, who was killed in a mortar attack inside the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

SSgt Shay Kushnir, 20, who was killed in a mortar attack inside the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 31, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/FLASH90)

Staff Sgt (Res.) Daniel Marash, 22, from Rishon LeZion, was laid to rest at the military cemetery in Holon.

The funerals for Captain Omri Tal, 22, from Yehud, and Captain (Res.) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, from Azuz, have yet to be announced.

Sirens sound in Ashkelon, Netivot

Sirens sound in Eshkol region, near Gaza Strip

Father of captured soldier: ‘Army will turn over every stone in Gaza to find him’

The father of captured soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, Simha Goldin, says he’s “sure the army will not let up for a moment and will turn over every stone in Gaza to bring back Hadar safe and sound.”

Goldin made the statement to reporters outside the family home in Kfar Saba.

Gaza medical official denies reports Shifa hospital told to evacuate

Hamas Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra denies reports that Shifa hospital staff were warned to evacuate by the IDF pending strikes, Israel Radio reports.

Hamas says willing to renew humanitarian ceasefire

Hamas tells Egypt that it is willing to renew its humanitarian truce agreement with Israel, originally planned for 72 hours starting this morning, and to give guarantees that other Gaza factions will abide by the deal, Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari says quoting a Hamas official.

Egypt said it would check with Israel, and for now is not letting Hamas delegates come to Cairo for truce talks until it receives an answer from Jerusalem. The delegation was expected in Cairo on Saturday.

Hamas officials keep mum on kidnapping of soldier

Hamas officials are not discussing the kidnapping, but are saying the incident occurred before the truce had begun, at 7:00am, and resulted from IDF deepening its tunnel work, prompting a Hamas response.

Channel 2 reiterates that Israel says this is a flat lie, and that the incident took place at 9:30 am.

Hapoel Jerusalem pays tribute to fallen soldier

Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem pays tribute to fallen IDF soldier First Sergeant Liel Gidoni, a 20-year-old native of the capital who was killed in clashes with Hamas terrorists near Rafah this morning.

“The Hapoel Jerusalem basketball club bows its head in memory of team supporter Liel Gidoni, who fell this morning while fighting in the Gaza Strip,” reads a statement posted by the club on its Facebook page.

The statement adds that Gidoni will be laid to rest at Jerusalem’s Har Herzl military cemetery at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Gidoni was killed along with one other soldier in clashes between Givati Brigade troops and Hamas terrorists, including gunmen and possibly a suicide bomber. A third soldier, 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, was reportedly captured in the attack.

EU ‘regrets’ ceasefire breakdown, makes no mention of captured soldier

The Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel releases a statement lamenting the breakdown of the 72-hour ceasefire that went into effect for mere hours this morning, but makes no mention of the attack by Hamas gunmen near Rafah less than two hours into the truce that killed two soldiers and led to the capture of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin.

“We deeply regret that the announced 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip has already been breached. It is paramount that all parties comply with the terms of the truce, and we call on all parties to uphold the commitments made earlier with a view to achieving a durable ceasefire to end the current tragic situation,” the delegation says in a statement released to the press.

Kerry calls for immediate, unconditional release of captured IDF soldier

Secretary of State John Kerry is condemning an “outrageous” violation by Palestinian militants of the Gaza ceasefire he helped to broker. Kerry is demanding the immediate release of an Israeli soldier apparently abducted by the radical Hamas movement.

Kerry released a statement saying the militant attack was an affront to the assurances that both sides had given to the United Nations about respecting the ceasefire. The US secretary of state is demanding that Hamas move to “immediately and unconditionally release” 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, captured in an attack that also killed two Israeli soldiers.

Kerry also calls on “those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message.”

Kerry says he has spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the developments, which led Israel to declare the ceasefire over. Kerry says it would be a “tragedy” if the attack led to more violence and suffering.

“The international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life,” Kerry says.

– AP, Times of Israel staff

Senate approves extra funding for Iron Dome

In a session that continued to extend beyond the Thursday date for Congressional recess, the Senate gave unanimous consent to advance emergency legislation to provide Israel with an additional $225 million in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Although Senators failed to reach an agreement on the additional budget late Thursday night, the Senate convened Friday morning to try again.

“This is a good example of us putting aside partisan considerations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after his party worked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to pass the funding.

The bill will now go to the House, which has delayed its recess until it passes key immigration legislation.

The Republican-controlled House is likely to pass the Senate bill in the coming days or even hours.

– Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Sirens sound in communities bordering Gaza

Support Israeli efforts to free Goldin — ADL

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calls on the international community to demand the “unconditional safe and immediate return” of kidnapped IDF soldier 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin and support Israel’s efforts to free him, adding that Israel has “no choice but to respond to this blatant act of aggression” by Hamas.

Blasting the Islamist terrorist organization’s “morally bankrupt indifference to human life,” ADL head Abraham Foxman calls on world leaders to “unequivocally condemn” the kidnapping, which was carried out by exploiting a 72-hour ceasefire “to conduct a suicide attack on Israelis and kidnap a 23-year-old.”

Foxman adds, “Yet again, Hamas’ resort to violence raises serious questions about the trustworthiness of any commitments the terror group makes to facilitate an end to the hostilities and demonstrates the need for disarming Hamas and meaningful international supervision in Gaza.”

UN chief demands immediate release of captured soldier

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demands that the Israeli soldier captured in Gaza be released immediately and condemned “in the strongest terms the reported violation” by Hamas of the ceasefire.

“The Secretary-General demands the immediate and unconditional release of the captured soldier,” says a statement from his spokesman.

Canada condemns ‘disgraceful, repugnant’ abduction of IDF soldier

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird condemns Hamas for violating another ceasefire and blasts the terror group for the abduction of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin this morning.

“Canada is appalled that Hamas, only hours into the ceasefire, has yet again blatantly violated this agreement. The abduction by Hamas of an Israeli soldier is a disgraceful and repugnant act and once again shows Hamas’s complete disregard for peace and the well-being of the Palestinian people,” he says in a statement

“Hamas has lost all credibility, and we must continue to work to isolate this terrorist organization that values death over peace,” he says.

Declare Hamas a terrorist group — Prosor to UN

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, calls on the international body to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization and to stop giving it a “free hand.”

Prosor urges the UN to take a number of immediate steps in response to the kidnapping this morning of an IDF officer in the southern Gaza Strip: condemn Hamas for kidnapping an Israeli soldier, breaking a temporary truce and denying humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, demand the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and declare Hamas a terrorist organization.

He adds that the kidnapping proves Hamas is committed more to killing and kidnapping Israelis than to the welfare of the Palestinian people.

Remarking that Gazan terrorists have fired 3,073 rockets at Israel in the past month alone, Prosor asks how much more proof the UN needs that Hamas is a terrorist organization before declaring it as such.

Palestinians report 2 killed in W. Bank riots

Palestinian security and medical sources say two people were shot dead by Israeli forces in separate clashes in the northern and central West Bank earlier today.

Tamer Smour, 22, is said to have been hit by a live bullet in the chest in the city of Tulkarem, in the northern West Bank.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army says some “1,200 rioters” were hurling “rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops and at an industrial center in the vicinity, endangering workers and passers-by.”

“The forces used riot dispersal means and once these means were exhausted they fired at the main instigators,” she says.

In a separate clash in Saffa, a village west of Ramallah, 19-year-old Udai Nafez was killed in a clash with Israeli forces, medical sources says. Ahmad Bitawi, director of the Ramallah governmental hospital, tells AFP that Nafez died in his hospital after being shot in the chest. The IDF has no immediate comment on the Saffa incident.

— AFP

Kerry urges ‘those with influence over Hamas’ to rein it in

Kerry warns against a further escalation of the conflict in Gaza, while calling on “those who have influence” over Hamas to persuade the terror group to release kidnapped IDF officer Lt. Hadar Goldin.

The secretary condemns the attack “in the strongest possible terms,” calling it “an outrageous violation of the ceasefire negotiated over the past several days, and of the assurances given to the United States and the United Nations.”

In a remark related to the role of states like Qatar, a US interlocutor which has been critiqued for its extensive support to Hamas, Kerry calls “on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message.”

– More here from Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

62 Palestinians killed in Rafah today, say Palestinian sources

The number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah has reached 62, says the spokesman for the Hamas-run emergency services, Ashraf al-Kidra.

Another four people were killed in tank shelling of Khan Yunis, also in southern Gaza, Kidra says.

– AFP

IDF strikes dozens of Hamas targets in Gaza

IDF strikes dozens of targets, command centers and safe houses belonging to Hamas, Channel 2 reports.

Saudi king condemns Gaza war but not Israel

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah condemns the war in Gaza as a “collective massacre” and a crime against humanity, but stops short of directly condemning Israel for its ground campaign against Hamas.

Unlike past Gaza wars, including the devastating 2008 offensive Operation Cast Lead, the Saudi monarch did not condemn Israel outright for the conflict, which officials say has killed at least 1,500 Palestinians, hundreds of them gunmen according to Israel, since it began on July 8. Israel says 63 of its soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been also killed.

Illustrative photo of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah (photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

Illustrative photo of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah (photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

Instead King Abdullah appears to suggest that both Israel and Hamas were responsible, saying that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism whether from groups, organizations or states.

“All of this is happening while the international community is watching silently with all its institutions and organizations, including human rights organizations,” he said in prepared remarks read out by a presenter on state television. “This silence has no justification.”

But the king did not call for any specific action to be taken against Israel in his remarks.

The 90 year-old monarch’s apparent balancing act is indicative of the recent shift in regional politics, where Egypt’s leadership and other states opposed to Islamist parties have cracked down on groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas. They have also warned their citizens against joining radical Jihadi groups running rampant in places like Iraq and Syria.

– AP, Times of Israel staff

IDF tells Rafah residents to stay indoors as search for missing soldier continues

The IDF tells residents in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, to stay indoors as troops continue search for missing soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was captured this morning by Hamas gunmen near the border town with Egypt. Two soldiers were killed in the attack.

Sources in Gaza tell Israel Radio that the military is expanding operations in the area backed up by tank fire and air strikes.

Egypt says Gaza truce talks invite ‘still in place’

Egypt says its invitation to Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks on a longer-term Gaza ceasefire was “still in place” despite a proposed 72-hour humanitarian truce breaking down.

A proposed three-day truce that began at 0500 GMT collapsed after the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said a joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will travel to Cairo on Saturday for ceasefire talks despite the renewed fighting.

The foreign ministry says Cairo was following “with great interest and concern” the latest developments in the Gaza Strip.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Sirens sound in Ashdod, Ashkelon

Turkey offers to help find captured soldier

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offers to help located the IDF officer who was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports.

Davutoglu reportedly says Turkish will do “what it can” to help free Givati Brigade soldier 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, but adds that the priority should be a return to the ceasefire that unraveled after Goldin was captured.

“What is important is that the ceasefire is reinstated. To ensure this, together with others, we can take any step that could resolve this Israeli soldier issue. If Turkey can do anything, we will do our best,” Davutoglu is quoted as saying.

“But if the ceasefire is stopped because an Israeli soldier is kidnapped, somebody should account for the 70 Palestinians killed (today). In our eyes, all people are equal,” he reportedly says.

Obama calls for unconditional release of IDF soldier

US President Barack Obama calls for the unconditional release of IDF soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, captured by Hamas this morning.

It is important to note that we have, and I have, unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third, almost minutes after a ceasefire has been announced. The UN also condemned them. I want to make sure they are listening and if they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier must be unconditionally released,” he says at a press conference.

President Barack Obama addresses reporters August 1, 2014.

President Barack Obama addresses reporters August 1, 2014.

Obama reiterated that the US supports Israel’s right to defend itself but that the mounting death toll in Gaza “weighs on our conscience” and more must be done to protect them.

“The ceasefire was a way to step back, stop the killing and try to resolve some issues that have been building up.”

Obama acknowledged that it will be hard to put a ceasefire back together if Israel and international community cannot trust that Hamas will abide by the agreement.

Obama said that it is “heartbreaking to see what is happening in Gaza” but that “Israel has to be able to defend itself and get at those rockets and tunnels.” He blasts the “irresponsible actions of Hamas” which houses these rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods.

Hospital in Rafah reportedly evacuated

The hospital in the southern Gaza city of Rafah has been evacuated due to heavy bombardment in the area, Ynet reports.

The IDF has been operating there since the morning in search of IDF soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, captured by Hamas gunmen after an attack on troops perpetrated some 90 minutes after the onset of a truce.

Two soldiers were killed in the attack.

US envoy to UN: ‘Hamas must ensure release’ of Israeli soldier

WASHINGTON — US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power issues her own condemnation of the morning attack that left two IDF soldiers dead and one kidnapped.

After both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry issued condemnations, Powers wrote on Twitter: “strongly condemn attack on Israeli soldiers that broke #Gaza ceasefire. Hamas must ensure immediate release of missing Israeli soldier.”

The wording of Power’s tweet left open the possibility that Hamas, which had acquiesced to a ceasefire that began some ninety minutes before the attack, was not responsible for the attack, but that it could secure 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin’s release.

– Rebecca Shimoni Stoil