The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Saturday, the 26th day of Operation Protective Edge. The IDF sought frantically Friday and Saturday for soldier Hadar Goldin, who was kidnapped during a Hamas attack in Rafah in which two other soldiers were killed Friday morning, breaching a UN- and US-sponsored truce. President Barack Obama led an international chorus demanding that Hamas release Goldin unconditionally. The deaths in Rafah brought the IDF toll to 63; three civilians have also been killed on the Israeli side. Gazan health officials put the death toll there at some 1,600. Israel says hundreds of those are Hamas fighters. (Sunday’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 26 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: Operation Protective Edge enters its 26th day after a deeply traumatic Friday.

A UN- and US-brokered 72-hour ceasefire that was supposed to lead to negotiations on ending the Israel-Hamas war collapsed after a little more than an hour on Friday morning when two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third, Hadar Goldin, was seized during an attack by Islamist gunmen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

President Barack Obama led a chorus of international demands that Hamas release him unconditionally.

Dr. Simha Goldin, Father of Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, speaks with the media outside the Goldin family home in Kfar Saba on Friday, August 1, 2014, after his son is reported kidnapped. (photo credit: Flash90)

Dr. Simha Goldin, Father of Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, speaks with the media outside the Goldin family home in Kfar Saba on Friday, August 1, 2014, after his son is reported kidnapped. (photo credit: Flash90)

Goldin’s father Simha spoke to the press just before Shabbat outside the family home in Kfar Saba, to declare that he was confident the IDF would leave no stone unturned in the effort to ensure his son comes home safe and sound.

2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, feared kidnapped in Gaza on August 1 (photo credit: AP Photo/ YNet News)

2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, feared kidnapped in Gaza on August 1 (photo credit: AP Photo/ YNet News)

There was heavy fighting in the Rafah area through the rest of Friday.

And the Israeli cabinet was still meeting into the night to decide how to steer the ground offensive from here.

Obama to Hamas: Release that soldier ASAP

Here’s ToI’s Rebecca Shimoni Stoil on what Obama had to say about the kidnapping:

In an unusually strong statement, US President Barack Obama called for Hamas to unconditionally release Lt. Hadar Goldin, seized by Hamas during a truce in Gaza early Friday.

“If they are serious about resolving the situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama told reporters during a quickly scheduled press conference Friday afternoon…

President Barack Obama addresses reporters August 1, 2014. (photo credit: White House stream)

President Barack Obama addresses reporters August 1, 2014. (photo credit: White House stream)

He placed the blame for any continuing difficulties on the ceasefire squarely on Hamas. “I think it’s going to be very hard to put a ceasefire back together again if Israel and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a ceasefire commitment,” he said.

– Full story here

10 more Palestinians said killed in Gaza

Ten Palestinians are reportedly killed in the Gaza Strip, the territory’s emergency services say.

The bodies of five Palestinians are discovered in the rubble of buildings in Rafah that had been hit in Israeli strikes. The other five deaths occur in the shelling of Rafah and Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, says emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

–AFP

Dozens riot in East Jerusalem

Police say dozens of masked individuals rioted in East Jerusalem earlier this evening.

According to the police, the gatherings were dispersed using crowd control weapons.

‘Retaking Gaza would cost hundreds of soldiers’ lives’

Quoting an unnamed government source from the marathon meeting of the Israeli security cabinet, Army Radio says retaking Gaza “would cost hundreds of soldiers’ lives” and also have an immense economic impact.

The source says decisions on how to direct Operation Protective Edge need to be taken “calmly.”

Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Earlier, IDF Spokesman Moti Almoz told the same radio station that the apparent kidnapping of Hadar Goldin and the killings of two other IDF soldiers during the truce in Rafah early Friday was “a very grave incident” but that grave incidents happen during military operations.

The comment seemed to reflect an Israeli desire to try not to inflate the psychological impact of the kidnapping.

Hamas, for its part, has told UN representative Robert Serry that it has no information regarding the soldier, a senior Hamas source tells ToI’s Avi Issacharoff.

EU silence on Hamas actions ‘deafening,’ says ADL

The Anti-Defamation League is commending the US, the UN and Canada for their condemnation of Hamas over the kidnapping of 2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin in Gaza, while calling European silence on the issue “deafening.”

The Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel released a statement earlier lamenting the breakdown of the 72-hour ceasefire that lasted mere hours this morning, but made no mention of the attack by Hamas gunmen near Rafah less than two hours into the truce.

“The reaction by the European Union was utterly shameful,” the ADL says in a statement. “The EU failed to blame Hamas for breaching the ceasefire, failed to mention the killing of two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping of another during the ceasefire, and gave a free pass to Hamas by calling on both sides to continue the ceasefire as if nothing had happened.

“America’s leadership and moral clarity about the brutality of Hamas will do more, in the end, to protect human life and to uphold international norms and standards than those who ignore the fundamental vicious nature of Hamas and its determination to prolong this confrontation.”

Security cabinet meeting ends in Tel Aviv

Israel’s security cabinet has concluded a five-hour meeting on the most recent developments in combat in the Gaza Strip.

There is no news of decisions made at the meeting at this time.

Gaza death toll since soldier’s abduction rises to 91

Emergency services in Hamas-run Gaza say 19 Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes on Rafah in the south of Gaza Friday night, bringing to 91 the number of deaths since Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin was kidnapped in the area on Friday morning.

–AFP

Hamas says it ‘lost contact’ with some combatants

Hamas’s armed wing says it has lost contact with its fighters who carried out Friday morning’s attack on IDF troops in the Gaza Strip, and has no information on the whereabouts of Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin.

“The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades has no information on this soldier. We have lost contact with the combatant group that took part in the ambush, and we believe its members were killed in the [IDF] strikes. Assuming they managed to capture the soldier during the battle, we believe he may have also been killed.”

Gaza weekend death toll at 101, medics say

The number of Palestinians killed since Friday’s collapse of the humanitarian truce has risen to 101, Palestinian emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says, after 10 more Palestinians are killed in Israeli strikes in Gaza. In addition, 350 people have been wounded.

–AFP

Israeli Air Force strikes in northern Gaza

The Israeli Air Force is striking targets in Jebaliya, in the northern Gaza Strip, Walla News reports.

Palestinian sources say one of the targets bombed was a mosque.

Rocket warning sirens throughout central Israel

Iron Dome intercepts 3 rockets over Tel Aviv, Beersheba

The Iron Dome defense system has hit two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip at the Tel Aviv area a short while ago.

A rocket fired at the Beersheba region was also intercepted.

 

House passes $225m. Iron Dome funding bill after Senate approval

The US Congress has rushed through a $225 million bill to support Israel’s missile defense system, with House of Representatives approval coming just before lawmakers began a five-week summer break.

The money will go to restocking Israel’s Iron Dome, which has been credited with shooting down dozens of incoming rockets fired by Palestinian militants over three and a half weeks of war.

The House’s 395-8 vote in favor follows Senate adoption of the legislation by voice vote earlier in the day.

The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

–AP

Sirens sound in Raanana, greater Tel Aviv area

Funerals for 2 soldiers killed yesterday to be held tonight, tomorrow

The funerals for the two soldiers killed Friday morning in the Rafah attack in the southern Gaza Strip that also saw the capture of a third Israeli soldier, will be held tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

Major Benaya Sarel, 26, from Kiryat Arba, will be laid to rest tonight at 12:15 am.

The funeral for First Sgt. Liel Gidoni, 20, from Jerusalem, will be held tomorrow at 5 pm on Mount Herzl.

IDF Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Friday, August 1, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

IDF Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on Friday, August 1, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Israel bombards Gaza as it searches for missing soldier

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel is striking dozens of sites in Gaza as it continues a massive search for IDF soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin it fears was captured by Hamas.

Hamas says it has no information about Goldin and claims to have lost contact with its fighters involved in the Friday morning attack in which he went missing and in which two soldiers were killed.

Palestinian officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip say at least 35 Palestinians have been killed this morning in and around the city of Rafah this morning.

– AP, Times of Israel staff

Hamas conducts ‘internal review’ of events surrounding soldier’s capture

Hamas’s military wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades publishes a press statement in English on its Arabic-language website detailing its version of events surrounding Friday’s morning attack that shattered a US- and UN-brokered ceasefire that was supposed to hold for 72 hours. In the attack, two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was captured.

Hamas insists that it did not break the ceasefire and that the attack occurred at 7:00am, an hour before the ceasefire was to go into effect. Israel says the attack happened at 9:30am, an hour and half into the ceasefire.

The statement says that an “internal review” was conducted that “affirms” that “Zionist Enemy Forces used the talks about a humanitarian ceasefire to advance troops more than two kilometers inside the Gaze [sic] Strip to the east of Rafah. Our assessment is that one of our deployed ambushes clashed with the advancing troops.”

Hamas also insists that it has no knowledge about the kidnapping or the whereabouts of IDF soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, who is feared captured by gunmen, and says that he was probably killed in the clashes that ensued with Israeli forces.

“We lost contact with the troops deployed in the ambush, and assess that these troops were probably killed by enemy bombardment, including the solider [sic] said to be missing, presuming that our troops took him prisoner during the clash.”

“Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades has no information till this moment about the missing soldier, his place, or the circumstances of his disappearance,” the statement reads.

A Hamas spokesman initially confirmed the capture Friday morning but the group has since closed ranks and backtracked on any statements taking responsibility.

The UN, the US, Canada and Britain have condemned the abduction and have called for the soldier’s immediate release.

Netanyahu to US ambassador: US should ‘never second-guess me again’ on Hamas

In a phone call with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vents his anger, according to people familiar with the call. It is not clear when the call took place.

Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to people familiar with the conversation. Netanyahu added that he now “expected” the US and other countries to fully support Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to those familiar with the call. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.

They said Netanyahu made similar points to Kerry, who himself denounced the attack as “outrageous,” saying it was an affront to assurances to respect the ceasefire given to the United States and United Nations, which brokered the truce.

– AP, Times of Israel staff

Brother of slain soldier urges PM: Leave Gaza, or destroy it

The brother of a soldier who was killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a firm decision on the continuation of the 26-day campaign, criticizing him for what he called the lack of firm resolve that was costing the lives of dozens of soldiers.

Omer Gotlib, the brother of St.-Sgt. Matan Gotlib, who was killed in clashes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, says the prime minister’s inability to decide whether he wanted the conflict in the Gaza Strip to be resolved by diplomacy or force was causing losses among the IDF soldiers who were deployed to the coastal enclave in recent weeks.

Sgt. Matan Gotlib (photo credit: Facebook)

Sgt. Matan Gotlib (photo credit: Facebook)

Gotlib, who described himself as a left-wing Meretz voter who had never supported Netanyahu’s Likud party implored the prime minister in a message he wrote on his official Facebook page, picked up by Walla News, to “stop being a politician” and either leave Gaza or destroy it.

“I ask you to take the children out of Gaza and turn to diplomacy — or just stop being afraid of the world and turn Gaza into rubble,” he writes.

Almost all Gaza tunnels neutralized — IDF

Nearly all the terror tunnels underneath the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, Ynet reports, citing a senior military source.

The source says the IDF has struck 200 terror targets in the Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours, most of them command centers, and has blown up four tunnels.

“We are very close to finishing dealing with the tunnels,” he is quoted as saying.

He adds that there were also relatively few clashes between IDF troops and Gazan fighters since yesterday, “other than the Givati incident and another incident involving anti-tank fire in Shejaiya.”

Rafah completely isolated from rest of Gaza, Palestinians say

The IDF is currently operating in southern Gaza to completely isolate the city of Rafah from the rest of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources tell Channel 2.

The sources say that there are no movements north of Rafah, in the direction of Khan Younis and roads are blocked.

In addition, tanks are reportedly operating in the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza border with Egypt to block passage into the Sinai region, accompanied by air strikes. Channel 2 reports that there are clashes between IDF troops and gunmen.

The IDF continues to search for 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, who is feared captured in an attack on troops in Rafah Friday morning that also killed two soldiers.

‘EU suggests lifting Gaza blockade to Egypt’

The European Union has presented to Egypt a number of possibilities for lifting the blockade over the Gaza Strip, the Al-Hayat paper reports.

During a visit to Cairo yesterday, an EU envoy reportedly suggests reopening the six crossings to and from the Gaza Strip to allow movement of people and goods.

He also suggests that the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt be manned by EU observers, the report says.

Egypt reportedly cancels truce talks in Cairo

According to the Lebanese paper Al-Mayadeen cited by Israel Radio, Egypt cancels truce talks with the Palestinian delegation scheduled for later today.

According to the report, Israel informed Egypt that it was not interested in pursuing negotiations on a ceasefire in light of the abduction of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin by Hamas gunmen yesterday.

The report on the canceled talks could not be confirmed and it is not yet clear whether the talks will proceed.

Israel’s Channel 1 reports that the Palestinian delegation will indeed arrive in Cairo but without Hamas representatives, as previously agreed, because of Israel’s objections.

UNRWA says 250,000 Gazans displaced in 90 shelters across Strip

The spokesman for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) says that as of today, there are over 250,000 Gazans displaced in 90 of the agency’s shelters across the Gaza Strip.

Mortar explodes in Eshkol region, causing no injuries

Finnish reporter confirms Hamas war crimes

A television reporter from the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat confirms that Hamas has been firing rockets out of the Al-Shifa Hospital.

The reporter, who is not named in the television segment shot on-site in Gaza, says a rocket was launched “right in the back the parking lot” of the hospital at 2 a.m. between Thursday and Friday.

“Really, it happened right in the area, the sound of it was really loud,” she says, confirming reports that Hamas is committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip by shooting from civilian concentrations, medical centers and other humanitarian institutions.

“It’s true that rockets are launched here from the Gazan side into Israel.”

Sissi says Egypt truce plan ‘real chance’ to end Gaza conflict

President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi says the Egyptian truce plan provides a “real chance” to end the Gaza conflict, stressing the need for its speedy implementation.

“The Egyptian proposal is the real chance to find a solution to the crisis in Gaza and to end the bloodshed,” Sisi tells  a televised news conference.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (AP Photo/Ahmed Fouad, MENA)

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (AP Photo/Ahmed Fouad, MENA)

A Palestinian delegation is expected in Cairo to discuss a truce, a day after a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by the US and the UN collapsed following an attack yesterday on IDF troops that killed two and led to the capture of one an hour and a half into the truce.

Hamas says the attack occurred before the ceasefire went into effect and denies abducting the soldier.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Sirens sound in communities bordering Gaza Strip

One injured in mortar fire on Eshkol region

At least fire mortars are fired from Gaza into the Eshkol Regional Council, injuring one person.

Soldier lightly hurt by mortar in Eshkol region

IDF says 200 Gaza sites targeted since yesterday

The IDF says it struck over 200 targets in the Gaza Strip since yesterday morning’s attack in Rafah which killed two soldiers and led to the capture of one.

The military says a weapons center at the Islamic University was hit as well as several command centers.

IDF soldier moderately hurt by sniper fire

An IDF soldier is moderately hurt after being shot by a sniper in the northern Gaza Strip, Ynet reports.

He is evacuated to Petah Tikva’s Rabin Medical Center for treatment.

Security cabinet decides: No truce negotiations with Hamas via Cairo

The security cabinet decides that it will not negotiate with Hamas, via Egyptian mediators, on yet another truce and will not send a delegation to Cairo today as expected, Channel 2 reports.

The cabinet members met late last night for over five hours and the first reports about the outcome are being published now.

According to an Army Radio report, sources say that this does not mean that in, say, five days or a week, Israel won’t send a delegation, but for now this is the Israeli position arising from Friday’s marathon cabinet meeting.

The Palestinian delegation is expected in Egypt later today.

Sirens sound in Eshkol region

IDF allows Palestinians in Beit Lahiya area to return to their homes

Palestinian sources say the military announced a short time ago that Palestinians from Beit Lahiya and al-Atatara in the northern Gaza Strip are allowed to return to their homes.

This is the first time they are allowed to do so since the ground operation began on July 17 and they were instructed to move south.

The announcement came with the withdrawal of IDF forces from the area.

Security sources tell The Times of Israel that additional withdrawals are expected in the coming days as forces wrap up tunnel-destroying operations in the area.

– Avi Issacharoff

Sirens in Ashkelon, communities bordering Gaza

Four mortars explode near Eshkol region; no injuries reported

Sirens blaring in Eshkol region

Air raid sirens have gone off no less than three times in the past hour in the region of southern Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip. At least one rocket and four mortars are reported to have struck in open areas, causing no injuries.

Three rockets hit Eshkol region

The battered southern district bordering the Gaza Strip was just hit by three more rockets, one of which ignited a brushfire. No injuries are reported, but firefighters are on the scene to combat the blaze.

IDF troops said to take up positions along Egypt-Gaza border

Channel 2 cites Palestinian sources saying that the IDF has taken up positions on Philadelphi corridor, a narrow band of land separating the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula along Egypt’s border.

Sirens in Gaza periphery areas

Air raid warnings are going off once again in the regions of southern Israel adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Moments earlier, two rockets hit open areas in Sha’ar Hanegev. No injuries or damage are reported.

Hamas spokesperson says Israel trying to change status quo

Hamas spokesperson Mushir al-Masri addresses the Israeli security cabinet’s decision not to attend ceasefire negotiations in Egypt saying that, “Hamas is going to Cairo from a position of power. Israel is the one which has attempted to change the equation and manage a negotiation while continuing to fire.”

Between 50 and 60 rockets fired at Israel Saturday

Between 50 and 60 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel thus far on Saturday, inflicting no injuries and dealing no significant damage.

Sirens in Beersheba, Ashkelon

One rocket intercepted en route to Beersheba

Iron Dome downs at least one rocket fired from Gaza on its way toward the largest city in southern Israel, Beersheba. There are no immediate reports of injuries in the latest barrage.

Opposition MK praises decision to pull back from Gaza

Opposition MK Zehava Gal-on (Meretz) speaks on Channel 2 and praises the security cabinet’s decision to pull back troops from the Gaza Strip as the proper move. Israeli ground troops entered the Gaza Strip on the evening of July 17, and have focused their operations since then on destroying Hamas’s terror tunnels crisscrossing the Palestinian territory.

IDF posts video of troops destroying terror tunnel

The IDF spokesperson’s unit uploads a video to YouTube showing Israeli troops blowing up a Hamas terror tunnel.

‘Hamas won’t dare fire on us for years’ after this op, deputy minister says

Deputy Defense Minister Tzachi Hanegbi tells Channel 2 that, “When this is over… Hamas won’t dare fire on us for years.”

He says Israel isn’t entering ceasefire talks in Cairo because Hamas is there to raise its demands, not to agree on its own disarmament.

Abbas “is irrelevant to a solution in Gaza,” he adds, though he concedes that Egypt may want Abbas’s forces deployed on its border “and that’s up to the Egyptians; we don’t have a problem with that.”

According to the IDF, Palestinian terror groups have fired 39 rockets at Israel today (fewer than the more than 60 reported by Channel 2), three of which were intercepted.

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF says 3,055 rockets have been fired at Israel, 552 of which were intercepted by Iron Dome. The army estimated that Hamas started the war with a stockpile of roughly 9,000 rockets.

Only 3 tunnels to go, Channel 10 reports

Channel 10 reporter Alon Ben David says that the IDF has only three more tunnels to destroy out of the dozens that it has discovered running beneath the Gaza Strip.

Thousands demonstrate against IDF op in Galilee town

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of the Galilee town of Tamra to protest the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip. At the gathering in the Arab town, organized by Islamist movements, protesters are waving Palestinian flags and pictures of people killed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip.

According to Ynet, the demonstrators are chanting “Shejaiya will be victorious,” referring to a neighborhood of Gaza City where a fierce battle between the IDF and Hamas took place, and “Sissi is a traitor, he cooperates with the siege [of Gaza].”

Meanwhile, sirens continue to sound in communities near Gaza and the southern city of Ashkelon.

Israel may seek unilateral end to Gaza op

Israel may seek to reach a unilateral end to combat in the Gaza Strip, after the Security Cabinet decided overnight that it would not negotiate with Hamas on yet another truce and wouldn’t send a delegation to Cairo at this time, Channel 2 reports.

Read our full coverage of it here.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Gaza periphery

Gaza op coming to a close, last tunnels to be destroyed coming days

Former Navy chief Eliezer Marom tells Channel 2: “We’re now coming to the end of the military operation.” The strategic problem, he says, is that when the IDF leaves Gaza, “Hamas will still be in control there.” He adds that “with all the sorrow” over the kidnapped soldier, that should not impact the wider decision on the operation, and “will have to be resolved via other means.”

Channel 2′s military correspondent says that the mission to destroy the tunnels is nearly completed. According to the IDF, the remainder of the task will take a matter of a day or two.

At least one rocket downed over Ashkelon

Southern Israel is under heavy rocket fire in the past few minutes, and Channel 2 reports at least one interception near Ashkelon. The channel estimates that roughly 70 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel on Saturday.

No injuries or damage are reported.

Givati brigade officer ‘dashed into tunnel’ to prevent soldier’s capture

After Hadar Goldin was seized, the deputy head of the Givati brigade “dashed into the tunnel with a few other soldiers to try to prevent the kidnapping, but failed to do so,” Channel 2′s Roni Daniel says, citing a senior IDF officer.

Now, the IDF is using “all means possible” to find Goldin — “a 100% effort,” undertaken “whatever the chances and whatever the danger.”

He adds that IDF forces are “more or less” finished demolishing the tunnels.

Israeli soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a terror tunnel. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a terror tunnel. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90)

Cops nab 700 pot plants near Jerusalem

Police are not just tracking rockets from the Gaza Strip and keeping violent protests under control, they’re also making big drug busts.

According to the Israel Police, they found a field with about 700 marijuana plants near Beit Shemesh, a town west of Jerusalem, and arrested two suspects involved in growing the contraband.

According to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the value of a mature marijuana plant is roughly $3,000, making this crop worth something $2.1 million.

Author Oz says Gaza op is ‘lose-lose’ for Israel

Award winning Israeli author Amos Oz spoke to German news outlet Deutsche Welle and says that the Gaza operation is a “lose-lose-situation” for Israel.

“The more Israeli casualties, the better it is for Hamas. The more Palestinian civilian casualties, the better it is for Hamas,” he says. Nonetheless, the traditionally left-wing author defends Israel’s incursions into Gaza, saying he backs a “limited military response” to rocket fire.

He poses two questions to the German audience, asking “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?” and “What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”

Despite the grim situation on the ground, Oz says he still believes Israelis and Palestinians can co-exist in two neighboring states. “This is a basis not for a honeymoon,” he says, referring to the two-state solution, “but perhaps for a fair divorce just like the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.”

IDF says tunnel demolition nearly done; Hamas says damage overstated

Army is now in the final 24 hours of demolishing the 30-plus major Hamas attack tunnels, and will be preparing to redeploy its troops as appropriate, awaiting further orders from the political echelon, Channel 2 says.

Hamas, for its part, says it can rebuild the tunnels, still has rocket capabilities, and has its command structure and leaders unharmed, Channel 2 reports. “The damage is far less than Israel’s prime minister says,” the TV report quotes Hamas saying.

Israeli civilian injured by Gaza mortar

An Israeli civilian is injured after a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Eshkol region of southern Israel. The person’s condition is not yet clear.

The Israeli towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip have been bombarded all afternoon by rockets and mortars.

Netanyahu adamant about unilateral end to Gaza op, Channel 2 says

Channel 2′s Udi Segal, reporting on the security cabinet decision overnight, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and colleagues now firmly set on unilateral end to the conflict in the next few days. He says Israel adamant that Hamas cannot be trusted in any ceasefire deal, and that it has to be deterred. He also says the US understands this, since the US also recognizes that the Hamas attack on Israeli troops in Rafah on Friday morning was a “spit in the eye” of the US and other mediators.

Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will deliver a televised statement and take questions from the media at Tel Aviv’s Defense Ministry headquarters at 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, an Israeli man is receiving treatment from first responders after being hit by shrapnel from a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip that exploded in the Eshkol region.

70-year-old seriously wounded in Eshkol mortar attack

Channel 10 reports that the 70-year-old man who was wounded by a mortar round fired from Gaza in the past hour is in serious condition and receiving medical treatment.

IDF troops starting to pull back from Gaza

An unspecified number of IDF troops are pulling back from their positions in the Gaza Strip and taking up posts just inside the border with Israel, Ynet reports. According to earlier reports, the troops were being pulled out of Khan Yunis, in the south, and Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Erdogan blames Israel for failed truce, says it’ll ‘drown in blood’

In ever-escalating remarks, Turkey’s prime minister on Saturday blames Israel for the failure of the 72-hour truce with Hamas on Friday, saying the Jewish state would “drown in blood.”

“Israel did not obey the truce declared yesterday, their lust for blood will not end,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at an election campaign rally in Turkey’s Balıkesir province, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Egypt increases electricity supply to Gaza

Egypt has increased its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip following the hit on its power plant, an official tells Reuters.

According to the report, eight of the nine power lines into Gaza have been damaged, and Egypt plans to increase output by 22 megawatts, nearly doubling the 27 it already provides Gaza.

Hamas ‘won’t necessarily cease fire’ if Israel does

A Hamas source quoted by Channel 2 says “we won’t necessarily cease fire” if Israel does. The report comes amid IDF withdrawals from areas of the Gaza Strip and rumors that Israel will unilaterally end its operation in Gaza, with or without a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

Despite troop pull-back, IDF searching for missing soldier in Rafah

Despite the fact that some troops are being withdrawn from areas of the Gaza Strip, efforts to find missing soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin are ongoing and IDF troops are operating in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

“They’re overturning every stone, of course, in the hope of finding something,” Channel 2′s Roni Daniel reports.

‘If Hamas continues fire, operation in Gaza will continue,’ Livni says

Amid talk of an Israeli unilateral pullback from the Gaza Strip, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni tells Channel 2 that “if Hamas continues to fire, we’ll continue military operations in the Gaza Strip.”

“We’ll operate according to our security needs,” she says.

Hamas officials have said that a unilateral ceasefire by Israel may not necessarily be met by a cessation of hostilities by the Palestinian terror group.

Livni says Hamas had anticipated negotiations on its demands in Cairo, but that’s not going to happen. If it has demands of Egypt, such as those relating to Egypt-Gaza border crossings, it can negotiate with the Egyptians, she says. “We won’t be arguing with them.”

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to Channel 2. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to Channel 2. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Livni says that rather than working toward a ceasefire agreement with Hamas, Israel has “taken the initiative into our hands” and is seeking an “arrangement against Hamas” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt. She calls for renewed negotiations with Abbas, whom she calls an appropriate partner for cooperation, to dismantle Hamas control in the Gaza Strip.

She says that when the IDF has finished dealing with the tunnels, which is anticipated in the coming days, people in the south who have moved further north will be able to return.

Asked whether the Hamas leadership can expect to be off-limits once troops are pulled out, and can leave the bunkers they’ve been in since the start of Israel’s operation, Livni replies: “As far as I’m concerned, every terrorist of every rank is a target.”

She says the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge has created new deterrence. “It’s clear to Hamas that Israel used heavy force… They shouldn’t test us again.”

As for the kidnapped soldier, 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, Livni says that “Hamas thinks that kidnapped soldiers are our soft underbelly.” Therefore, “the less we show that underbelly, the less they’ll try to kidnap soldiers.”

Hadar is alive, don’t leave Gaza without him, family of kidnapped soldier pleads

The family of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin are holding a press conference outside their home in Kfar Saba, a suburb north of Tel Aviv.

“I am a reserve battalion commander. I did reserve duty until age 50 and I can’t imagine that the IDF will abandon its combat soldier,” Hadar’s father Dr. Simha Goldin says. “My personal commander was [IDF chief of staff] Benny Gantz and I know its impossible that he would give an order to leave [the Gaza Strip] while there’s a soldier inside… I know Givati brigade Commander Ofer Winter. I can’t believe he would forsake an officer anywhere.”

Hadar’s mother Hedva, urges the state of Israel “not to leave Gaza until they bring back our son.”

“He’s our smile,” Hedva says. “He’s the child who saw the good in everything.”

Goldin’s older sister, Ayelet, says that “If a captive soldier is left in Gaza, it’s a defeat,” and calls for Goldin’s return.

“I will do everything for you,” says his brother Menahem.

Goldin’s father tells the press that the military knows what it needs to do — bring his son home.

“We’ve done more complicated things. We made it to Entebbe,” he says, referring to the 1976 rescue operation in Uganda which brought back 102 Israeli hostages.

“Hadar’s alive,” his twin brother, Tsur, says. “He went in alive, he’ll leave alive.”

The family of missing soldier Hadar Goldin speaks to the press (screen capture: Channel 2)

The family of missing soldier Hadar Goldin speaks to the press (screen capture: Channel 2)

Kerry tells Lapid US will help get info on missing soldier

Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke over the phone with US Secretary of State John Kerry, thanking the American diplomat for American help with funding Iron Dome, which has downed over 550 rockets since the start of Operation Protective Edge.

“The American people are with you,” Kerry replied, saying the US will do help ensure the return of missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin and provide Israel on his whereabouts.

IDF won’t leave Rafah ‘for many days yet’

Following the Goldin family’s emotional press conference, the former national security adviser Giora Eiland tells Channel 2 that the IDF, even if it redeploys on the Gaza border as apparently planned, will not leave the Rafah area where Goldin was kidnapped “for many days yet.”

The IDF has been searching Rafah for the past day and a half since Goldin was kidnapped, and two soldiers killed, in a Hamas attack that breached a US- and UN-brokered ceasefire.

Israeli strikes on Khan Yunis kill two, Palestinians say

Palestinian media reports two Israeli airstrikes on cars in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis killed at least two Palestinians. Al Aqsa TV reports additional strikes on buildings in the city as well.

Meanwhile, sirens are going off in Ashkelon and the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu says Israel to make ‘every effort’ to bring Goldin home

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that the IDF continues its operations in the Gaza Strip full force and that its objective is returning peace and security to Israel’s citizens. He says Israel will make every effort to bring its missing sons home.

He says the IDF has destroyed dozens of tunnels and that “thousands of targets” have been destroyed and hundreds of terrorists killed.

The prime minister says he sympathizes with the family of 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin, that he’ll speak with the family of the kidnapped soldier later this evening, and that Israel “will make every effort to return its missing boys home.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference Saturday, August 2, 2014. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference Saturday, August 2, 2014. (screen capture: Channel 2)

The US and EU’s support for Israel’s operation to defang Hamas is an “important achievement for the state of Israel,” Netanyahu says, adding that the operation has given Israel the opportunity to create “special connections” with states in the region. He doesn’t elaborate which Middle Eastern states.

Netanyahu praises US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for laying responsibility on Hamas for breaching the ceasefire on Friday.

“Hamas is interested in the suffering of the people of Gaza out of the perception that the world will blame us,” he says.

Netanyahu hails US support

The prime minister thanks the US for recognizing the need to disarm Hamas. He says the rehabilitation of Gaza must be linked to the removal of rockets and other terrorist infrastructure.

He stresses Israel has no quarrel with Gaza civilians, and mourns any harm that comes to them.

Once the conflict is over, there will be “new opportunities” with some states in the region, he says.

PM takes aim at Qatar

Netanyahu says there are some states — “like Qatar” — which pressed Kerry and Ban Ki-moon for a ceasefire. “They misled them,” he says.

He slams those countries that are tolerant of terrorism. “Today it threatens Israel. Tomorrow it will threaten you,” he says.

Netanyahu says ‘all options still open’

The prime minister says that once the IDF finishes dealing with the Hamas terror tunnels, it will deploy “according to Israel’s security needs.”

Asked if he can guarantee that people of southern Israel can return to their homes, with no fear of tunnel attacks or mortar shells, he says, “I can’t tell you how it’s going to develop. We are keeping all options for action open.”

Asked about ministers who have demanded that Gaza be recaptured and Hamas smashed, he says again, “All options are on the table.”

PM to speak to Goldin family tonight

Earlier he said that the Goldin family “touched my heart” and he now repeats that he will speak to them this evening.

He says he cares about all soldiers, and all Israelis.

Hamas launches rocket from hospital next to France24 reporter

A video uploaded to YouTube on Friday by France24 shows its correspondent in Gaza delivering a report from Shifa Hospital, and just at the end Hamas launches a rocket right next to her.

Be patient (or skip ahead), it’s only at the very end of the clip.

‘The US has been terrific,’ says PM

Asked about reports that he had a strained conversation with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro this morning, in which he reportedly told the US not to “second guess” him on how to deal with Hamas, Netanyahu says: “I think the US has been terrific” and has “offered terrific support for Israel.”

He says that Hamas deliberately and premeditatedly breached the ceasefire that the US and UN had brokered on Friday morning.

The attack in which two soldiers were killed and Hadar Goldin kidnapped was “a pre-planned operation” involving a suicide bomber.

Netanyahu says that reports on the “tone and content” of his recent phone conversations with Obama and Shapiro were incorrect — “full of inaccuracies.”

Netanyahu calls on all responsible world leaders to stand with Israel.

“There is one one place for civilized, decent people to stand,” and that’s beside Israel, he says.

Jon Voight pans ‘obviously ignorant’ celebrities who criticized Israel

Hollywood actor Jon Voight pens a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter in which he bashes fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz for attacking Israel.

“My name is Jon Voight and I am more than angry,” he writes. “I am heartsick that people like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused.”

He says Bardem and Cruz are “obviously ignorant” of the history of the formation of the state of Israel, the attempt to destroy the fledgling state upon its inception in 1948, and its attempts to seek peace with its neighbors.

“[Israel] voluntarily returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in return for peace, and gave the Palestinians all of Gaza as a peace gesture,” Voight says. “What was the response? The Palestinians elected Hamas, a terrorist organization, and they immediately began firing thousands of rockets into Israel.”

“Instead of my peers sticking up for the only democratic country in that region, they go and take out poison letters against them,” he says, referring to Cruz and Bardem’s open letter in which they described Israel’s actions as “genocide” and called for a lifting of the siege on Gaza.

“You should hang your heads in shame,” Voight says. “You should all come forth with deep regrets for what you did, and ask forgiveness from the suffering people in Israel.”

Hamas says Netanyahu gave speech of ‘frustration and failure’

Hamas officials are deriding Netanyahu’s claims of success in the operation to date. A Hamas spokesperson says that Netanyahu’s statement that the tunnels are destroyed is “funny.”

Hamas political leader Izzat al-Risheq relates to Netanyahu’s statements this evening and calls it “an address of frustration and failure.” He claims that “Netanyahu is trying to raise the morale of his collapsing army.”

Mashaal denies Hamas agreed to Friday’s ceasefire

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal tells CNN that he didn’t agree to a ceasefire which included Israel’s presence and destruction of tunnels in Gaza.

“A truce is a truce, but the presence of the Israeli forces inside Gaza and destroying the tunnels means it’s an aggression,” Mashaal tells the American news outlet.

“We did not deceive Mr. John Kerry, and we did not deceive the Israelis, we fight honorably,” Mashaal says in an interview from Doha, Qatar. “We told everyone that this is our position. … Therefore they are the ones who should be responsible for this.”

Goldin’s belongings found in Hamas tunnel after capture

According to a report in Haaretz, after kidnapped soldier 2nd-Lt. Hadar Goldin was found missing from his unit, and his two comrades killed by a suicide bomber, Givati soldiers searched Hamas tunnels nearby and found some of his equipment.

Unconfirmed reports say his uniform and boots were among the items found in the tunnel.

For now the IDF has given no indication about Goldin’s condition.

Archbishop of Canterbury calls for end to Gaza violence

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Church, issues a statement on his website calling on Israeli and Hamas leaders “to immediately end the violence, and urges Anglican churches both to pray and offer support to all victims of the conflict.”

The archbishop says “You can’t look at the pictures coming from Gaza and Israel without your heart breaking.”

“We must cry to God and beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace and justice and security.”

84 rockets fired at Israel, six intercepted

The IDF says that 84 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, six of which were intercepted by Iron Dome.

Sderot residents oppose op drawdown

As IDF troops begin pulling out of Gaza, some southern residents are calling for the operation to continue.

In Sderot, a small group of people have gathered, waving flags and peacefully calling for Israel to not end the ground war in Gaza.

IDF chief rabbi and personnel head visit Goldin home

Outside the family home of kidnapped soldier Hadar Goldin in Kfar Saba, an impromptu rally is taking place in support of the soldier, thought nabbed by Hamas gunmen near Rafah on Friday.

Young people gathered at home sway arm in arm singing “Am Yisrael Chai.” (The people of Israel lives.)

The head of IDF’s personnel directorate and the army’s chief rabbi both make an impromptu visit to the home. No indication is given as to why they are there.

Also at the Goldin home Saturday night are family members of Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gil-Ad Shaar, three teens abducted and killed by Hamas members in the West Bank in June.

Defense minister arrives at Goldin home

Also at the Goldin family home in Kfar Saba is Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Yaalon, the IDF’s chief rabbi and its head of personnel are currently meeting with the family, according to media reports.

Channel 2 calls the meeting “unusual,” and notes that the rally outside the home is growing.