The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Wednesday, the 30th day since the start of Operation Protective Edge and the second day of a truce intended to lead to a long-term ceasefire. An Israeli delegation was in Cairo to discuss the terms of a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force on Tuesday morning. Israeli military chiefs said they had delivered a “serious blow” to Hamas, including destroying all its known cross-border tunnels, and would restart military action if needed. PM Netanyahu said it would be “a moral mistake” not to hit back at terrorist strongholds in mosques and schools. (Thursday’s liveblog is here.)

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

Blog is now closed

Day 30 of the Israel-Hamas conflict

PREAMBLE: After four weeks of fighting, Tuesday saw a planned 72-hour truce hold, and Israeli and Palestinian delegations prepare for indirect negotiations on a longer-term ceasefire.

Having destroyed 32 cross-border tunnels, the IDF pulled out of Gaza, but forces remained deployed near the Strip with Operation Protective Edge not formally over.

Israeli soldiers return from the Gaza Strip on August 05, 2014. (Photo credit: Dave Buimovitch/Flash90)

Israeli soldiers return from the Gaza Strip on August 05, 2014. (Photo credit: Dave Buimovitch/Flash90)

63 percent of Israeli respondents are satisfied with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, but Israelis are more divided about the results of the conflict to date, a Channel 2 poll showed.

A slim majority of 44% believe Israel wasn’t victorious, and 42% say that it was. Thirty percent are of the opinion that Israel’s security increased, whereas 27% say that it didn’t.

Jordan circulates revised UN resolution on Gaza

Jordan is circulating a revised UN resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and condemning “all violence and hostilities against civilians.”

Jordan’s new UN Ambassador Dina Kawar says the draft resolution, backed by the Palestinians and Arab nations, was submitted to the Security Council in a form that could be put to a vote.

Kawar says Jordan is “very happy” with the 72-hour truce announced late Monday and its main purpose in the resolution is to make the cessation of hostilities permanent and have it lead to a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and reconstruction of Gaza.

“We are in consultation with all council members and we hope by the next day or two that we come with a product,” she says.

The revised resolution is likely to face an uphill struggle to win approval from the United States, Israel’s closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, especially because it makes no mention of Hamas or its rocketing of Israel. The draft urges support for the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, calls for “the sustained reopening” of crossing points into the Gaza Strip, and calls on the UN to establish “a mechanism” to monitor implementation of a ceasefire agreement and report on any violations.

It expresses “grave concern” at the heavy casualties and displacement of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and calls for the protection of civilians, including an end to military reprisals, collective punishment and the excessive use of force against the Palestinian civilian population.


Another 9th of Av lament?

ToI’s Raphael Ahren, in an interim analysis of the conflict, notes that Tuesday was the ninth of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar, when Jews mourn the destruction of two Temples, “among a laundry list of other calamities that befell the Jewish people on this day throughout the ages.”

On this Tuesday, he writes, “many Israeli Jews, especially those leaning to the right, added Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to agree to a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas to that long tally” of anniversary grief.

Ahren goes on: Once more, many wailed, Israel is caving to international pressure, holding its fire and withdrawing its forces from Gaza without having “finished the job.” The government again wasted an opportunity to root out terrorism, once and for all, from the Hamas-ruled Strip, they lament.

Netanyahu, needless to say, sees it differently…

— Read the full piece here.

US says ‘likely’ to take part in Gaza talks

The United States says it expects to participate in Cairo talks between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at securing a lasting ceasefire in Gaza.

“I think it is likely we will be participating in these talks,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki tells reporters. “We are determining at what level and in what capacity and when.”

When asked if the two sides had sought a US presence at the negotiating table, Psaki says: “I think our effort and our engagement on this process from the beginning has been welcomed by the parties.”

“I think our engagement over the past 10 days has built and led to the point we reached last night,” Psaki says mentioning US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts on the issue, both in the region and from Washington.


Cee Lo says ‘Forget You’ to Israel concert

R&B singer Cee Lo Green cancels his August concert in Jerusalem, Hollywood Reporter says.

According to the website, “local promoters confirmed that the Aug. 19 concert will not take place. Green’s inaugural visit to the Holy Land was supposed to include a performance in Jerusalem’s Independence Park as part of the capital city’s annual summer events.”

CeeLo Green and DJ Danger Mouse. (photo credit: CC BY/Scott Sandars/Wikimedia Commons)

CeeLo Green and DJ Danger Mouse. (photo credit: CC BY/Scott Sandars/Wikimedia Commons)

Cee Lo joins other artists, such as Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the Backstreet Boys, in backing out of concerts in Israel because of the conflict in Gaza.

“The artist and his crew really wanted to come, but unfortunately we were the ones who had to postpone it because this is not the right time to advertise and push a concert and also because Israel Defense Forces’ regional Home Front Command allows gathering of up to a thousand people only,” promoter Carmi D. Wurtman tells Hollywood Reporter. The producers are looking to reschedule the event to October or November.

Egypt said to suggest truce extension

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV reports Egypt has urged Israel and the Palestinians to extend the Gaza truce by another two days — from 72 hours to 120, according to Ynet.

Kerry, Netanyahu call ‘cut off,’ is not renewed

A call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry was disconnected on Sunday, and the two haven’t spoken since, according to various media reports, giving rise to media speculation on the strained state of diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Washington.

“Their phone call was cut off,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says at a briefing, citing a “communications issue.”

Asked by one reporter if the Israeli premier had hung up on Kerry, she responds: “Sometimes calls get cut off. You — it was a brief call, is what I’m trying to convey. There was nothing…there was nothing that interesting about it, no. That was not the case. That was not the case.”

UK MPs say Israeli restrictions on Palestinian land must end

Excessive Israeli restrictions on Palestinian territories cannot be justified on the grounds they protect the Jewish state, a British parliamentary committee says.

“We challenge the assertion that restrictions which curtail economic development in the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories] are based on Israel’s security needs and can be justified on security grounds,” the report by the International Development Committee says.

The paper expresses particular concern about the situation in Hebron, in the southern West Bank.

“We were shocked by what we saw during our visit to Hebron. While we fully appreciate Israel’s security concerns, these in no way justify the present restrictions on Palestinians in Hebron, which affect their livelihoods, economic development and security,” the report said.

The prevention of Palestinian businesses investing in the Israeli-controlled zone should be opposed by Britain and other European countries, the report says. It adds that issues such as greater access to water and construction permits should be addressed.


Yitzhak Molcho, Amos Gilad lead Israel’s ceasefire efforts

A trusted associate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a high-ranking defense official are leading Israel’s delegation to Cairo for ceasefire talks with Palestinian factions, according to Israeli media reports.

Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu’s close aide, was a member of Israel’s negotiation team during recent failed peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Amos Gilad is the director of policy and political-military affairs at Ministry of Defense. Both have been in Cairo for previous ceasefire discussions.

Yitzhak Molcho (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Yitzhak Molcho (photo credit: Michal Fattal/Flash90)

The delegation arrived in Cairo Tuesday evening. It will not be holding direct negotiations with the Palestinian party — which includes members of Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and others — but will be transferring messages back and forth through Egyptian mediators.

A senior diplomatic official tells Walla News that Israel believes Hamas has come to the talks battered and weakened by the lengthy conflict.

Hamas “has essentially conceded its [demand for] guarantees and preconditions,” the official said. “Hamas is having a difficult time explaining to its supporters why it has accepted the Egyptian initiative which it resoundingly rejected three weeks ago,” with Gaza now having sustained heavy damage and around 1,800 Palestinians killed.

Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad (res.), director of the Defense Ministry's office of Policy and Political-Military Affairs (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad (res.), director of the Defense Ministry’s office of Policy and Political-Military Affairs (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

“Hamas wanted Turkish or Qatari mediation under US approval, but eventually found itself in Cairo, in a delegation led by a Palestinian Authority representative,” he noted, meanwhile losing “its tunnel network and the effectiveness of [its] rocket array.”

Shin Bet chief also in Cairo for talks

Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen is also part of Israel’s delegation to Cairo for ceasefire talks with Palestinians, Haaretz reports, quoting Egyptian officials.

Poll: US attitudes on Israel-Gaza unchanged from 2002

Americans’ attitudes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are little changed from 2002, a new Gallup poll finds.

The poll published Tuesday and conducted August 2-3 finds that Americans’ views of the conflict have changed little over the past 10 days — or the past 12 years. Respondents are about evenly divided over whether Israel’s actions in Gaza are justified, and respondents view Hamas’s actions mostly critically.

Opinion is “little different” than during a similar Israel-Gaza conflict in 2002, Gallup notes.

Read the full story here.


Kerry: After ceasefire, tackle ‘broader’ issues

US Secretary of State John Kerry tells the BBC a ceasefire in Gaza must be the precursor to “broader” negotiations for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians to ensure lasting peace in the region.

“You have to begin to make life better for the Palestinians,” Kerry says, adding the US supports the opening of crossings to Gaza “to get food in and reconstruct, and have greater freedom, but that has to come with a greater responsibility towards Israel, which means giving up rockets and moving into a different place.”

He stressed that a truce solution in Gaza would only come together when there is “a bigger, broader approach to the underlying issues of two states” which would ensure the rights of Palestinians while guaranteeing Israel’s security.

Iranian official: Hamas must do more to protect civilians

A high-ranking Iranian official criticizes Hamas for failing to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip during the conflict with Israel, saying the group should in future allow civilians to hide in its tunnels.

“They use the tunnels to launch missiles, but they should also use them to protect civilians,” Mohsen Rezai, a member of the Iranian government and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tells Iran’s Al-Alam news network.

Summer camps near Gaza suffer despite truce

Summer camps in the schools and preschools of Ashkelon will remain closed today despite the truce in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reports. Summer camps in Ashdod are also mostly cancelled.

In the Gaza periphery summer activities will take place only in protected areas.

Kerry will not travel to Egypt for talks

Arabic media reports that Egypt is attempting to get the sides to agree to a two-day extension of the ceasefire, pushing the truce to five days.

The sides have held their fire for nearly 24 hours.

As Palestinians and Israeli teams meet with Egyptian officials about a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, Channel 2 reports that US Secretary of State John Kerry will not travel to Cairo to participate in the talks.

However, Washington is expected to be represented at the talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on the BBC (Photo credit: BBC/Youtube)

US Secretary of State John Kerry on the BBC (Photo credit: BBC/Youtube)

Soldiers reportedly leave threatening graffiti behind

Israeli soldiers who used the Beit Hanun High school for girls as an advanced base during the Gaza fighting reportedly left behind anti-Hamas and anti-Arab graffiti on blackboards, as well as some minor operational charts. 

AFP has photos:

Some military instructions in Hebrew and a a threatening message are seen on a blackboard after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanoun High school for girls which was reportedly used as an advanced base during Israel's military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/MARCO LONGARI)

Some military instructions in Hebrew and a a threatening message are seen on a blackboard after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanoun High school for girls which was reportedly used as an advanced base during Israel’s military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/MARCO LONGARI)

A defaced portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is held by a man in a classroom after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanun High school for girls which was reportedly used as an advanced base during Israel's military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014.  (photo credit: MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

A defaced portrait of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is held by a man in a classroom after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanun High school for girls which was reportedly used as an advanced base during Israel’s military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: MARCO LONGARI / AFP)

Pro-Israel head of Canada’s Greens resigns

The president of Canada’s Green Party steps down after his pro-Israel blog post caused controversy within his left-wing party.

“As you have read in comments, on the blog that the party took down and with other comments, there have been a lot of negative comments that were directed at either what I said, my right to have said it, or at my own person,” writes Paul Estrin in an email to supporters.

“It has been a tough time, and a tough decision had to be made.”

“With my resignation, I have time to focus on new and different things,” he writes.

“For instance, I have been invited to join a mission to go to Israel with a Canadian organization at the end of this month, an exciting proposition.”

Green Party of Canada president Paul Estrin has written a blog post that has caught the attention of fellow party members, Canadians, and others. (Courtesy)

Green Party of Canada president Paul Estrin has written a blog post that has caught the attention of fellow party members, Canadians, and others. (Courtesy)

Estrin, who is 35 and lives in Quebec City, has a long-term, keen personal and academic interest in the conflict. He has been to Israel twice to volunteer on a kibbutz, learn Hebrew, and study at a yeshiva.

“Since August 2005,” Estrin wrote in mid-July, “Gazans have been in control of their own destiny. Some might say otherwise, yet Gazans have their own government and they are their own people: If their neighbors, Egypt and Israel, close their borders to Gaza, one must look to a Gaza run by a terrorist organization cum government that teaches and propagates hate, death and destruction to understand why.

“The Gazan government has had ample opportunity over these past years, nearly a decade, to alter its ways, change its mantra of death to the Jews, and become respectable caretakers of the people in their charge. They have not,” he continued.

Israelis approve of Gantz; Liberman…not so much

A Channel 2 poll finds that Israelis overwhelmingly approve of Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s performance during Operation Protective Edge, with 83 percent saying they are pleased with his handling of the war.

However, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman received only 32% approval, with 44% disapproving of his performance.

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

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

Fifty-nine percent of Israelis approve of PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance, with 21% disapproving.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon received 62% approval marks.

Gaza op costs army NIS 8 billion

The operation in the Gaza Strip costs the IDF NIS 8 billion ($2.3 billion), Channel 2 reports. The 2015 budget will have to be revisited in the wake of the conflict.

Egypt pushing for PA to manage Gaza rebuilding

As talks over a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas set to kick off in Egypt, Israel’s Army Radio reports that Cairo is pushing for a plan that would put the Palestinian Authority in charge of rehabilitating the Gaza Strip, Army Radio reports.

The unsourced report notes that Israel is likely to accept the plan, which would also put the PA, headed by Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, in charge of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

The move would serve to somewhat sideline Hamas, which has been governing the Strip since a violent takeover in 2007.

The Strip suffered billions of dollars in damage from nearly a month of fighting, which destroyed thousands of home and vital infrastructure, according to a Hamas official.

Several foreign capitals have pledged money to rebuild the coastal Palestinian enclave.

‘1,200 West Bank terror attacks in 2014’

There has been a sharp rise in the number of attempted terror attacks in the West Bank in 2014, with the first half of the year seeing almost as many incidents as all of 2013, Israel Radio reports.

To this point in 2014, there have been 1,200 attacks, compared with 1,400 attacks in all of 2013.

The numbers come from a document submitted to the Supreme Court by the state in response to an appeal by the families of the two Palestinians wanted for the murder of the three Israeli teens in late June. The families are hoping the court will block the demolition of their homes.

Suspect told police he bought guns used in teens’ killing; helped bury them

New details have emerged about links between Hussam Kawasme, arrested recently over the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June, and the Hamas terror group.

According to police documents cited by the New York Times and Israeli media, Kawasme told police that he had received money for the kidnapping and murder from Hamas.

Kawasme told interrogators he bought the weapons used in the killings and transferred them to Marwan Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha, thought to be behind the killing and still at large, according to the reports.

An Israeli soldier patrols near the area where the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank city of Hebron, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)

An Israeli soldier patrols near the area where the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank city of Hebron, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)

Kawasme also said he helped bury the teens — Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach — on land he had recently purchased.

The bodies of the three teens were found on June 30 near the West Bank town of Halhul, outside Hebron, after an intense 17-day manhunt following their abduction late on June 12.

Ceasefire holding for second day

The 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holds as it enters its second day, with no rockets being fired at Israel, and all IDF forces out of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians are returning to their homes and inspecting the damage.

If asked, IDF would have pulled the Hamas leaders out by their ears, says senior officer

Hamas “crawled to Egypt” to beg for a ceasefire, the deputy commander of the Nahal Brigade, Ori Shechter tells Army Radio, branding Operation Protective Edge an “overwhelming defeat for Hamas.”

Lt.-Col. Shechter (res.) rejected the notion that Israel should feel the war marked a missed opportunity, and said “it will take years for Hamas to recover.” He predicts “four or five years of quiet.”

He notes that Hamas’s list of demands has been forgotten. “They went to Egypt and we [the Israeli negotiators] weren’t even there.”

“The IDF won big time in Gaza,” he says. “Stop staying we lost. We won.”

Hamas has used most of its rockets and will have a hard time getting more, he says, given the changed regime in Egypt. And the “strategic tunnel threat,” which it spent seven years building, has been demolished. “I’m not saying there isn’t a tunnel somewhere we missed,” he says, “but we’ll be able to take care of a single attack.” If Hamas had been able to carry out the “strategic attack” it planned through the tunnels, “it would have taken us a long time to recover.”

Shechter says the IDF returned to its proper role of “protecting the people, rather than the other way around,” noting the 64 IDF fatalities and 3 civilian fatalities.

He also says the IDF lost lots of officers and commanders “because our officers are at the front of our forces, while theirs hide away…. That’s a difference of morality.”

Had the IDF been ordered to go get the Hamas leaders, “we would have gone to Shifa [hospital] and pulled them out by their ears,” he says. But he notes that there are all kinds of political considerations which directed what the IDF was told to do and not to do. “Every mission that we were asked to carry out, we completed, successfully and decisively.”

He says Israel has a great army “and we’re a great people,” hailing the sense of national unity, the turnouts of thousands “at funerals for soldiers people didn’t even know,” and the “bravery” shown by the fighting forces.

UK’s Deputy PM says Israel ‘overstepped’ mark

Nick Clegg, the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, tweets that Israel “overstepped” the bounds in its Gaza operation, and that arms sales to Israel should be suspended.

Chief Rabbi Yosef allows yeshiva vacation

After the ultra-Orthodox study halls cancelled the traditional summer break due to the fighting in Gaza, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef says that students can head home for vacation as long as the ceasefire holds, Haredi website Kikar Hashabbat reports.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, performing the ritual 'search for leavened bread' before the Passover holiday in 2009. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90).

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, performing the ritual ‘search for leavened bread’ before the Passover holiday in 2009. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90).

Still, Yosef rules, yeshiva students should refrain from taking trips for pleasure, and should spend the time at home and involved in learning.

Gazans return to the beach

CNN anchor John Vause tweets a picture of Gazans back on the beach during the second day of the ceasefire.

Gaza op costs economy NIS 4.5 billion

The fighting in Gaza cost the Israeli economy NIS 4.5 billion ($1.3 billion), Channel 2 reports.

Israel will pay affected businesses NIS 1 billion ($292 million), but will not make payments to the tourism industry, which was badly hurt by the conflict.

Al-Jazeera reports from site where Goldin snatched

A reporter from Qatar-based network Al-Jazeera broadcasts from the building it claims was the site of the attack during which the body of Givati Lt. Hadar Goldin was snatched, Channel 10 reports. The images show a bombed-out two-story white house.

“We are here in the eastern area, on the border with Rafah,” he says. “This building tells the story of the kidnapping of Hadar Goldin in a heroic action by Qassam. An IDF force entered the building, and Qassam men attacked them with mortars and went inside.”

The video also shows the entrance to a tunnel next to the house.

Kfar Saba receives support from around world

Yehuda Ben Hamo, mayor of Kfar Saba, has been receiving letters of support from residents from sister cities around the world, Israel Radio reports. Kfar Saba lost three soldiers in the fighting- Hadar Goldin, Dolev Kidar, and Yuval Dagan.

Letters from Yunan in China, San Jose in Costa Rica, and Mulheim in Germany have reached Ben Hamo.

The missives come in response to letters Ben Hamo sent to his counterparts in the three cities in which he wrote about the soldiers and about dealing with the missile threat. The letters were widely covered in local media in those cities.


Lapid calls out intellectuals over Gaza

Finance Minister Yair Lapid criticizes contemporary intellectuals in a Huffington Post op-ed, saying they allow themselves to be used by Hamas.

“Too many American and European intellectuals have taken moral relativism to its absurd extreme, falling back upon the ‘validity of every narrative’ and repeating the mantra that ‘every story has two sides,'” writes Lapid. “They treat those who have a clear moral stance as primitive. For them, if you take a moral stand or choose a side in a conflict you must lack the necessary tolerance to ‘see the other side.'”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid. (photo credit: (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid. (photo credit: (Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

For intellectuals, Lapid writes, “the Palestinians are suffering more and so they must be right. Why? Because they have turned suffering into the only measure of justice.”

“Hamas, of course, is acutely aware of the weakness of many western intellectuals and treats them as a tool in its propaganda war,” he concludes. There is significant intelligence information — not only in the hands of Israeli intelligence — which shows that Hamas believes, theologically, that there is no barrier to sacrificing the lives of the children of Gaza to garner sympathy in the western media. Those who are aware of the intelligence also know how the Hamas sees western intellectuals who buy into their gruesome propaganda — they are a tool, to be used and to be mocked.”

‘Israel has not yet responded to our demands’

Senior Hamas Political Bureau member Izzat Rishak says, “We have not yet received an official answer from Israel regarding the demands we presented before the Egyptians.”

According to Ynet, Rishak adds that “Israel is interested in reaching an agreement, especially after its defeat against the resistance and the victory of our people.”

US envoy Lowenstein will not meet with Hamas

US Middle East envoy Frank Lowenstein, who replaced Martin Indyk, will represent the US in ceasefire talks in Cairo. He will not meet with Hamas directly, Channel 2 reports.

John Kerry will not be present.

High marks for Gantz in Haaretz poll, too

After a Channel 2 poll finds widespread approval for Chief of Staff Benny Gantz’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, a Haaretz survey comes up with similar results.

Fifty-three percent say Gantz’s handling was “excellent,” and another 30% say it was “good.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (C) and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (R) at the Command and Control Center of the 162nd Armor Division in Southern Israel, on July 21, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (C) and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (R) at the Command and Control Center of the 162nd Armor Division in Southern Israel, on July 21, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Thirty-three percent say Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s performance was excellent, and 43% call it good.

Netanyahu’s numbers were almost identical to his defense minister.

As for the overall response to the conflict, only 36% say Israel won, 6% say Hamas won, and 51% say neither side won.

A full 53% of respondents want Israel to strengthen PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and reopen talks with him.

All aboard! Sderot train service to restart

After a month of no service, Israel Railways says it will restore train service between the Gaza periphery towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, relinking the region with the rest of the country’s train network.

The first train is expected to leave Sderot at 12:23, according to the Israel Railways website.

Ynet news reports that Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz has ordered that southern residents get free rides on the train for the time being.

Check northern border for tunnels, Mofaz says

Former chief of staff and defense minister Shaul Mofaz says that Israel knew about the tunnel threat in Gaza, but was surprised by its scope.

Speaking to Israel Radio, Mofaz says, “This is the time for an investigation on the northern border, so we won’t be caught short there as well.”

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz arrives to a press conference at the Knesset on Monday, July 23 (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz at the Knesset on Monday, July 23 (photo credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)


Baqa al-Gharbiyye resident attacks soldier

A 21-year-old resident of the Arab Israeli city of Baqa al-Gharbiyye attacks an IDF soldier at a checkpoint near the city and tries to steal his weapons, Ynet reports. Soldiers apprehend the suspect.

The motives of the incident are unclear, as the suspect and soldier were arguing before he tried to snatch the soldier’s weapon.

ADL decries anti-Israel Lancet letter

The Anti-Defamation League denounces a July 23rd anti-Israel open letter in a leading medical journal, calling it “unabashedly propagandistic.”

“The Lancet has failed its readership and sullied its reputation by publishing a one-sided perspective on the recent hostilities resulting from Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of missiles and rockets at millions of Israeli civilians,” says Abraham Foxman, ADL’s National Director. “The open letter is unabashedly propagandistic, charging Israel with full culpability for the situation in Gaza and failing to even reference Hamas actions. The outrageousness of this editorial choice was compounded by the editor’s decision to allow their web site to be used to collect more than 20,000 signatures in support of the letter and suggests The Lancet itself was part of this hideous campaign.”

The Lancet letter said that Israel and Israeli doctors bore full responsibility for what happened in Gaza.

Remand extended for Abu Khdeir’s killer

The Jerusalem District Court extends the remand of Yosef Haim Ben-David, the adult suspect in the fatal kidnapping and burning of 16-year-old Shuafat resident Muhammad Abu Khdeir in July. Ben-David, who is eyeing an insanity defense, will be held until the end of proceedings against him.

Police escort Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the Jewish suspects of the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Disctrict Court in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police escort Yosef Haim Ben-David, one of the Jewish suspects in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, in the Disctrict Court in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The fate of the two minor suspects has yet to be determined.

Abu Khdeir’s father showed up at the courthouse and called Ben-David a Nazi.

No cooperation with UN Gaza probe, Foreign Ministry urges

The Foreign Ministry has crafted a recommendation to the government saying Israel should not cooperate with an investigation by the UN Human Rights Council looking into Israel’s conduct in the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports.

The Human Rights Council in Geneva. (photo credit: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

The Human Rights Council in Geneva. (photo credit: UN/Jean-Marc Ferré)

“The committee decided on by the Council will be formed and will write a report, but if a committee is formed relying on the automatic anti-Israel majority, then we need to ask if Israel needs to cooperate,” says a ministry source. “We didn’t cooperate with Goldstone [after Cast Lead] and it disappeared from the world.”

Official says PM-Kerry call not cut off

Walla News diplomatic correspondent Amir Tibon reports on Twitter that despite reports to the contrary by the US State Department, a call Sunday between Benjamin Netanyahu and John Kerry was not cut out because of communication issues.

Citing a senior Israeli official, Tibon says Netanyahu told Kerry he had to end the conversation in order to call a bereaved family before their soldier son’s funeral and the two agreed to talk later, which they did.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the call had cut out because of a technical glitch and the two had spoken since.

The report was seen as a sign of increasingly chilly ties between Washington and Jerusalem.

100 soldiers still in hospitals

There are 100 IDF soldiers recovering in Israeli hospitals in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, Channel 2 reports. Ten are in serious condition.

An injured Israeli soldier is evacuated by helicopter from near the Israeli border with Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014, (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An injured Israeli soldier is evacuated by helicopter from near the Israeli border with Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014, (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Anger at Hamas, shock among Rafah residents

Residents of Rafah returning to their homes express shock at the damage, and some not-so-concealed frustration at Hamas, according to an AP report.

Asmahan Ismail Abu al-Rous started wondering a year ago about the cause of the cracks on the walls of her Gaza home. When she asked some of her more savvy neighbors, they told her: Militants were digging an attack tunnel not far away.

“I did not think much about it then. I thought that was the resistance’s business, not mine,” the widowed mother of four says, standing amid the ruins of her two-story home in the Shawkah district, an eastern section of Rafah near Gaza’s border with Egypt.

Abu al-Rous sits outside, saying little to one of her sons, Fady, who also came to check on the house, which she estimated was worth about $200,000.

But her anger and frustration are just below the surface. One of several teenagers casually asks her whether she knew where the attack had taken place.

Palestinians search destroyed cars in Rafah's district of Shawkah in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

Palestinians search destroyed cars in Rafah’s district of Shawkah in the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

“I don’t know,” she snaps. “Those who carried out the attack should tell you.”

Barely 50 meters (yards) away, according to villagers, is an entrance of the tunnel where Hamas fighters emerged Friday to attack Israeli soldiers. Two Israelis were killed and a third was initially believed to be captured by the militants.

“I never saw anything like that in my life,” says Tawfiq Barbakh, a 67-year-old father of 12, as he surveyed his badly damaged home. “I don’t know how many shells landed every minute, but it felt like 20 or 30. It was like the gates of hell opened on us.”

“I saw death with my own eyes,” says resident Khalil Barbakh. “There were dead bodies on the streets, the wounded screaming and people running away from the shelling.”

The destruction and suffering in Rafah have lent themselves to heated discussions about the war and its consequences. A group of men sat in the Shawkah district not far from Abu Louli’s house to smoke and drink sweet black tea.

“The Israelis have hit us really hard this time. They destroyed us,” says one man.

“I am convinced that no one dies before his time,” replies another.

“Arab nations never came to our rescue,” says the first man. “They are all preoccupied with their problems — Egypt, Libya, Syria and Iraq.”

The second man retorts: “They should take fighting lessons from us.”

A group of younger men then joins the mostly older group.

One of the new arrivals interjects sarcastically: “We have defeated the occupation, thanks be to God.”

— AP contributed to this report

Charity lists dead Gaza children in UK ad

Save the Children places full-page advertisements in British newspapers on Wednesday listing the names of 373 Palestinian children killed in Israel’s offensive on Gaza, as part of the charity’s campaign for a permanent ceasefire.

The black-and-white ad in broadsheet newspapers carries the names of the children that the Palestinian Ministry of Health and United Nations (OCHA) have reported to have died between July 8 and August 3.

Readers are invited to send text messages as part of the campaign to force a permanent ceasefire “for the children of Gaza and Israel.”

Save the Children’s David Hassell says: “For the sake of children and their families, we are hoping that this ceasefire holds.

“It is desperately needed, as essential services in Gaza have all but collapsed and we are struggling to reach the most vulnerable children caught in this conflict.”

The London Times recently rejected a full-page featuring Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel speaking out against what the ad says is Hamas’s use of children as human shields.


Gaza starts to reopen

Life in the battered Gaza Strip begins returning to normal Wednesday as a ceasefire holds for a second day and Egyptian mediators engage in shuttle diplomacy on extending the truce.

Shops, banks and markets reopen around the devastated Strip where residents seem more confident that the 72-hour ceasefire, which began Tuesday, would hold after a month of fighting killed 1,875 Palestinians, according to Gazan sources, and 67 on the Israeli side.

Many small businesses open for the first time in days and dozens of fishermen also head back out to sea, an AFP correspondent said.

A Palestinian woman reacts after seeing her destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian woman reacts after seeing her destroyed house during a 12-hour cease-fire in Gaza City’s Shejaiya neighborhood, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Khalil Hamra)

People start repairing damaged property, as the emergency services clear rubble and search for bodies in the worst hit areas, including in the Tuffah, Beit Hanun and Shejaiya neighbourhoods.

Nearly half a million Palestinians out of Gaza’s 1.8 million people were displaced by Israeli bombardment, and many are still sheltering in schools after their homes were flattened in the offensive. Some residential neighborhoods were particularly hard hit by the Israeli army because of the Hamas practice of emplacing rocket launchers among homes, schools, hospitals and mosques.

Palestinian deputy economy minister Taysir Amro estimates the total damage from the 29-day war at up to $6 billion (4.5 billion euros).

 AFP and Times of Israel staff

Reports of sirens in Sha’ar Hanegev

After the ceasefire holds for 30 hours, warning sirens are reported to sound in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council.

Sirens near Gaza were false alarm

The ceasefire is still holding.

Local Red Cross chief says Gazans in shock

Jacques De Maio, the head of the International Red Cross mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories, tells Israel Radio that Gazans are in shock and are hoping that the ceasefire will hold.

He also says that it is still not possible to assess the damage caused by the conflict, and that hospitals are totally full.

UK parliamentary c’tee calls for Gaza action

British Prime Minister David Cameron is coming under increased pressure over his government’s policies on Gaza, after a cross-party parliamentary committee urged him to press Israel to lift restrictions on trade and travel in the territory.

The Commons International Development Committee says travel and trade curbs on Gaza’s people are not “proportionate” and that some are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law.

British Prime Minister David Cameron in Jerusalem, 12 March 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

British Prime Minister David Cameron in Jerusalem, 12 March 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The committee on Wednesday calls on Britain to “encourage Israeli authorities to lift those restrictions which are not justified by security needs.”

Cameron is under fire for his support of Israel. Disputes within his Conservative Party were laid bare Tuesday when a prominent member of Cameron’s camp, Sayeeda Warsi, resigned as Foreign Office minister in protest of what she called Cameron’s “morally indefensible” stance on Gaza.

— AP

Israel starts fixing power lines to Gaza

Wearing helmets and protective vests, employees of the Israel Electric Corporation IEC began fixing electric lines that supply electricity to southern Israel and the Gaza Strip Tuesday night, after rockets fired at Israel tore power lines near the border during the recent fighting there.

According to a statement released by the IEC, Israeli tanks and armored personal carriers protect the employees during the work.

IEC employees fix power lines on the Gaza border, wearing helmets and armored vests (photo credit: Charlie‎ Shriki, Courtesy of the Israel Electric Corporation)

IEC employees fix power lines on the Gaza border, wearing helmets and armored vests (photo credit: Charlie‎ Shriki, Courtesy of the Israel Electric Corporation)

IEC provides 120 megawatts of electricity to Gaza on 10 high voltage lines, says the IEC.

There are still power lines on the Palestinian side that have not been repaired.

Egypt met with Israeli team, say Palestinians

Egyptian officials mediating talks for a durable truce in Gaza meet a Palestinian delegation Wednesday to relay terms laid down by an Israeli team, Palestinian officials say.

The Egyptian intelligence mediators had met with the Israeli delegation in Cairo during the night, the officials say.

Bondi’s Jews on high alert

Jewish institutions in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney, are on high alert after eight men storm a school bus carrying Jewish students and threaten to slit their throats, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The bus driver lets the eight men board, and they proceed to yell “Heil Hitler,” “kill the Jews,” and “we’re going to cut your throats and slice your throats open,” a mother of some of the students on the bus tells the paper.

Many of the schoolchildren call their parents frantically and in tears to tell them what was happening. Shortly after, the men got off the bus at Bondi junction.

Twelve-year-old Noah Stanton says: “They got on and couldn’t walk properly and looked drunk and said they had just been pumping drugs in the city.”

“They said ‘come sit with us, we won’t do anything’ so we went to the bus driver and said ‘get them off the bus’ and he said ‘don’t worry’ and told them to ‘zip your lips.’

“We were panicking and crying. When they got off the bus they said ‘f*** Jews’ and ‘stop taking over Palestine’ and ‘we will kill you and cut your throats.’”

The parents of the children file police complaints against the men.

IDF releases 30,000 reservists

Some 30,000 IDF reserve soldiers who were called up during the course of Operation Protective Edge are being sent home.

Over 50,000 troops remain deployed around the border of the Gaza Strip.

Arab foreign ministers to visit Gaza

A delegation of Arab foreign ministers, including those from Egypt and Jordan, will visit Gaza “soon” in a show of support for Palestinians, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi says Wednesday.

The ministers will also assess reconstruction needs in the battered enclave after a nearly month-long war between Israel and Hamas, Arabi adds.


Columnist quits over anti-Semitic replies to readers

A controversial columnist for a major Australian newspaper resigned after he was exposed sending anti-Semitic emails and tweets to critics.

Mike Carlton, a longstanding columnist for Saturday’s edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, resigned “on the spot” Tuesday when management suspended him after he called one reader a “Jewish bigot” and told others to “f—k off.”

“[He] used language just not acceptable in the workplace,” said Sean Aylmer, the company’s news and business publisher. “You just can’t do that.”

He said it wasn’t the content of Carlton’s July 26 column but his reaction to readers. “No one has the right to treat readers that way,” Aylmer said.

The intense pressure on Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, was triggered by Carlton’s column, in which he accused Israel of “waging its own war of terror on the entire Gaza population.”

“Call it genocide, call it ethnic cleansing: the aim is to kill Arabs,” he wrote.

The column was accompanied by a controversial cartoon widely condemned as anti-Semitic by Jewish leaders, who threatened legal action.

The backlash prompted the Herald to publish an editorial Monday saying it “unreservedly apologizes” for any hurt caused.

“It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form,” the editors wrote, conceding it “closely resembled illustrations that had circulated in Nazi Germany.”

Dr. Danny Lamm, president of the Zionist Federation of Australia, welcomed Carlton’s departure. “It was an appalling one-sided, offensive article,” he said.

Danny Ben-Moshe, a Melbourne academic who specializes in studying anti-Semitism, told JTA that the Herald’s statement “is welcome, but it doesn’t mitigate the fact that they published the noxious views that culminated in the email exchange.”

Carlton said his publisher “buckled” to pressure from its rival newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, and the “Likud lobby,” which wages “crushing” campaigns to “get people they don’t agree with.”

Carlton wrote to one critic: “Looking forward to hearing from you after you have joined the IDF and gone off to kill some kids. Reluctantly, of course. Until then, f–k off.

He told a local website Wednesday: “I’ve been called a bag of Nazi slime, a Jew-hating racist…I suppose, half-a-dozen times, I hit back and told people to get f—ked.”


Israeli press hails troops, laments military results

With the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, the implementation of a 72-hour truce, and the ongoing Cairo negotiations, the Hebrew newspapers on Wednesday have mixed feelings about the apparent – and somewhat anti-climactic – end of Operation Protective Edge

The unfailingly patriotic Israel Hayom waxes triumphant, Haaretz offers a vision for future Israeli-Palestinian relations while simultaneously critiquing Israel’s military and diplomatic performance, and Yedioth Ahronoth hails the troops but doesn’t conceal its crushing disappointment with the operation’s conclusion.

Read the full Hebrew media review here

Israel may target Hamas leaders, Gantz says

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz says Israel is prepared to strike Hamas leaders when they emerge from hiding, and warns that the IDF will retaliate strongly if the terror organization resumes its attacks on Israel.

“Its commanders sit in their bunkers in hiding, and everywhere we can hit them, we will hit, if we want to,” he says. “They will go outside when they please — if they do, they will see the extent of the damage to their fighters and the damage in the Gaza Strip, which unfortunately, is because of Hamas. I hope this lesson will be internalized in the Gaza Strip, because we will not hesitate to continue to mobilize our forces as necessary to ensure the security of Israeli citizens,” he says.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (photo credit: Screenshot via Channel 2)

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (photo credit: Screenshot via Channel 2)

He adds that the responsibility for the civilian casualties lies with Hamas, as they are embedded in civilian areas, and says the IDF has struck a significant blow to the terror organization.

“We aren’t done,” he says. “If there are incidents, we will respond to them.”

Gantz also urges the residents of the Gaza border towns to return home.

“I am convinced the residents can return to their houses, develop their fields, live well here, just as it was before,” he says.

“Just as there was peace here before, it will be even quieter after [the operation]. The IDF is not going anywhere. It remains to protect, to make breakthroughs, to seek the next challenges, and together with the citizens we will continue to enhance the security in this area.”

Ontario offers to treat Gazan, Israeli kids

The province of Ontario offers to treat Palestinian and Israeli children wounded in the Israel-Gaza war.

The announcement from Ontario health minister Eric Hoskins says the province is willing to take the most serious cases from both Gaza and Israel if the children are unable to receive proper treatment at home but can make the journey to Canada, reports Canadian Press.

Israeli and Palestinian authorities have indicated they’re willing to cooperate with the effort, Hoskins says.

Five Ontario hospitals — including Toronto’s famed Hospital for Sick Children — offer to treat the kids, with some medical staff even offering to work for free.

“Children who are suffering on either side of the conflict, we want to do what we can to help them,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters Tuesday.

Hoskins, who co-founded and led the charity War Child Canada before entering politics, tells the Toronto Star that Ontarians “have a moral responsibility to respond in this instance.”

“My heart goes out to the victims, particularly the youngest victims on any side of this conflict or any conflict for that matter. And I think that’s also what Canadians are thinking at this moment in time,” he tells CP.

Hoskins notes the request to Canadians to help both Israeli and Palestinian children came from Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, who now lives in Toronto. Three of Abuelaish’s daughters were killed in Israel’s shelling of Gaza in 2009.


Don’t cooperate with fact-finding mission — Liberman

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman urges lawmakers not to cooperate with any international fact-finding mission on Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip.

After holding consultations with senior Foreign Ministry officials, as well as the ministry’s director-general, Liberman says a decision was made to not cooperate with any committee probing the IDF’s conduct during the 29-day Operation Protective Edge, should such a committee be set up by the international community.

The ministry’s assessment is that any international fact-finding mission would implicate Israel in any case, despite the fact that both the military and the defense establishment received legal counsel on international law during the course of the war in order to avoid violating laws and treaties to which Israel is bound, according to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

Read the full story here.

72-hour truce to be extended

Channel 2 reports that the 72-hour truce is set to be extended.

The parties have already agreed to extend the ceasefire as the Cairo negotiations continue, and a formal announcement is expected soon.

Foreign reporters in Gaza harassed by Hamas

The Government Press Office says foreign journalists stationed in Gaza have reported incidents of harassment by Hamas members, including threats and sporadic violence.

The reporters say that in several cases, Hamas fighters destroyed their equipment after they filmed its militant activity against Hamas instructions, such as the firing of rockets on southern Israel.

The GPO writes that 705 foreign journalists from more than 42 countries arrived to cover Operation Protective Edge, as compared to 303 who came to report on the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.

Some Gazans want Hamas to keep fighting

ToI’s Avi Issacharoff reports that Gazans are torn between wanting the fighting to resume, and desperately seeking quiet.

He writes: “Gaza, like the cities of Israel, is slowly returning to normal. Kind of.

“There are cars on its roads once more, and shoppers are flooding its markets. “We became accustomed very quickly to war – and even faster to peace,” Sameh, a prominent political analyst in Gaza, told The Times of Israel Wednesday.

“But the quiet, he said, is deceptive. “It’s not over yet. Hamas is under a lot of pressure to return to fighting if Egypt and Israel don’t allow the blockade to be lifted,” Sameh said.

“The residents of the Gaza Strip are torn between wanting the fighting to go on and wanting it to stop, he added.”

Read the full piece here

Gaza toll ‘shocked and shamed’ world — Ban

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon says the Israeli strikes on UN facilities in Gaza over the course of Operation Protective Edge are “outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable.”

“Yes, we uncovered cases in which weapons were stored in a small number of abandoned buildings,” he says, addressing a special General Assembly session on Gaza. “Yes, there were reports that Hamas rockets were fired from near UN premises. Yet, let me be clear: Mere suspicion of militant activity does not justify jeopardizing the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians.”

He adds: “International humanitarian law clearly requires protection by all parties of civilians and civilian facilities, including UN staff and UN premises… Those who violate this sacred trust must be subject to accountability and justice.”

Ban says the UN transferred the coordinates of the UN facilities 33 times to prevent attacks on the sites.

“Attacks against UN premises, along with other suspected breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated,” he says.

The UN chief defends Israel’s right to protect its citizens as “legitimate,” but says “the fighting has raised serious questions about respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality in international humanitarian law.”

The Gaza destruction and death toll “shocked and shamed the world,” he says, and “nothing symbolized more the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza” than the shelling of UN buildings.

Operation Protective Edge must be the last Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, he says.

“Do we have to continue like this: build, destroy, and build, and destroy? We will build again – but this must be the last time to rebuild. This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table. We must not repeat this periodically. Why [are] both parties putting all of the international community’s citizens always at unease and concerned, looking helplessly at many people being killed?”

Israeli team heads to Cairo

Israel’s delegation to the ceasefire talks in Cairo is only departing Israel in about in hour, despite a series of reports to the contrary in the last day or so. The delegation is headed by senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, and includes two other senior officers, Arab sources tell The Times of Israel.

Netanyahu’s trusted aide Yitzhak Molcho is not part of the delegation, again despite reports to the contrary.

Reports claiming that the Israeli delegation has been in Cairo since yesterday are incorrect, the sources say.

Initially at least, the discussions will focus on extending the ceasefire, due to expire on Friday morning, for another 48-72 hours.

Avi Issacharoff

Home front restrictions lifted

Beginning at 6 p.m., the Home Front Command eases its restrictions on schools, camps, and large gatherings nationwide.

51 US pastors arrive on solidarity trip

Fifty-one US pastors, a representative from each state plus Washington, DC, arrive in Israel on a CUFI (Christians United For Israel) solidarity trip with Israel.

The delegation visits the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and hears from Foreign Ministry officials.

“It is vital that as Americans we show solidarity with Israel, not just in the US, but here in the Jewish state,” says David Brog, executive director of CUFI. “We will take what we heard in Jerusalem and what we saw in Sderot and Ashdod back to our communities, so that every one of our 1.8 million members might better understand the challenges that Israel faces and better make the case for Israel to our friends and neighbors.”

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem director Amanda Weiss hails the visit as “gratifying” and “impressive.”

“The Bible is our ‘Protective Edge’ and our friends around the world are an ‘Iron Dome’ for Israel,” she says.

“The juxtaposition of the texts in their ancient landscape is an important tool to truly understand their words and their relevance in today’s world.”

Israel envoy pans UN silence on Hamas

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, criticizes the UN for failing to address the fact that all previous ceasefires were violated by Hamas.

Israel did not seek the confrontation, he says. We left Gaza with the intention of never returning, he adds, in a reference to the 2005 unilateral withdrawal.

Swedish candidate quits after ‘Jewish pigs’ post

A Swedish politician quits his campaign after coming under attack for a Facebook post saying “our brothers and sisters in Palestine are slaughtered by the Jewish pigs.”

In his Facebook post on August 2, Omar Omeirat, a Social Democrat candidate for the town council of Filipstad in central Sweden, also calls on Allah to “strengthen those who defend Palestine” and displays a flag used by the Islamist group ISIS, the Swedish news website The Local reported.

“I regret what I said,” Omeirat tells Sveriges Television. “It was the wrong choice of words and no one should say something like that.”

Asa Haakman Feldt, a spokeswoman for the Social Democrat party, tells the Swedish media that Omeirat had decided of his own free will to leave politics.

“Of course we condemn his statement,” Feldt says. “But it is Omar himself who has decided that he should take the consequences for his actions and leave the party.”


President Rivlin meets Kfar Aza residents

President Reuven Rivlin meets with 50 residents of Kfar Aza, a kibbutz on the Gaza border, who stayed put throughout Operation Protective Edge.

“Kfar Aza is almost a ghost town,” says Rivlin. “When you get here, you understand that Operation Protective Edge was a fight for the home. For the crops. The kindergartens. A struggle for survival and for the routine.”

The president reassures the residents that “the responsibility for rebuilding the ruins is not on your shoulders, but on the shoulders of the Israeli government. The rehabilitation and development of the towns is an urgent national task. The State of Israel must provide the economic and psychological support as needed.”

IDF-gov’t c’tee to mull classifying op as war

A joint IDF and government committee will evaluate whether Operation Protective Edge can be classified as a war, rather than an operation, Haaretz reports.

We only left Gaza after tunnels destroyed — PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens a press conference by saying Israel is ready if the ceasefire is violated.

The IDF stands near Gaza border prepared for every scenario, he says. Some units are deployed near Gaza that weren’t there before the war. The situation is better than before the war, he adds.

We only left Gaza after we destroyed all tunnels that we knew of, Netanyahu says.

Raphael Ahren

Israel working on tunnel detection technology — PM

He praises the “iron discipline” of Israelis — a play on the “Iron Dome” — in the face of rocket attacks.

Israel is working “to create technological means to locate new tunnels that will reach into our territory,” Netanyahu says.

“The IDF is an amazing army. It’s a strong army [and] had major achievements. It stood and stands by all the requirements. The entire nation is behind the IDF, during peace and during war,” he says.

“I am proud of the IDF. I am proud to be the prime minister of such a united people.”

Raphael Ahren

Netanyahu thanks Kerry for support

Netanyahu thanks Secretary of State John Kerry for his support during the operation, and says he had another “very good” conversation with Kerry this afternoon. He welcomes Kerry’s calls for disarmament of the Gaza-based terror groups. He says Hamas is responsible for the destruction and death in Gaza.

The prime minister then switches to English on behalf of the foreign press in attendance, and screens the video of a Hamas rocket launch from a Gaza City residential area shown on Indian TV earlier this week, and a Finnish TV report on a rocket launch from Shia Hospital. He says that having left the Gaza Strip, journalists are now free to publish what they saw there, namely that Hamas is firing from civilian areas.

Raphael Ahren

Israel ‘deeply regrets’ civilian casualties — Netanyahu

Further videos show the Israeli Air Force holding its fire for fear of harming civilians.

He also shows footage of what he says is mortar fire from near an UNRWA elementary school for boys. He describes a terror tunnel near a school, and many tunnels dug from homes. He speaks of Hamas “death squads” that were intended to use the tunnels to infiltrate Israel and kill and kidnap Israeli civilians.

“I think it’s very important for the truth to come out,” he says.

Netanyahu offers condolences to the Palestinian citizens harmed or killed during the operation.

“Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one. We do not target them. People of Gaza are not our enemies. Our enemy is Hamas,” the prime minister says.

He compares Hamas to al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, and ISIS. “Hamas wants civilian casualties. They pretty much say so,” says Netanyahu. Hamas “uses and sacrifices” civilians as human shields.

Raphael Ahren

‘Moral mistake’ not to hit back at terrorist fire from mosques, schools

Now the prime minister reaches the thrust of his message to the international media — which is that Israel has had an obligation to fight Hamas in the way that it has done.

It would be “a moral mistake,” he says, not to act against terrorist fire from mosques, schools and residential areas. Such behavior would represent “an enormous victory for terrorists everywhere,” he says.

If this were to happen, more and more civilians would die around the world, he says.

Terrorists must not be allowed to “fight from civilian areas with impunity.”

Terrorists count on the victimized country responding as it must and being blamed for doing so. But the world must not accept a situation in which the terrorists are vindicated and the victim country is accused.

And therefore, “what’s happening now is not only a test for Israel but for the international community, for the civilized world itself, how it is to defend itself,” he says.

The prime minister blames Hamas for the bulk of the civilian deaths, due to its rejection of the various ceasefire proposals offered throughout the campaign.

“90 percent of the fatalities could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the ceasefire it accepts now. Hamas needs to be blamed for these deaths, ostracized from the family of nations,” he says.

It must be “prevented from rearming,” he says. That’s the way “to prevent this conflict from bring repeated.”

Raphael Ahren

Israel’s response ‘justified and proportionate,’ Netanyahu says

Netanyahu repeats that “every civilian casualty is a tragedy — a tragedy of Hamas’s making.”

He quotes Elie Wiesel saying, “Hamas is engaging in child sacrifice.”

“For the sake of all our children, it must not be allowed to get away with it.”

The prime minister now takes some questions in English.

Asked how Israel would have tackled the tunnels had Hamas accepted Egypt’s ceasefire proposal three weeks ago, he says that Israel took preemptive action on one tunnel, prior to the first Egypt ceasefire proposal.

“We began dealing with first tunnel before the Egyptian offer. We had info on a pending attack, took action before,” he says.

Israel would have preferred to solve the tunnel threat by non-military means, and would have sought to to do so under the terms of the Egyptian proposal, he says.

Asked about the scale and scope of Israel’s military response to Hamas, he says it has been “justified and proportionate,” and stresses again that this does not lessen Israel’s regret for civilian casualties.

It would have been “disproportionate” not to act, he says, and therefore “to get our people killed.”

With regard to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s role in the truce, he says: “We have cooperated and are cooperating with the PA. We’re prepared to see a role for them [in] the reconstruction Gaza, humanitarian aid, security questions. The ceasefire agreement was coordinated with them.”

Raphael Ahren

Sirens in Sdot Negev

After hours of quiet, sirens sound in Sdot Negev.

PM pans Hamas for children deaths in tunnel construction

Netanyahu quotes a 2012 article from the Journal of Palestine Studies, according to which some 160 Palestinian children were killed during the course of the construction of the tunnels in Gaza.

“There’s something fundamentally wrong here,” the prime minister says.

Raphael Ahren

Siren likely a false alarm

According to Channel 2, the sirens triggered in Sdot Negev are most probably a false alarm.

‘Let us remember how this conflict started,’ US tells UN

The US mission to the UN defends Israel at the General Assembly session on the Gaza conflict, but stresses that the Palestinian death toll and destruction is “devastating,” and says the US was “horrified” by the attacks on UN facilities.

“Let us remember how this conflict started. Hamas launched repeated rocket attacks at Israel. Hamas deliberately, willfully targets civilians. No nation can accept such attacks, and Israel has the same right to self-defense as every other nation,” it says, according to a statement.

The US also calls for the total disarmament of Gaza terror groups, and the strengthening of the PA.

“We need to help the parties reach an accord where the rockets stop, tunnels are permanently dismantled, and Israel is not attacked again in the near or long term. Gaza must also receive the goods necessary to advance its economic development and the international community must work in concert to strengthen the recognized Palestinian Authority.

“With serious negotiations starting, this is a pivotal time, and we should support the parties’ efforts to secure a durable ceasefire, and give them space to achieve results. We believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must result in the disarmament of Hamas and all other terrorist groups.”

The US says the talks present “an opportunity that the parties should seize” for “genuine dialogue” in attempts to “resolve diplomatically some of the entrenched differences that have helped precipitate this conflict.”

Liberman accuses UN of incompetence in Gaza

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman lambastes the UN, saying that if it had been doing its job in the Gaza Strip, “the organization would organize an international force to remove the terror government of Hamas from Gaza, and wouldn’t wait for Israel to do it.”

Liberman adds that before castigating Israel’s “unintentional attack on UN facilities, while protecting itself,” the UN heads would be better advised to “see to it that UN facilities don’t serve as storage centers and launching sites for rockets.”

It should be wary that “the UN institutions, like the Human Rights Council, don’t serve as a forum for the strengthening and encouraging of terror,” he says.

Israel agrees to extend ceasefire — official

Israel agrees to extend the 72-hour truce originally set to expire on Friday morning beyond its present deadline, Reuters reports, quoting an unnamed official.

Turkey seeks air entry to evacuate injured Gazans

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says he is working toward brokering an agreement with Israel and Egypt under which Ankara would be permitted to fly wounded Gazans to Turkey to receive medical treatment, Reuters reports.

“Yesterday I spoke with [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas and we want to get the injured people, thousands of them. They need urgent medical therapy, and we have already allocated places in our hospitals for them,” he says.

“We are talking with both Egypt and Israel to have an air bridge to send humanitarian assistance… If permission is given, our air ambulances will be carrying these passengers,” Davutoglu adds.

21% of southern residents consider relocating — poll

A Channel 10 poll shows that some 21 percent of southern residents, living in the areas between Ashdod in the north, the Gaza border towns in the south, and Netivot in the east, are considering moving in light of the recent operation and heightened security fears.

Meanwhile, 79% say they are not considering the option.

The poll notes that the timing of the survey, in the immediate aftermath of the violence, may skew the results. In the coming days and weeks, as the memory of the operation grows increasingly fainter, the numbers are likely to change, it says.

Hamas threatens to renew attacks Friday

Sources in Hamas say that as the 72-hour truce deadline concludes on Friday at 8 a.m., it will resume striking Israeli targets, Ynet reports.

“The Al-Qassam Brigades and Jerusalem battalions will renew its attacks immediately with the end of the ceasefire period on Friday at 8 a.m.,” sources say.

The statement comes as an Israeli official says Jerusalem is willing to extend the ceasefire unconditionally, and Palestinian and Israeli delegations attend mediated talks in Cairo.

IDF mulls citations for troops in Gaza

The IDF begins investigating the various missions during Operation Protective Edge to determine whether soldiers should receive citations for their conduct.

According to the Walla news site, the IDF has already indicated that various soldiers have earned the honor.

A senior official says that the incident involving Lt. Eitan, who ran into a tunnel against army orders to retrieve his captured comrade, Hadar Goldin, was “historic,” in that “it prevented Hamas from changing the face of the campaign.”

Eitan entered the tunnel after the operatives, and followed them for hundreds of meters. In the course of the search, he unearthed evidence that enabled the IDF to pronounce Goldin’s death.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad mum on truce extension

Israel Radio’s Gal Berger reports on Twitter that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have yet to respond officially to the proposal to extend the 72-hour lull.

The terror groups are waiting on the Israeli response to their demands, he writes.

No agreement on truce extension — Hamas leader

Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk says the terror group has not agreed to an extension of the 72-hour ceasefire, set to expire Friday at 8 a.m., Ynet reports.

UNRWA chief: Attacks on UN sites symbolize Gaza suffering

The head of the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza says Israeli attacks on UN facilities epitomize, more than anything else, “the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza” throughout the flareup there.