The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Thursday, the 31st day since the start of Operation Protective Edge and the third day of a truce. An Israeli delegation was in Cairo to discuss the terms of a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, but Hamas had not accepted a ceasefire extension beyond Friday morning. (Friday’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 31 of the Israel-Hamas conflict

PREAMBLE: The Israel-Hamas conflict goes into its 31st day. A ceasefire held for a second day Wednesday, but it might now be wobbling.

Israel has offered to extend the original 72-hour truce beyond Friday morning. Hamas has not agreed, and some Hamas officials have been threatening to resume rocket fire.

Israel’s army chief, Benny Gantz, stressed earlier Wednesday that the IDF had struck “heavy blows” against Hamas, but that it would “act again” if necessary, and was deployed to be able to do so.

Netanyahu sets out moral case for IDF strategy against Hamas

At a press conference in Jerusalem four hours ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set out a moral justification for the way the IDF has dealt with the Hamas strategy of firing rockets at Israel, and tunneling under the Israeli border, from the heart of Palestinian residential neighborhoods in Gaza.

Arguing that Israel’s battle over the past month against terrorists in Gaza using civilians as human shields came during a critical test period, he said it would be a “moral mistake” as well as a practical one to not take action against terrorists operating from mosques, schools and other civilian areas.

Such behavior would represent “an enormous victory for terrorists everywhere,” Netanyahu said, and would result in more and more civilian deaths around the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a press conference at his Jerusalem offices, on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/JIM HOLLANDER/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a press conference at his Jerusalem offices, on Wednesday, August 6, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/JIM HOLLANDER/POOL)

“What’s happening now is not only a test for Israel but for the international community, for the civilized world itself, [for] how it is to defend itself,” Netanyahu declared.

Terrorists must not be allowed to “fight from civilian areas with impunity” and rely on world condemnation of the victimized nation — in this case, Israel — for responding to attacks, he warned.

The prime minister blamed Hamas for Gaza’s civilian deaths, due to its rejection of various ceasefire proposals throughout the campaign and its deliberate basing of its military infrastructure in the heart of Gaza population centers.

Netanyahu spoke in Hebrew and in English, and screened video clips showing Hamas operating from residential areas. He also said journalists in Gaza were being intimidated and urged that those leaving Gaza now ensure that the truth came out.

– Read Raphael Ahren’s full story here.

21% of southern residents consider relocating — poll

A Channel 10 poll late Wednesday showed 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% said they are not considering the option.

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

King Abdullah II, Abbas agree on need for return to peace talks

Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speak by telephone about efforts for a more long-term ceasefire between Israel and Gaza.

The two agree that the next phase should include a return to negotaitions on a permanent peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel Radio reports.

Abbas also spoke tonight with the head of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, who is expected in the Gaza Strip soon, along with several other Arab foreign ministers.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, in March, 2013. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, welcomes Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his arrival at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, in March, 2013. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

Hamas threatens to renew attacks Friday

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

“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 said.

The statement came as an Israeli official said Jerusalem is willing to extend the ceasefire unconditionally, and Palestinian and Israeli delegations attended indirect, mediated talks in Cairo.

Displaced Palestinians start to leave Gaza UN shelters

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip displaced by the recent conflict who have sought refuge at over 90 UN sites across the Palestinian enclave, are begining to leave the shelters

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency reports that of over 270,000 people, some 80,000 have left to return to their homes, but that some come back if said homes are destroyed or uninhabitable

A Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of destroyed buildings in part of Gaza City's al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip enters a second day on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (photo credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP)

A Palestinian woman walks through the rubble of destroyed buildings in part of Gaza City’s al-Tufah neighbourhood as the fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip enters a second day on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. (photo credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP)

Israeli workers, guarded by soldiers, start repair of power lines to Gaza

The Israel Electric Corp. began repairing power lines that carry electricity from Israel to Gaza damaged in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The work on the power grids began yesterday, the state-owned company said in a statement. Workers were guarded by Israeli soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Most of the power lines between Israel and Gaza were damaged by rocket fire from both sides in the month-long war.

While the power lines are being repaired on the Israeli side, there are also power lines in Gaza that were damaged and are not feeding electricity since the Palestinians have not repaired them, the Israel Electric Corp. said.

The work is being coordinated with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT.

– JTA

Obama: Gazans need ‘sense of hope’ for future

US President Barack Obama says that the people of Gaza need greater hope for the future, as he called for a continuation of the Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

“The US goal right now would be to make sure that the ceasefire holds, that Gaza can begin the process of rebuilding,” Obama tells a news conference, while also urging greater security for Israel.

– AFP

No sympathy for Hamas but Gaza cannot stay closed off, says Obama

Israelis need to “feel confident that they’re not going to have a repeat of the kind of rocket launchers that we’ve seen over the last several weeks,” US President Barack Obama says.

Speaking at a news conference, Obama says the United States was supportive of ceasefire talks but: “Long-term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world.”

Ordinary Palestinians living in the impoverished, blockaded Hamas-ruled territory need to “have some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off,” Obama says.

President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Obama insists he has “consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself” and repeatedly castigated Hamas, saying that the terror group has acted “extraordinarily irresponsibly” by launching rockets into Israel.

“I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza,” Obama says.

– AFP, Times of Israel staff

Glasgow city council to fly Palestinian flag Friday

In support of its twin city Bethlehem, Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Councilor Sadie Docherty, wrote a condolence letter this week to Bethlehem Mayor Vera George Mousa Baboun.

In the letter, Docherty promises her fellow mayor that the Glasgow City Council will fly the Palestinian flag from city chambers on Friday August 8 as a gesture of solidarity.

Docherty wrote Mousa Baboun, “Glasgow is home to many friends of Palestine and this is a deeply distressing time for them… We hope that peace can be found to ensure the human rights for the people of Palestine.”

Amanda Borschel-Dan has the full story

Gaza conflict brought additional 700 journalists to Israel

Some 705 journalists from 42 countries came to Israel specifically to cover the Gaza conflict, according to Israel’s Government Press Office.

The correspondents for the Israeli military’s Operation Protective Edge joined approximately 750 journalists who are stationed in Israel on a regular basis.

In contrast, some 303 foreign journalists arrived in Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Following the ceasefire that went into effect Tuesday morning, the press office says it gathered testimony from foreign journalists regarding harassment by Hamas activists while trying to carry out their assignments.

– JTA

Israeli ambassador to UN lashes out at General Assembly

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations slams its members for “their complicity in allowing organizations like Hamas to continue to exist in the Middle East.”

Ron Prosor speaks Wednesday at a special General Assembly session on Gaza.

“This institution was founded to stand for truth, for justice, and for moral clarity. This is no longer the case,” he tells the delegates.

“It might be too much to ask you to stand on our side in this battle between civilization and barbarism, but at least have the decency to swallow your selective outrage while Israel wages war against the extremist groups seeking to eradicate the values that we all hold very dear.”

Prosor spoke after the Palestinian Authority’s UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, accused Israel of violating international law during its 29-day operation in Gaza.

Five arrested after Australia anti-Semitism attack on schoolbus

Five teenagers have been arrested over an alleged vicious racial attack on a bus full of children from Jewish schools in Sydney that left them traumatized.

Police say a group of five- to 12-year-olds were travelling on a private bus to the suburb of Bondi Junction on Wednesday afternoon when eight teens jumped on.

They allegedly racially taunted the children and made physical threats, with parents claiming they yelled “Heil Hitler, kill the Jews” and “free Palestine.” An Australian paper reported that the teens also allegedly threatened to slit the kids’ throats.

None of the children was hurt but Jacqui Blackburn, whose three daughters were on the vehicle, tells ABC radio they were traumatized and many were in tears.

“My little daughter said she’s just really scared of everything now,” she adds, while questioning why the driver allowed the teenagers onto a school bus.

Five of the eight teens were arrested overnight before being released into the custody of their parents as investigations continue.

Palestinian delegation agrees to delay talks of air and sea port in Gaza

The Palestinian delegation in Cairo agrees to postpone talk of one of Hamas’s key demands for a long-term ceasefire with Israel, namely the construction of an airport and seaport in the Gaza Strip.

According to an Israel Radio report citing the London-based al-Hayat, Hamas says Cairo made it clear such conditions pertain to more comprehensive peace talks.

Israel has vehemently refused to consider the building of either a sea or air port in the Palestinian enclave.

Ecuadorian president nixes Israel visit

Two days after the foreign minister in Quito announces plans to open an Ecuadorian embassy in Palestine, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa nixes a visit to Israel scheduled for the second half of this year.

“Obviously, after these events, we have canceled the visit,” he says, referring to the 29-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Correa also described the situation in Gaza as genocide, according to the Prensa Latina news agency.

In the past, Correa has been criticized in Ecuador for voicing support for Israel and describing it as an “example” to be followed by Latin American states.

In recent days, he was criticized for not canceling his visit to Israel, which was scheduled for October. Correa had said that during the visit, he would seek to increase Quito’s scientific and technological cooperation with Israel.

U. of Illinois retracts offer to prof over anti-Israel tweets

The University of Illinois rescinds a job offer to an incoming professor who harshly criticized Israel on Twitter.

Steven Salaita, who was offered a job at the Champaign-Urbana campus in the American Indian studies program, will not be hired, according to a report by the website Inside Higher Education.

The move is reportedly made in response to concerns cover series of tweets in which Salaita criticized Israel and supporters of Israel in stark terms.

Salaita’s tweets include, “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Another tweet said, “Ever wonder what would happen if the KKK had F-16s and access to a surplus population of minorities? See #Israel and #Gaza.”

— JTA

IDF will escalate response if Hamas fires — Erdan

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who is a member of the security cabinet, warns that if Hamas renews its rocket fire on Israel, the IDF will escalate its reaction.

Erdan tells Israel Radio that while Israel has “no objections” to the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, and that a truce is within reach, Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot be permitted to rearm.

He adds that the US, Egypt and other countries support the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, saying it is “sad” that UN chief Ban Ki-moon “doesn’t understand the situation on the ground.”

UN releases before-and-after pictures of Gaza

The UN releases before-and-after satellite pictures of the Gaza Strip, showing a neighborhood in Gaza City and Al-Atatra, a neighborhood in the city of Beit Lahia, prior to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge and in its aftermath.

The photos on the left show both neighborhoods as they were before the operation, with houses standing intact between lanes, parks and greenery.

The photos on the right, on the other hand, show both areas practically razed to the ground, with Al-Atatra in particular almost unrecognizable in its devastation.

Palestinian hides stun grenade in playground

A Palestinian man hides a stun grenade in a playground in a moshav near Ashdod.

Police say the man, who does not have a permit to enter Israel, is arrested by police in Kiryat Gat, in central Israel, on suspicion that he is in Israel illegally.

He then leads the police to the stun grenade, which is hidden near the recreational equipment in the park in Moshav Emunim, in central Israel.

US learned of ceasefire from Twitter — report

Washington was left out of talks between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and found out about the breakthrough that paved the way for a ceasefire from Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the report, the Obama administration “knew from Palestinian contacts earlier this week that representatives of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinians were working on a new cease-fire proposal but didn’t know details because they were left largely out of the discussions.”

The report quotes key US officials as saying they first heard about the breakthrough from Twitter and the media, and were not informed about it by Cairo or Jerusalem.

Israel agreed to lift blockade — Egypt diplomat

Israel has agreed to lift the blockade over the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian diplomat reports.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi quotes the diplomat as saying that in talks in Cairo over a ceasefire agreement, Jerusalem has acquiesced “in principle” to some of the Palestinian demands in negotiations over a more permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, but has insisted on demilitarization.

Among the demands that Israel has reportedly agreed to are a complete lifting of the blockade on the coastal territory, an expansion of the permitted fishing zone on the Gazan coast, and the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza through all the crossings without delay.

Israel often holds up humanitarian shipments to the Gaza Strip to inspect them for materials that could be used to make weapons.

The demand to free prisoners who were released in the prisoner exchange deal to free Gilad Shalit and later rearrested was accepted by Israel only partially, on the condition that the details be discussed at a later date. Israel rejected the Palestinian demands to build an airport and seaport in Gaza, as well as a land route between Gaza and the West Bank.

US deputy secretary of state skips Cairo talks

US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns has elected to skip the talks in Cairo between representatives of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians over a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Al-Monitor reporter Laura Rozen reports.

Instead, Burns is heading to Geneva to join American negotiators Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan, Jim Timbie, and Rob Malley for bilateral American-Iranian talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

‘EU powers propose Gaza rehabilitation in exchange for disarmament’

Germany, France and Britain have proposed an initiative that would oversee the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip in exchange for the disarmament of Hamas.

The initiative, which was presented to national security adviser Yossi Cohen by representatives of the EU powers in Jerusalem yesterday, seeks to rebuild destroyed areas of the Gaza Strip, while preventing terrorist organizations operating in the coastal enclave from re-arming, Haaretz reports.

International supervision will reportedly guarantee that the groups do not re-arm.

Liberman thanks Kerry for support in UN

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry overnight, thanking him for his “unbridled support” for Israel at yesterday’s Security Council session.

Liberman thanks the US diplomat for working with Jerusalem to prevent the council from passing a binding resolution against Israel.

The foreign minister also warns Kerry that the Palestinians’ announcement in Cairo that they will not commit to the extension of the 72-hour ceasefire currently in place is “an act of extortion,” stressing that Israel is “prepared for every eventuality.”

He adds that Israel is not interested in an escalation with Turkey, but warned that Israel will not stay silent in the face of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “tongue-lashing” for much longer.

NBA stars cancel trip to Israel

US basketball stars nix a trip to Israel to support Hapoel Jerusalem, which is co-owned by New York Knicks player Amar’e Stoudemire.

TMZ reports that the NBA group, which includes Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Chris Mullin, and Robin and Brook Lopez, were planning to attend the opening of a new basketball arena in Jerusalem on September 4, but canceled their plans due to safety concerns amid the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Magic Johnson, also on the guest list, is said to have run into “scheduling issues” even before the trip was nixed.

According to the report, some of the players were to have squared off against Hapoel Jerusalem, which is co-owned by Stoudemire, Ori Allon and Arn Tellem.

Since NBA players begin training camp in October, they are unlikely to reschedule the visit any time soon, TMZ says.

Did leak of army’s grim Gaza assessment harm Israel’s deterrence?

A row has been raging since Tuesday night over who leaked reports from a cabinet meeting last week detailing the army’s assessment of what re-invading Gaza would cost.

According to the Channel 2 report Tuesday night, army chiefs briefed ministers last week that retaking Gaza would cause thousands upon thousands of Palestinian deaths, cost the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers, have a devastating effect on the Israeli economy, and require five years if all terror threats were to be uprooted. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asked his ministers if any of them supported the idea, and not one of them raised a hand, the TV report said.

On Army Radio this morning, Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beytenu) argues that the publication of this assessment was devastatingly detrimental to Israel’s deterrent capability. He says Hezbollah, Iran, and all other groups hostile to Israel now believe that Israel didn’t have the will to destroy an organization much less threatening and powerful than they are. He says that all ministers should be required to take a lie detector test to ascertain the source of the leak, and that the prime minister should be “the first in line.”

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, October, 2012. (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch / FLASH90)

Uzi Landau (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

On the show, it is hinted that the leak may have come from the Prime Minister’s Office, since Netanyahu would have an interest in showing that none of his colleagues was prepared to push for a far wider ground offensive than the one he oversaw, despite the fact that publicly, some of them had been calling to smash Hamas. Some media reports yesterday also asserted that Netanyahu’s office was responsible.

The radio program reports that on Tuesday night, when the details of the army’s assessment were broadcast on Channel 2, this produced much dismay among ministers, and that Tzipi Livni immediately demanded an investigation, including the use of lie detectors to ascertain the source of the leak, but that Netanyahu dismissed the idea, saying that far worse things had leaked from cabinet meetings.

Udi Segal, the Channel 2 reporter who broadcast the details of the army assessment on Tuesday, has just called into the Army Radio program to castigate those of his fellow journalists who he says are undermining a free discussion by focusing on who may have leaked the information to him. There’s one thing he wants to make clear, he says: the leak did not come from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Amnesty says Israel targeted Gaza hospitals

Amnesty International says it has found evidence of Israel targeting hospitals and medical facilities in the Gaza Strip during its 29-day Operation Protective Edge in the coastal territory.

In a report released today, the rights group says that evidence and testimonies gathered from doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers in the Gaza Strip paints “a disturbing picture of hospitals and health professionals coming under attack by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, where at least six medics have been killed.”

Citing Hamas statistics claiming “at least six ambulance workers and at least 13 other aid workers” had been killed by Israeli shelling, Amnesty says it has “received reports that the Israeli army has repeatedly fired at clearly marked ambulances with flashing emergency lights and paramedics wearing recognizable fluorescent vests while carrying out their duties.”

The group says the state of Gaza’s hospitals, which was “acute before the current hostilities” due to the blockade on the Gaza Strip, has now been “seriously exacerbated.”

While the group acknowledges reports that Gazan terrorists had fired rockets from hospital premises, it adds, “Amnesty International has not been able to confirm any of these reports. While the use of medical facilities for military purposes is a severe violation of international humanitarian law, hospitals, ambulances and medical facilities are protected and their civilian status must be presumed.”

It adds that “hospitals and medical facilities must never be forced to evacuate patients under fire,” warning that the Israeli attacks “may constitute ‘wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,’ a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime.”

Egypt nixes demand to open Rafah crossing

Egypt has rejected Hamas’s terms for a ceasefire with Israel, Walla reports, citing Hamas sources.

Egypt, which is mediating negotiations for a ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in Cairo, reportedly refuses to discuss the possibility of opening the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, as well as the establishment of a seaport and airport as conditions for a permanent truce. Egypt says the issue of the Rafah crossing must be resolved between the Palestinians and Egypt, rather than between the Palestinians and Israel.

With less than a day left before the 72-hour truce between the two sides expires, the report indicates that there are still several outstanding issues preventing a long-term agreement. However, Egypt reportedly says it will agree to open the crossing if it is manned by Palestinian Authority personnel.

The sides now await an official Israeli response to the demands.

Rockets will meet with harsh response — Lapid

Any rockets fired from the Gaza Strip will be answered by Israel with heavy fire, Finance Minister Yair Lapid says this morning.

“They mustn’t try us,” he warns.

“The IDF is prepared and ready, the air force is prepared and ready. Any [rocket] fire will be answered with a heavy blow of fire.”

Lapid adds, “There is no difference between Hamas’s political and military wings. Anyone who sits at the head of a murderous terrorist organization deserves to die. Nobody is safe from us.”

Things that go ‘whine’ in the day

As the lives of Israelis slowly return to their normal course after 29 days (and for some, weeks and years) of taking cover when the sound of a Code Red siren rings over towns and cities, a comedy troupe airs a skit parodying Israelis’ fear of rockets.

The Hebrew-language video, which is made by a trio called “Ritalin Kids” — Amit Raviv, Ofir Boaz and Asa Keren — shows Israelis running for cover after mistaking various sounds, from a kettle boiling to a donkey braying to Whitney Houston hitting those high notes, for the blaring of an incoming rocket alert.

Titled “Did you hear that?” the video opens with a shot of a couple in the bedroom. The woman, hearing an ambulance siren, jumps up in panic. “Did you hear that?” she asks, and shoves her partner aside to run for cover.

The next scene shows a man and a woman sitting in a cafe. When a motorcycle zooms by, the man spits out his juice and hides under the table, shouting “Siren!” The woman continues to sip her drink, rather nonplussed.

Next, a lawnmower draws a shower-cap clad man out of the shower mid-ablution, a plane mistaken for a siren makes a beachgoer run off, a whistling kettle causes a man to rush out of the bathroom while brushing his teeth, and a drill wakes a man up suddenly.

Then, the more whimsical examples start: a braying donkey draws a swimmer to poke his head out of the water and shout “What was that?!” a man in a dark green robe playing a large horn on a lakefront lined with trees startles two towel-clad men in a sauna, a mewling kitten disrupts the concentration of two students studying in the library (which is clearly nowhere near said kitten), and Whitney Houston hitting the high notes on “I Will Always Love You” causing a driver to abandon his pink car (adorned with an Israeli flag, naturally) on the side of the road and dive into the dirt as a cyclist rides by and turns around to stare at him.

The video, which was uploaded to YouTube Tuesday, has generated just over 2,000 “likes” so far, but is slowly going viral in Israel.

'Did you hear that?'

‘Did you hear that?’

Gaza wounded treated in East Jerusalem, Israel, Jordan

Doctors and aid agencies are trying to capitalize on the truce in Gaza to evacuate more wounded Palestinians for treatment in East Jerusalem, Israel and Jordan.

Ninety of the most serious cases have been evacuated through the Erez border crossing since the conflict began, according to Guy Inbar, spokesman for COGAT, which is part of the Israeli Defense Ministry.

He says the wounded had been sent to Israel and Jordan from an Israeli field hospital at Erez.

Medics and the Red Crescent tell AFP that two patients were sent to the Arab Israeli town of Nazareth and dozens of others to three hospitals in East Jerusalem.

— AFP

Time will tell if Gaza op succeeded — Rivlin

President Reuven Rivlin says the coming days will reveal if Israel’s strikes against terror targets in the Gaza Strip have successfully deterred Hamas from continuing the fighting.

Stressing that he trusts in the government to make the right decision regarding the continuation of Operation Protective Edge, Rivlin urges Israel’s leadership to show commitment to the people of southern Israel, who left their homes amid increased barrages of rocket fire.

He adds that though he has yet to speak with US President Barack Obama regarding the operation, he has written to him to thank him for standing by Israel’s side.

“I asked him to thank Secretary of State John Kerry for the fact that Israel is secure. He wants the bloodshed in our region to end,” Rivlin says.

In Cairo, Palestinians await Israeli response

The Palestinian negotiating team is waiting in Cairo for Israel’s response to the conditions for a permanent ceasefire that it presented yesterday, Arab sources report.

The sources tell The Times of Israel that the Israeli team has returned to Israel with the list of demands prepared jointly by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah.

Meanwhile, Fatah and Egyptian leaders are making rigorous efforts to convince Hamas and Islamic Jihad to extend the temporary truce — of which about 18 hours now remain — by another 48 to 72 hours.

Currently, Hamas says it won’t agree to extend the ceasefire unless it receives a guarantee that Israel will acquiesce to some of its demands, which include the opening of a port in the Gaza Strip as well as the land crossings to and from Israel.

— Avi Issacharoff

Rivlin to meet with Red Cross president

President Reuven Rivlin will meet at 4 p.m. with International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer.

Maurer is in the region to monitor the escalation of violence during Operation Protective Edge.

We still have tunnels, Hamas commander crows

Despite the Israeli military’s efforts to destroy all tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, Hamas still has some that it can use to penetrate Israel, Hamas commander Abu Laith tells The Times of London (paywall), warning that Israel will have “no security” as long as Gaza has none.

The 43-year-old Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades fighter, who has ventured out of his home due to a 72-hour ceasefire with Israel, tells the UK paper that the terrorist organization also still has “enough rockets, more than the enemy can imagine,” with which to target Israel. Though he admits some of the “terror tunnels” Hamas dug to attack Israel have “partially collapsed,” he says the tunnel network as a whole has not been destroyed.

He indicates that his Hamas comrades’ thirst for battle has not been quenched, either. “They would rather be killed on the battlefield than be a martyr on the ­surface,” he says.

Soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a Hamas 'attack tunnel' on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit/Flash90)

Soldiers from the Givati Brigade seen at the entrance to a Hamas ‘attack tunnel’ on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit/Flash90)

“We prepared for a long battle. We can target cities we have not even hit in this war. We can penetrate the Israeli border again,” he says. “We only fought with 10 per cent of our forces, the rest are on standby.”

Abu Laith, a seasoned fighter, also says this latest war with Israel was the most brutal he has seen since joining Hamas in the 1990s, during the first intifata.

“It was a completely different conflict to the ones in the past,” he says. “In 2008, the airstrike and air surveillance took us by surprise. That war cost us a lot, so we made strategic plans to move the battle from the surface to underground.”

He is adamant that Hamas has, for the most part, not re-armed by receiving weapons from abroad.

“We’ve been accused of foreign funding but most of our weapons are made by Palestinians locally, despite being under siege,” Abu Laith says, holding up a homemade sniper round and noting that Hamas even has female engineers within its ranks. “We smuggle in materials via the tunnels and the sea.”

IDF responds to reports of vandalism in Gaza school

After news agency AFP and stock photo agency Getty Images publish photos showing evidence of vandalism left behind in a school in the Gaza Strip which was used by IDF soldiers, the Israeli military responds by saying that while it “cannot determine if the photos are authentic,” the vandalism should be strongly condemned if they are.

“If soldiers were behind this serious incident, the IDF strongly condemns it. Vandalistic acts contradict the moral code of the Israel Defense Forces,” the military tells The Times of Israel.

The photos, which are said to have been taken by photographer Marco Longari in the Beit Hanoun High School for Girls after it was vacated by IDF soldiers who had used it as a base during Operation Protective Edge, show racist and anti-Hamas messages, as well as destruction and neglect.

Although the IDF says it cannot confirm its soldiers left the school in that condition, detailed military instructions in Hebrew, intricate chalk drawings of the insignia of various army units, and Stars of David rendered in chalk can be seen on the classroom boards alongside the hateful messages.

The messages, written in two languages, include “Fuck all the Arabs” (in English), “We will fuck you” (in Hebrew), “Fuck Hamas” (in English), “Revenge!” (in Hebrew), “No Hamas=Peace” (in English), and “You will be fucked here if you come again. Don’t forget it’s time for you to die” (in English).

A defaced portrait of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is also found in one of the classrooms.

Leftover food seen in a classroom where a military crest and some graffiti in Hebrew are seen on a blackboard 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)

Leftover food seen in a classroom where a military crest and some graffiti in Hebrew 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: Marco Longari/AFP)

Profanities are seen written on blackboard 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)

Profanities are seen written on 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: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian boy walks past writing on a wall allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers who used the Beit Hanun High school for girls as an advanced base during its military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian boy walks past writing on a wall allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers who used the Beit Hanoun High School for Girls as an advanced base during its military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

Some military instructions in Hebrew and a map of a school are seen on a blackboard after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanun High school for girls Tuesday, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

Some military instructions in Hebrew and a map of a school are seen on a blackboard after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanoun High School for Girls Tuesday, 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 Hamas, 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 Hanoun High School for Girls, which was reportedly used as an advanced base during Israel’s military offensive against Hamas, on August 5, 2014 (Photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian man stands near a blackboard scribbled with a Star of David, some military instructions in Hebrew and a map of a school after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanun High school for girls, Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian man stands near a blackboard scribbled with a Star of David, some military instructions in Hebrew and a map of a school after Israeli soldiers withdrew from the Beit Hanoun High School for Girls, Tuesday, August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian man walks past writing on a wall allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers who used the Beit Hanun High school for girls as an advanced base during its military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

A Palestinian man walks past writing on a wall allegedly left behind by Israeli soldiers who used the Beit Hanoun High School for Girls as an advanced base during its military offensive against the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014. (photo credit: Marco Longari/AFP)

Israel agrees to lift sea blockade — Hamas

Sources in Hamas say Israel has agreed to remove its sea blockade and open crossings to Egypt, Army Radio reports.

The sources say that in the course of the Cairo negotiations, the Israeli team has expressed willingness to expand the Gaza fishing zone.

The Israeli negotiators asked to delay discussions on building an airport and port in the Gaza Strip, but the Hamas officials refused, the sources say.

Israeli officials decline to comment on the report.

Thousands of Gazans attend pro-Hamas rally

Thousands of Palestinians wave green Hamas flags in a Gaza City rally in a show of support for the terror group, and call for renewed violence against Israel if Hamas’s demands are not met through diplomatic means.

A senior Hamas official tells supporters at the demonstration that the war with Israel won’t be over until the group’s political goals are reached.

The official, Mushir al-Masri, says “our fingers are on the trigger and our rockets are trained at Tel Aviv.”

He says Hamas would never consider disarmament, declaring: “we are not going to relinquish [our arms] until all our lands are liberated.”

Al-Masri also warns the Israeli residents of the Gaza border towns not to return home. “The settlers should not return to their homes unless Netanyahu complies with our demands,” he says.

He tells the crowds that Hamas will never forgo its “sacred” weapons, and still has many “surprises” prepared for the enemy.

However, he adds that Hamas is fully behind the Palestinian delegation in Egypt.

At the protest, al-Masri declares that Hamas is the clear victor in the confrontation with Israel.

“Netanyahu failed,” he says, according to Channel 2. “Our rockets reached Tel Aviv and Hadera and even Nahariya.”

But the greatest achievement, he says, is that “for the first time, an Arab force infiltrated the occupied lands held by the Zionists and this is a strategic victory.”

Elhanan Miller and AP contributed to this report.

Fire breaks out near Knesset

A fire breaks out near the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus.

Police and the fire department are on the scene, attempting to extinguish it before it spreads to the nearby Knesset complex.

Yoko Ono to honor slain children of conflict

In a gesture decrying the violence against Palestinian and Israeli children, Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, will light Iceland’s Imagine Peace Tower tonight in dedication to the slain children.

The Imagine Peace Tower is a John Lennon memorial constructed by Ono and located near Reykjavík.

The light tower has the words “Imagine Peace” carved on its stone base in 24 languages, in a reference to the iconic song “Imagine.”

“As all of us are devastated by the loss of so many lives of innocent children in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I will be lighting IMAGINE PEACE TOWER tonight, Thursday 7th August, hoping that the ceasefire will continue indefinitely, and no more innocent children will be harmed,” Ono posts on her Facebook page.

‘Today’s concessions are tomorrow’s war’ — Bennett

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett addresses the Cairo negotiations, urging Israel not to give in to Hamas’s demands. “Today’s concessions are tomorrow’s war. The state of Israel cannot be held hostage by Hamas,” he says.

Bennett also offers praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conduct of the operation, saying he “stood up against terror’s blackmail attempts.”

Lionel Messi ‘terribly saddened’ by deaths of children

FC Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi posts a picture of a wounded Palestinian boy on his Facebook page, and appeals for an end to the violence.

“Children did not create this conflict, but they are paying the ultimate price. This cycle of senseless violence must stop. We must reflect on the consequences of military conflicts and children must be protected,” he writes.

Indian reporter posts backstory to viral rocket video

NDTV reporter Sreenivasan Jain, whose video of Hamas operatives assembling and firing rockets from a civilian area went viral, writes an article with more information on the incident:

“We had all of it on tape, but wrestled with the dilemma of what to do with it. Two considerations weighed on our mind. One, the fear which hobbles the reporting such material: fear of reprisals from Hamas against us and those who worked with us, fear of inviting an Israeli response on the spot (these have been known to miss). Two, we needed to be 100 % sure that this was a rocket launch site. So we did nothing, setting off on our assignment for the day, mulling over the material in our possession.

“The next morning was meant to be our last in Gaza, and the day when a 72-hour ceasefire was meant to bring some relief to the area. As we woke early to pack – stealing tense glances at the ‘rocket’ patch – the final step was enacted. With minutes left for the ceasefire to kick in, flurries of Hamas rockets were fired. At about 7:52 am, this patch of earth was activated; the rockets took off with a bang and a plume of smoke. We managed to catch it on video just seconds after. By then the men who assembled it had long gone.

“We knew then we had to air the story. For us to have filmed how a rocket was assembled next to us, on a site used twice to launch a rocket, endangering the lives of all those around us on two occasions -to not have reported it would have been simply wrong. But we did take precautions – we aired the report a good five hours after the rocket was launched, well into the ceasefire. By then it was clear that Israel was not responding, at least for the period of the ceasefire. (Incidentally, given Israel’s extensive surveillance of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip it hardly seems they would need the media to point out to them where rockets are fired from.)

“There was the question of possible reprisal by Hamas; to this one, there are no easy answers other than to ask: how long do we self-censor because of the fear of personal safety in return for not telling a story that exposes how those launching rockets are putting so many more lives at risk, while the rocket-makers themselves are at a safe distance? More so when we have rare, first hand proof of how it works?”

Read the full account here.

Over 100 to immigrate, serve in the IDF

More than 100 US and Canadian men and women will be making aliya on Monday, and will subsequently start their IDF service.

Overall, 338 new US and Canadian immigrants are set to arrive Monday on a flight departing from JFK, Nefesh B’Nefesh says in a statement.

Taxes won’t be raised due to op — Lapid

Finance Minister Yair Lapid says he won’t raise taxes in light of the expenses caused by Operation Protective Edge.

“From preliminary investigations, we estimate with a great degree of certainty that we will be able to cover the campaign costs with the 2014 budget,” he says.

As rockets stop, Bedouin receive 2 shelters

Bedouin residents of Umm Batin, south of Beersheba, receive two shelters today, courtesy of donations by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, Channel 2 reports.

The measure comes after a Bedouin resident, Ouda Lafi al-Waj, 32, was killed by rocket fire near Dimona on July 19.

The Bedouin, many of whom reside in large tent encampments throughout the Negev desert, do not enjoy government-funded shelters like Israel’s other southern residents, and were vulnerable to the rocket fire during Operation Protective Edge since the Iron Dome system was often not deployed over the “open areas” in which they live.

PA representative said to threaten to leave talks

An Egyptian security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, says the Palestinian delegation’s stance has hardened after the arrival in Cairo of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders from the Gaza Strip.

He says Azzam al-Ahmad, the leader of the delegation and the representative of Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, threatened to withdraw from the talks if the two militant groups do not show more “flexibility,” adding that the delegation, which was supposed to leave Cairo on Thursday, would stay through the weekend.

Palestinian delegates could not immediately be reached for comment.

AP

Pro-Hamas rally sees low turnout

Channel 2′s Ehud Ya’ari reports that only 2,000 Gazans attend the pro-Hamas rally earlier today, calling to renew the violence against Israel.

Israel taking seriously Hamas threat to resume fire

In a statement, the Hamas military wing threatens to resume rocket fire at 8 a.m. Friday if the blockade on Gaza isn’t lifted by then.

Israeli officials say Israel is poised to respond to any resumption of attacks, and is taking the Hamas threats seriously.

Nonetheless, Israel’s negotiators are heading back to talks in Cairo later Thursday with Israeli input that might enable an extension of the ceasefire, Channel 2 reports.

Netanyahu asks Red Cross to return soldiers’ bodies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with International Committee of the Red Cross president Peter Maurer and asks him to help locate the bodies of SSgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin who were killed in action in the Gaza Strip.

Both Goldin and Shaul were pronounced dead by the IDF rabbinate, but Shaul was declared a soldier whose place of burial is unknown while Goldin’s remains were buried in his hometown of Kfar Saba.

Israel stripped of Davis Cup home tie due to conflict

Israel will not be allowed to stage the Davis Cup World Group tie against Argentina in Tel Aviv in September because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, tournament chiefs say.

The tie, set for September 12-14 at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv, will either be switched to a neutral venue or be played in Argentina.

“The Davis Cup Committee determined that, while the military conflict seemed to be slowing down, there was no certainty that this would be the case at the time of the tie that is due to take place in five weeks,” says an International Tennis Federation (ITF) statement.

“The Committee felt that its first priority was to ensure the safety of the players, officials and the public and regretfully decided that the tie would not be held in Israel as originally scheduled.”

Israel has now been stripped of two tennis events in four days after the ATP’s planned inaugural Negev Israel Open in Tel Aviv next month was called off because of security concerns.

AFP

200 Iranian pilots to fly Turkish Airlines routes

Due to a shortage of qualified candidates, Turkish Airlines has hired 200 Iranian pilots to fly some of their routes, Channel 2 reports.

‘The IDF will respond forcefully if Hamas renews fire’

The IDF will retaliate with major force if rockets or mortars are fired tomorrow at Israel, as Hamas has threatened to do, military sources tell Channel 10.

The army believes Hamas has 3,500 rockets left, and that it has found and demolished Hamas’s cross-border tunnels.

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri claimed at today’s Gaza rally that Hamas still has tunnels that stretch “inside the Zionist entity” and that it would use if its demands are not met.

Scale of Gaza civilian deaths ‘mustn’t happen again’ — Red Cross

The scale of civilian losses during the four-week conflict in the Gaza Strip must not happen again, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says.

Speaking to reporters after visiting Gaza, ICRC President Peter Maurer says he was “deeply distressed and shocked to see the impact of violence on the civilian population.”

Maurer indicates there may have been violations of international humanitarian law during the war.

“The law hasn’t been accurately and ambitiously implemented in this armed conflict,” he says.

“The Geneva Conventions have been designed to protect and assist people, and I cannot be satisfied… when after four weeks of armed conflict we see the amount of destruction and the amount of victims.”

But, in keeping with ICRC’s strict principles of neutrality, Maurer declines to blame either side, saying each and every incident will be investigated.

The organization will compile a confidential report and share recommendations with all sides “to ensure… this amount of victims” does not happen again, he tells a news conference in Jerusalem at the end of a three-day visit.

ICRC will also investigate the precise circumstances in which medical personnel and Palestinian Red Crescent colleagues were killed, he says.

“I’m moderately optimistic from the signs of goodwill I have encountered in all places to engage with the ICRC to make our assistance and protection more meaningful,” Maurer says.

Maurer met political leaders in Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

ICRC is determined to narrow the “enormous discrepancy” between the need and the capacity of aid organizations to protect and assist civilians in areas of conflict, Maurer says.

And it will immediately work to reestablish supplies of water, sanitation and electricity, as well as assisting the displaced and increasing medical assistance in Gaza, he says.

Hospitals in Gaza had been inundated with casualties, but they were well equipped to deal with current cases, provided the ceasefire continues, he says.

AFP

92% of Gazans want ceasefire — poll

Channel 2′s Ehud Yaari quotes an IDC Herzliya poll on Gazan attitudes toward Operation Protective Edge, according to which 25 percent of respondents believe Hamas won the conflict, 8% say Israel is the victor, 14% say it was a draw, and 46% say both sides lost.

An overwhelming 92% of participants say they want a long-term ceasefire, with 72% supporting a peace agreement with Israel. Still, the desire for quiet may not detract from support for Hamas, with 67% saying the group is not to blame for the destruction in the Gaza Strip.

Some 68% say they would prefer the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip over the option of rearming.

Ex-security adviser takes Hamas threat seriously

Former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror says Israel should take Hamas’s threat of escalation very seriously.

Speaking to Channel 2, Amidror says that whether the terror organization decides to resume fire as the ceasefire ends at 8 a.m. Friday will depend largely on what happens tonight as Israel responds to the Palestinian delegation’s demands in Cairo.

Europeans pressing for Gaza harbor development

A European idea to help end the devastating conflict in Gaza is gaining traction: Develop Gaza’s port to reopen the besieged territory to the rest of the world through a Cypriot port, with international monitors assuring that no weapons get through.

Across Europe, governments are warming to the proposal to give the 43-kilometer (27-mile) strip on Israel’s southern border such an economic lifeline. After all, Gaza was a thriving port in ancient times.

From Berlin to London to the European Union headquarters in Brussels, a blueprint for a post-war Gaza centers both on meeting Israeli security needs and on developing Gaza to improve living conditions there. The latter implies that borders with neighbors Israel and Egypt — and the sea — be as transparent as conditions allow.

“It’s very important that the blockage of Gaza is lifted so that there can be movement of necessary goods, materials,” says EU Commission spokesman Peter Stano. “That means all the blocked border crossings need to be opened so that Gaza can really develop.”

Palestinian fishermen sail to fish as others pull their fishnet at the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Palestinian fishermen sail to fish as others pull their fishnet at the Mediterranean Sea in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Germany and France have already proposed to re-activate the EU border mission in Rafah with Egypt but there is also an emerging consensus in Europe that the development of the Gaza port should be an integral part of the reconstruction effort, officials in several EU capitals say. They speak on condition of anonymity because of the precarious nature of the current ceasefire and the uncertainty of the peace process.

“If you want to take seriously the idea of reconstruction, that is one major idea to pursue,” Daniel Levy of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank says of developing Gaza’s port. “This gives Gaza a direct entry and access point to the world.”

As part of EU proposals, the international community should help build a Gaza seaport for goods and passengers, with international inspection points both in Gaza and in a transit harbor in Larnaca, Cyprus to make sure weapons do not get smuggled in, says a source with access to deliberations of European diplomats in the region.

The Cyprus government has said it could be used as “a repository” destined for Gaza. Germany said that a port for Gaza would certainly be welcome and make economic sense, even if such plans were premature at this stage. A British Parliamentary report on Wednesday recommended that the government “should also support the implementation of existing plans to open Gaza’s port.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted last week that “Gaza must become the window of Palestine to the Mediterranean and its port to the world.”

Even though it is still unclear if the current ceasefire will hold, Norway has already announced a donor conference for reconstruction, tentatively set for the beginning of September. Finding funds for the buildup of the port could be important.

Once, Gaza city was at the center of regional trade and travel, an important stop on the Incense Road of trade between the Mediterranean and the East from the 7th century BC. Until World War I, Gaza seaport was a main hub for import and export trade to southern Palestine and its hinterland, including Jordan and Iraq.

Since 1967, Israel has exercised full control of Gaza’s coastline and territorial waters, blocking ships from reaching the city. Gaza seaport remains the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping.

As part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Netherlands and France governments committed $42.8 million to the reconstruction of the Gaza seaport and to the training of port personnel. All construction was halted due to the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising against Israel in 2000. Two years later, the Israeli navy attacked the Palestinian naval police base and patrol boats in Gaza, causing extensive damage to the harbor.

Reopening the port would offer a breath of fresh air reconstruction funds alone could not buy, says Levy.

“Money is an issue, but is not the main issue. The main issue is getting stuff in and — ultimately — getting stuff out.”

AP

‘Disarm Gaza by force’ if rockets resume — minister

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warns: If Hamas renews fire, Israel will have no other choice but to go in and disarm Gaza by force, according to Channel 2.

Al-Jazeera airs footage of apparent cross-border tunnel

Al-Jazeera reported last night from a tunnel in the Gaza Strip, which correspondent Tamer Mishal says extends into Israeli territory.

“The high-quality tunnels of the resistance continue to be the secret behind its successful surprise attacks. This is one of the tunnels on the Gaza-Israel border. The Al-Qassam Brigades say that the tunnels remain operational, and that their hidden capabilities are even greater than seen so far,” he says, according to a translation by MEMRI.

“Above and below ground, the Palestinian resistance has prepared for the Israeli aggression. It demonstrated an ability to surprise the enemy and cause it pain. As the negotiations continue, the resistance says that it is prepared for all options and for all necessary sacrifices, in order to accomplish its demands and the demands of its people.”

A Hamas member on the scene says: “In light of the circumstances, we in the Al-Qassam Brigades have not received orders from our commanders to leave the battlefield. We are on high alert, and we will not leave this place until the oppressive enemy succumbs to the terms of the resistance, whether it likes it or not.”

Click here to watch the full report.

Senior Hamas leader found dead in Gaza rubble — report

The body of high-ranking Hamas official Ayman Taha, a former spokesman for the organization, is said to have been uncovered in Shejaiya, Ynet reports.

The report has not been confirmed.

Hamas official may have been executed — report

Reports emerge that Hamas member Ayman Taha was executed by the Hamas leadership for spying and corruption:

More details emerge on Hamas execution

Palestinian daily Al-Quds reports that Hamas official Ayman Taha was executed three days ago, following months of detention for allegedly maintaining contacts with intelligence services in Arab countries, and for involvement in shady financial dealings.

Taha was shot several times in the head and chest, and his body now lies in the Shifa hospital, the report says. Hamas initially barred the incident from publication, it writes, until today when it released the information.

Armed Palestinian arrested on Beit Shemesh bus

A Palestinian man carrying a knife is arrested on a bus in Beit Shemesh.

The bus driver had reported the suspicious passenger to the police, who subsequently stopped the bus and detained the Palestinian male.

According to Ynet, the man was residing in Israel illegally.

PM thanks Jews around the world for support

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pens a letter of thanks to Jewish communities around the world for their support since the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers on June 12.

He writes:

The Jewish people always comes together to face shared challenges. Today is no different. Over the past two months, beginning with the kidnapping and murder of our three teenagers, and continuing into Operation Protective Edge, the support of Jewish communities around the world has been a source of great strength for the people of Israel.

At the same time, we know that this has been a difficult period for Jews around the world, as many of you face increasingly virulent and sometimes violent manifestations of anti-Semitism.

On behalf of the people and State of Israel, I thank you for your defense of our just campaign to provide the sustained peace and security that all Israelis deserve. I ask that you continue to make your voices heard to counter the lies and libel directed against the Jewish state.

Open a port, or we’ll open fire Friday — Hamas

A Hamas spokesman says the terror group will renew fighting with Israel on Friday morning if it does not agree to establish a port in the coastal enclave, Channel 2 reports.

Earlier reports indicated that Israel is opposed to the measure, but the idea is rapidly gaining traction among leaders of European countries.

Palestinian-American attorney sues Kerry, Hagel over Israel aid

A Palestinian-American attorney is suing US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to halt military aid to Israel.

Akram Abusharar, who is licensed as an attorney in Michigan but practices in Anaheim, Calif., also is suing the US officials to deny Israeli military officers entry into the United States, according to the OC Weekly, an Orange County newspaper. He filed his lawsuit in Santa Ana, Calif., on Tuesday.

“Plaintiff and his family have suffered at the hands of the Israeli army over the years,” the complaint reads, according to the newspaper. “His brother was killed when he was 16 in 1988 by the Israeli army. His family of over 30 people was nearly killed in the explosion this past week. His father passed away as a result of the siege in Gaza because he could not obtain the proper medical treatment in April 2014. Many other homes in the area have been bombed and destroyed.”

Court officials in Orange County send a 60-day summons calling for Kerry and Hagel to reply to the complaint.

The United States supplies Israel with $3 billion in annual military aid, as well as funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system that proved successful in intercepting Hamas rockets fired from the Gaza Strip targeting Israel.

Abusharar specializes in immigration law.

JTA

PM said to ask US lawmakers for help with war crime charges

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly asks US lawmakers to help Israel avoid war crimes charges stemming from the Gaza conflict.

Netanyahu asked a delegation of visiting legislators to help keep Israel out of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Rep. Steven Israel (D-N.Y.) tells the New York Post in an interview Wednesday from Israel, the newspaper reports.

Palestinian Authority leaders met yesterday with officials from the court to discuss the process of joining.

The Palestinians and other world leaders have charged that Israel committed war crimes by firing on civilian areas of Gaza during its operation. Experts have suggested that Palestinians in Gaza also could be charged with war crimes for firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, most in civilian areas.

Netanyahu “wants the US to use all the tools that we have at our disposal to, number one, make sure the world knows that war crimes were not committed by Israel, they were committed by Hamas. And that Israel should not be held to a double standard,” Israel the congressman tells the Post.

JTA

Palestinians accuse Israel of ‘stalling’ in truce talks

Palestinian officials accuse Israel of stalling truce talks as a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza nears its end, saying they have not decided whether to extend it or resume fighting.

Egyptian mediators in Cairo are expected to meet with a Palestinian delegation later on Thursday to relay Israel’s terms, with one Palestinian official saying the Israelis are “procrastinating.”

Israel indicated on Wednesday it would be willing to extend the ceasefire, which expires at 8 a.m. on Friday.

But a Palestinian official in Cairo says the Israeli proposal amounted to just a ceasefire while refusing key Palestinian demands, which include an end to Gaza’s blockade and the release of prisoners.

“The Israeli delegation is proposing extending the ceasefire while refusing a number of the Palestinian demands,” says the official.

Another Palestinian official accuses the delegation of “wanting to procrastinate and stall the negotiations.”

“As of now there is no official stance on renewing the truce or resuming the fighting,” says Fawzi Barhoum.

Another Palestinian official close to the talks in Cairo says the factions think the talks could fail and “they will resume fighting tomorrow.”

Egypt, however, is exerting “tremendous pressure to achieve progress in the talks,” says a Palestinian official in Cairo.

AFP

UN urges Gaza truce extension so aid can enter

The UN urges an extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas to let humanitarian aid reach Gaza, hours before a three-day ceasefire is due to end.

“The 72-hour-ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions that entered into force on 5 August must continue to hold,” UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories James Rawley says in a statement.

“We need to rapidly scale-up our response to address the needs of the people in Gaza now and in the longer-term, but to do that, we need a sustained halt to the violence,” Rawley says in a statement.

AFP

‘Hamas fighters are ready to return to battle’

A spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, warns of renewed fighting with Israel if talks in Cairo to extend a 72-truce in Gaza collapses.

“We appeal to the Palestinian delegation to not accept a ceasefire, unless it satisfies the demands of our people,” a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida says in a televised address, adding that Hamas fighters are “ready to return to battle.”

AFP

Op strengthens right-wing parties — poll

A Channel 2 poll shows that Operation Protective Edge has strengthened Israel’s right-wing parties.

The results of a survey of 500 people indicate that if elections were to be held today, Netanyahu’s Likud party would receive 23 seats (compared to the 20 it currently has), Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu would receive 12 (up from its current 11), and Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party would garner 15 seats (it presently holds 12).

Meanwhile, the centrist Yesh Atid party, headed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, would drop dramatically from its current 19 seats to 10, and the Sephardic, ultra-Orthodox Shas party would lose three seats (8). The center-left Labor party sees a small decrease, going from 15 to 14 seats.

Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party, the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, and the Arab parties would all receive the same number of seats they currently hold.

Nearly all Gaza rockets self-made — IDF

The vast majority of rockets fired by Hamas at Israel over the past month were made in Gaza using civilian materials, a senior Israeli military official says.

“The vast majority of those launched were homemade, only a small minority were Fajr 5 made by Iran,” the official tells reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Gaza manufacturers of these rockets used “water pipes” of different diameters for the bodies of the rockets, filling them with explosives made from materials such as products used in agriculture, the official says.

Hamas had adapted to manufacturing its own weapons after Egypt had cracked down on smuggling through tunnels in the Rafah area into the Palestinian enclave, the official says.

Men from outside Gaza had in the past taught locals how to build the weapons, while some Gazans went to other countries in the region, including Syria and Iran, to acquire knowledge in the field, the Israeli official says, estimating some 150 people in Gaza were directly involved in producing projectiles.

AFP

31% of Israelis believe odds for peace up after op — poll

The Channel 2 survey shows that while 50% of the Israeli respondents believe the likelihood of a future peace accord did not change in light of the Gaza campaign, 31% say the chances have actually increased.

I’m not sure the battle is over, PM tells US TV

Israel has “nothing against the people of Gaza” and wants to help them deal with the “tyranny” of Hamas rule, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells Fox News on Thursday.

“I’m not sure the battle is over,” he tells the cable network’s “Hannity” program.

“I think we’ve degraded their (Hamas) capabilities significantly,” he says, adding there may still remain tunnels dug by Hamas under the Gaza-Israel border that have yet to be found.

“It really depends on whether they want to continue this battle. I think we have to find a peaceful solution, if we can,” he adds.

He adds: “We have nothing against the people of Gaza. In fact, we want to help the people of Gaza who are suffering under this terror tyranny.”

On the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties that has provoked international condemnation, Netanyahu describes such deaths as inevitable in the heat of battle.

“Those casualties are cruel, but they’re unintentional,” he says.

“Israel acts that way. It attacks combatants and accidentally kills non-combatants — but in the case of the terrorists, it’s the exact opposite.”

Netanyahu also warns Americans that “the greatest danger we face” is terrorist groups or nations, backed by Iran, equipped with nuclear-tipped rockets and missiles.

“Look at the danger we face when they have rockets and missiles,” he says.

“Now, imagine what kind of danger we’d have if they could put a nuclear warhead on top of these missiles. That’s the danger that is coming from Iran.”

AFP

4 Gaza militants killed in blast

Four Palestinian militants are killed while handling explosives in Gaza, Palestinian media reports.

The explosion, which takes place east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, is described by Israeli media as a “work accident,” a euphemism for when militants accidentally set off explosives.

Palestinian media don’t immediately say which organization the men belonged to.

Hamas announces execution of ‘collaborators’

Hamas announces that it executed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who collaborated with Israel. The terror group does not state how many people were executed.

Earlier, Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported that Hamas official Ayman Taha was executed three days ago, following months of detention for allegedly maintaining contacts with intelligence services in Arab countries, and for involvement in shady financial dealings.

Taha was shot several times in the head and chest, and his body now lies in the Shifa hospital, the report says. Hamas initially barred the incident from publication, it writes, until today when it released the information.

US presses Israel to free teen citizen

The United States renews calls on Israel to free a 15-year-old US citizen of Palestinian heritage who has been held for five weeks for alleged rock-throwing.

A US consular officer on July 31 visited Mohammed Abu Nie, who has dual American and Palestinian citizenship and was arrested in East Jerusalem on July 3, the State Department says.

“This 15-year old has now been held for five weeks in Israeli custody, and (we) are gravely concerned over the prolonged detention of this US citizen and child,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf tells reporters.

The State Department says that the boy was charged with rock-throwing, carrying a knife and leading a protest amid the outbreak of tension in the region.

In an earlier public statement, the United States voiced concern that the teenager has been mistreated in custody.

- AFP