The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Thursday, August 14, the 38th day of Operation Protective Edge. As a 72-hour truce ran down late Wednesday, the sides agreed to a further 5 days of calm, but a short burst or renewed fighting occurred after rocket fire led to IDF air strikes. Through Thursday, however, the truce appeared to be holding. (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 38 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: As a 72-hour truce wound down late Wednesday, rocket fire on Israel resumed. Hamas denied that it was responsible. And Egypt and the Palestinians announced a new, five-day truce, during which negotiations on a long-term ceasefire would continue. Israel issued no official comment.

Said Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet: “What, are we suckers? We’re going now to bite our nails for another five days?”

Channel 2’s diplomatic reporter Udi Segal says “there is grumbling” among senior Israeli politicians about what’s going on.

Parties agree to extend Gaza truce — Egypt official

Earlier Wednesday night, an Egyptian official told AFP that the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations had agreed to extend the truce for another 72 hours.

That statement came some 40 minutes before the 72-hour ceasefire was set to expire.

Palestinian delegation head confirms five-day truce

The head of the Palestinian delegation, Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed, told AFP shortly before midnight: “We have agreed to give more time for the negotiations.”

The lull will be extended by five days, he said.

He said the Palestinian delegation would return Thursday to Ramallah to consult with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas says it didn’t fire rockets

After at least three rockets were fired at Israel as the truce extension was being finalized, Hamas denied that its forces were responsible for the launches.

A rocket is fired from Gaza City towards Israel, Saturday, August 9, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Dusan Vranic)

A rocket is fired from Gaza City towards Israel, Saturday, August 9, 2014. (photo credit: AP/Dusan Vranic)

Obama-Netanyahu speak about ceasefire, White House confirms

White House officials confirmed Wednesday evening that President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone earlier in the day to discuss the ceasefire talks underway in Cairo. According to the White House, Obama “reaffirmed the United States’ support for Egypt’s mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel’s security and addresses Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.”

US President Barack Obama during a news conference August 6, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

US President Barack Obama during a news conference August 6, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The US has maintained a low profile during the Cairo talks, but State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday that the US delegation to the talks was just now beginning to discuss long-term plans for Gazan reconstruction.

— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

PM orders IDF to hit back for rocket fire

Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to hit back at Hamas for the late night rocket fire that breached the last, 72-hour truce, Channel 2 now reports.

It quotes a government source making this “surprising announcement” and says it is not clear when or where Israel will hit back.

It’s also not clear whether this response will be limited, or whether it means Israel is not accepting the new, five-day truce announced by Egypt and the Palestinians a few minutes ago.

Netanyahu says UN war crimes probe should look elsewhere

Earlier Wednesday Netanyahu declared that the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which this week appointed a commission to investigate Israel’s conduct during Operation Protective Edge, lends legitimacy to such terror groups as the Islamic State and Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (screen capture, Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks on Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (screen capture, Prime Minister’s Office)

Netanyahu said the commission should look elsewhere, not Israel, for war crimes, and intimated that Israel would not cooperate with its members, although he did not explicitly rule out such cooperation.

Most ministers oppose any dealings with the UN team, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said earlier Wednesday that Israel should not cooperate with the probe.

Read Raphael Ahren’s full story here.

5 days are enough time to reach deal, Hamas says

“Five days are a long enough time period for us to see a result and for a respectable deal for the Palestinian people,” Hamas official and negotiation team member Izzat al-Rishq says, according to Ynet.

Al-Rishq says the repeated extension of the truce in Gaza is “not optimal, but we’re talking about tough negotiations, with Israel deceiving and attempting to shirk responsibility.”

Israel’s negotiators meeting with Netanyahu

Channel 2 says Israel’s delegation from Cairo is meeting right now with Netanyahu and may be weighing how to respond to the five-day truce announcement.

“I guess we’ll find out in the next few hours” how Israel is going to respond, the report says.

The Channel 2 report notes that Netanyahu gave the order to hit back for Hamas’s breach of the last truce before the new truce was announced.

Confused? Aren’t we all.

“This is ridiculous,” Channel 2’s military reporter Roni Daniel pronounced a few minutes ago. “Mighty Israel” reduced to this, he moaned.

Israel Railways halts Sderot trains after rockets fired

In light of renewed rocket-fire from Gaza this evening, Israel Railways have closed the line to Sderot.

Trains from Sderot northward will begin at Ashkelon until further announcement.

IDF strikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks

The IDF is striking several targets in the northern Gaza Strip and Gaza City, in response to five rockets launched from Gaza at Israel earlier.

The rockets and the Israeli response come despite a reported agreement by both sides to extend a truce which began on Monday — and which was set to end 50 minutes ago — by another five days.

Hamas said earlier it was not responsible for the rockets, though Israel views the group as responsible for any attacks emanating from the territory.

Rocket sirens heard again in Gaza periphery

IDF says it will respond to ‘any threat’ to Israel

The Israeli military says it remains alert and will respond “to any threat.”

The IDF “maintains a high level of preparedness with both defensive capabilities, and striking capabilities in order to address a renewed aggression and will immediately respond to any threat to Israel,” a spokeswoman says.

An official at the Gaza interior ministry says the IDF carried out four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes into the new truce.

The army says it was targeting “terror sites across the Gaza Strip” in response to rocket fire.

–AFP

Rocket hits open area, causing no casualties

A rocket fired earlier from Gaza exploded in an open area in the Sdot Negev region, officials say.

There were no casualties or damage.

US victims of Hamas terror attacks go after bank

Some 140 American victims of two dozen terror attacks in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank during a Palestinian uprising from 2001 to 2004 want the Jordan-based Arab Bank to pay a price as well.

A civil trial that’s set to begin Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn will see the victims try to convince a jury that the bank helped Hamas finance a “death and dismemberment benefit plan” for martyrs — a claim that survived numerous legal challenges before being allowed to go forward amid a backdrop of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs call it the first terrorism financing case to go to trial in the United States and say it could result in the bank paying unspecified damages. Arab Bank, which has hundreds of branches around the world, including in New York and in the Palestinian territories, has denied it knew it was doing business with terrorists when it processed electronic transfers.

–AP

Hamas says Israel in ‘gross breach’ of truce

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accuses Israel of breaking the truce tonight, after rocket-fire from Gaza elicited Israeli air strikes in the territory.

Barhoum accuses Israel of a “gross breach of the truce,” Ynet reports. “Israel will suffer the consequences.”

Ministers fume for getting ceasefire updates ‘from Hamas’

Israeli ministers are outraged over the lack of updates from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Gaza ceasefire talks, Ynet reports, with one source saying ministers were getting their updates “from Hamas.”

According to the report, ministers were not officially updated on the extension of the truce in Gaza until after it had been broken by rocket-fire and Israel decided to respond.

Jewish groups accuse UN chief of being one-sided

Leaders of major Jewish organizations accuse UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of being one-sided in his handling of the crisis in Gaza.

A delegation of 11 Jewish organizations have met with the UN chief to express their concerns, presenting a letter that lists what they say were 19 violations of international law by Hamas that have gone ignored, says Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group with an office in New York.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at the David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem, July 23, 2014. (Photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flash90)

US Secretary of State John Kerry, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at the David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem, July 23, 2014. (Photo credit: Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv/Flash90)

Chief among their demands was a need for the UN to investigate rocket attacks by Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, on Israel’s civilian population, and Hamas’s use of UN schools. Rockets were found in three empty UN schools during the conflict.

“We are deeply frustrated with the one-sided narrative that is being presented by the United Nations,” Hier says, following the near-90 minute meeting with Ban.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric says: “The secretary-general reiterated that he fully understands Israel’s legitimate security concerns but also stressed the need to show restraint in their actions in Gaza so as to avoid civilian casualties.”

–AP

3 hours in, new truce appears to be holding

The truce between Israel and Gaza militants appears to be holding, after a fairly shaky start.

It has been over 2 hours since the IDF and Gaza terrorists traded attacks. The IDF had carried out air strikes on several Gaza targets after rockets were fired into Israel before and after midnight, despite Palestinian factions in Gaza agreeing to extend the truce by five days.

Florence’s Jewish, Muslim reps appeal for interfaith dialogue

Representatives of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Florence, Italy, along with the city’s mayor, appeal for interfaith respect and dialogue at “this dramatic moment of Middle East conflict.”

The city’s chief rabbi, Joseph Levi, and Imam Izzedin Elzir met Tuesday with Mayor Dario Nardella, and the three issued a joint statement expressing their concern for “entire Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities” at risk today in the region.

“We pray to the Lord of all humanity to guide the religious leaders of our communities in the service of all humanity, staving off any form of hatred for others who are different from ourselves, any temptation to evoke and again manipulate ancient forms of anti-Semitism, anti-Christianity and Islamophobia.”

Read full story.

–JTA

IDF says earlier strikes targeted launch sites, weapons depots

The army says its airstrikes in Gaza earlier in the night, following rocket attacks from the territory, targeted rocket launching sites, weapons facilities and other sites related to terror activity.

Washington said to limit arms transfers to Israel

US officials tell the Wall Street Journal that a phone call between US President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday on the state of ceasefire negotiations in Cairo was “particularly combative,” as ties between the countries have soured over Gaza.

US President Barack Obama during a news conference August 6, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

US President Barack Obama during a news conference August 6, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

The paper reports that Washington has increased its control over arms transfers to Israel after the administration was shocked to discover in late July that the Pentagon was providing the Jewish state with ammunition for the war without its knowledge, just as officials were trying to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

“We were blindsided,” a diplomat says.

A transfer of a large batch of Hellfire missiles was also put on hold by the Pentagon.

An administration official notes on the sorry state of diplomatic ties between the nations: “The United States is their strongest friend. The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they’re manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world.”

52 arrested for East Jerusalem rioting

Fifty-two people have been arrested in East Jerusalem overnight on suspicion of taking part in riots in the area in recent days, the police say in a statement.

Meanwhile, the IDF arrests 20 people in the West Bank. They are being questioned by security forces.

The police and army have been carrying out large sweeps in both places over the last few days.

Over 600 people have been arrested in East Jerusalem over the last few weeks on suspicion of taking part in violent riots in the capital in early July, according to army figures.

No progress in talks despite truce — Hamas

Despite an agreement to extend a temporary truce with Israel by an additional 120 hours, a senior Hamas official in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, says no progress has been made in Egyptian-mediated talks for a permanent ceasefire.

Ynet quotes Marzouk as saying that additional rounds of negotiations will be necessary.

“You can’t say we’ve agreed on anything,” Marzouk reportedly says. “The disagreements are over the terminology Israel uses in every sentence in every clause of the agreement. What Israel gives with its right hand, it takes with its left hand.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister of the Palestinian national unity government, Rami Hamdallah, says in an interview with Arab media that the Palestinian Authority will agree to take responsibility for all Gaza border crossings and the airport Hamas wants built in the coastal enclave.

“I believe we have the ability to oversee the port and the airport,” Ynet quotes Hamdallah as saying. “The Palestinians must be granted their full right to rebuild an airport, because it was destroyed by Israel.”

He reportedly adds that the Oslo Accords stipulate that the Palestinians can build an airport in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians prepare to haul Israel before ICC

The Palestinian Authority is preparing to haul Israel before the International Criminal Court in The Hague for suspected war crimes, Palestinian unity government prime minister Rami Hamdallah says in an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Hamdallah says the Palestinians are preparing their appeal to the ICC to open an investigation against Israel.

On Saturday, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki indicated his government would soon try to haul Israelis to The Hague for alleged war crimes.

“We will go to the ICJ, and put our signature on it. Very soon we will be a (sovereign) state. That is enough for the court to start an investigation,” Malki, on a visit to Bogota, told AFP.

— AFP contributed to this report.

New Gaza truce holds after shaky start

Israel and Gaza are holding their fire this morning after a new truce gets off to a shaky start, with night-time Palestinian rocket fire followed by Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli army says that there has been no fighting for several hours, since Israeli air raids into Gaza finished around 3 a.m.

Palestinians had fired two rockets into southern Israel after midnight, after a five-day ceasefire extension was to have taken effect.

An army spokeswoman says that aircraft hit rocket-launching sites, weapons caches and “centers of terrorist activity,” but cannot give a precise number.

An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reports four airstrikes over open ground about 30 minutes after an existing 72-hour truce was extended at midnight for five days.

— AFP

Palestinian negotiator reports agreement ‘on many points’

Despite claims by a senior Hamas official in Cairo that Israel and the Palestinian factions had not been able to agree on any issue in Egyptian-mediated talks, Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed says there is agreement between the two sides “on many points.”

Al-Ahmed, also in Cairo, says agreements have been reached regarding the key Palestinian demand to end the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

He adds that more time is needed to discuss “some” remaining disputes with Israel over a long-term truce.

Earlier, a senior Hamas official in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said no progress has been made in the talks.

— AFP contributed to this report.

Palestinians give Ferguson tear gas advice

Palestinian Twitter users give advice to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri on how to cope with tear gas and its effects, while others draw parallels between the St. Louis suburbs and the Gaza Strip.

“I remember when I used to get teargassed, I used to just remind myself this pain will pass as to not collapse. It helps,” tweets @MariamBarghouti, a Palestinian woman from Ramallah who studies at Birzeit University. “Always make sure to run against the wind/to keep calm when you’re teargassed, the pain will pass, don’t rub your eyes!”

“And of course DON’T wash your eyes with water,” adds @Rajaiabukhalil, a doctor from East Jerusalem who co-founded Physicians for Palestine.

Protests in Ferguson, rocked by racial unrest since a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager to death, turned violent yesterday, with some people lobbing Molotov cocktails and other objects at police who responded with smoke bombs and tear gas to disperse the crowd — evoking the riot dispersal methods used by Israeli security forces.

 — The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We learned of truce from Hamas, ministers say

Members of the security cabinet say they learned of the extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas by an additional five days from Palestinian press statements, not from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli news site Walla quotes the ministers as saying Netanyahu informed them of the new five-day truce only about an hour after the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo announced it in a press conference.

A senior Israeli official tells Walla that a “situation in which senior ministers and millions of citizens are kept updated on the fate of the ceasefire by Hamas briefings is untenable.”

Hamas request for aid ‘not serious’ — Hezbollah

Hamas was “not serious in its call on Hezbollah for assistance in the Palestinian Gaza Strip,” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah says in an interview with the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, excerpts from which were released yesterday.

While the actual meaning of Nasrallah’s words can’t be gleaned from the few excerpts that have been released (the full interview will be published today and tomorrow), they may indicate that the Shiite Hezbollah, which has been fighting Sunni Islamists alongside forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, harbors some criticism toward Hamas, which has called on Hezbollah to open a new northern front against Israel amid the fighting to the south in the Gaza Strip.

An image grab from Hezbollah's al-Manar TV shows Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslim movement Hezbollah, giving a televised address from an undisclosed location on March 29, 2014 in Lebanon. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/AL-MANAR)

An image grab from Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV shows Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s Shi’ite Muslim movement Hezbollah, giving a televised address from an undisclosed location on March 29, 2014 in Lebanon. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/AL-MANAR)

Also in the interview, Nasrallah vows that his organization’s involvement in Syria will not affect its presumably violent plans for Israel.

“What we have prepared for Israel was not affected by our actions in Syria,” he says.

Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stated that there are “no red lines” in the “security war” with Israel, reported al-Akhbar newspaper.

He also vows to continue “defending” Lebanon’s south and its border with Syria, indicating that Hezbollah’s paramilitary “resistance” activities will continue alongside its political ones.

Despite truce, sirens sound in southern Israel

Despite a temporary truce between Israel and Gazan terrorists that was renewed for five days at midnight last night, sirens sound in a number of regions in southern Israel, indicating incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

The sirens sound in the Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon and Gaza periphery regions.

Rocket explodes in Eshkol region

After sirens sound in several regions in southern Israel, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip explodes in an open area in the Eshkol region, causing no casualties or damage.

The rocket hits Israel during a five-day truce.

Malaysia teen’s Facebook ‘like’ prompts police probe

A Malaysian teenager is being investigated by police for sedition after “liking” a pro-Israel Facebook post, sparking outrage over perceived growing intolerance in the Muslim-majority country.

The 17-year-old student in the northern state of Penang had “liked” a post that declared “I love Israel” and featured a picture of the Jewish state’s flag, Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi is quoted as saying by Malaysian media.

Abdul Rahim reportedly says a sedition probe is under way and that the student claims to have accidentally clicked “like.” Police also are investigating death threats against the student.

Sedition can result in three years in jail in Malaysia. The student, who has been questioned by police, has deactivated his Facebook account. He has not been publicly identified.

Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

— AFP

Eshkol siren may have been false alarm

The siren heard over the Eshkol region earlier this morning may have been a false alarm, Israel Radio reports citing the IDF, contradicting a statement by police that a rocket fell in the region.

Police said earlier today that a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit an open area in Eshkol.

Security cabinet to mull ceasefire conditions

The security cabinet will convene at 5 p.m. at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and the ongoing negotiations for a permanent ceasefire, Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid reports.

Channel 2’s diplomatic correspondent, Udi Segal, says the ministers will present their conditions for a ceasefire to the cabinet. He says Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid are likely to push for strengthening Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman are likely to demand strict control over funds transferred to the Gaza Strip.

Earlier today, cabinet ministers complained that they had heard of the renewal of the temporary truce between Israel and various Palestinian factions from Hamas press statements rather than from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police confirm Eshkol siren was false alarm

After police say a rocket hit an open area in the Eshkol region during the just-started five-day truce, a police spokeswoman confirms to The Times of Israel that the siren heard over the southern region was a false alarm and that no rocket was launched toward it.

Negev District Police spokeswoman Nava Tabo says reports of a hit were “a mistake,” adding that the police will issue a correction.

Hagel talks Gaza with Ya’alon

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon about efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip, with the two agreeing to continue to cooperate on “the broad range of security issues facing the United States and Israel.”

Hagel and Ya'alon at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv in May (photo credit: Ariel Hermony/ Ministry of Defense)

Hagel and Ya’alon at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv in May (photo credit: Ariel Hermony/ Ministry of Defense)

According to a statement by the US Department of Defense, Ya’alon updated Hagel on the temporary Gaza truce that was renewed for five days at midnight, thanking him for the additional funds allocated by Washington to boost the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Hagel, for his part, “reiterated his support for Egypt’s mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel’s security and addresses Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.”

National service at B’Tselem canceled

National service at the B’Tselem rights group has been canceled amid the NGO’s criticism of the IDF and Israel.

Israeli media report that Sar-Shalom Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, sent B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad a strongly worded letter in which he announced that national service in the organization would no longer be permitted.

Head of the National Service Administration, Sar-Shalom Jerby Is seen during a National Service convention in Jerusalem. June 05, 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90)

Head of the National Service Administration, Sar-Shalom Jerby (left) Is seen during a National Service convention in Jerusalem. June 05, 2012 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/FLASH90)

Jerby writes that “in light of the organization’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad, I have decided to revoke your status as an operational body permitted to accept national service volunteers.”

He says the decision was made “during a period in which the State of Israel is coping with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens, and is conducting an extensive operation to remove the threat over all the residents of Israel.”

‘Southerners can’t accept temporary truces’

Residents of southern Israel can’t accept temporary ceasefires that don’t allow a “real” return to normal life, Sdot Negev council chairman Tamir Idan says.

Idan tells Israel Radio that the people of southern Israel still live in a state of emergency, as they have for over a month, which prevents their lives from returning to normal.

He also says the uncertain situation is hampering the council’s efforts to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Don’t stop sending to Israel, ADL tells US mail

Amid reports that local post offices in the United States are refusing to accept mail for delivery in Israel due to the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urges US Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe to take “prompt action” to ensure offices in all 50 states accept and process mail destined for Israel.

The ADL says it has fielded complaints in recent days from customers in Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey, who were told the US Postal Service was not currently accepting mail for delivery in Israel.

Time to sort the packages (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

Mail is sorted in Israel (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash 90)

“The postal employees have told these individuals that current USPS policy says that mail to Israel cannot be accepted because of the current crisis,” says ADL director Abraham Foxman.

“Only once employees sought clarification from supervisors in Washington did these post offices accept packages and letters to Israel.”

In its letter to Donahoe, the ADL suggests the Postal Service employees may have misunderstood a temporary suspension of mail delivery to Israel during the 36-hour flight ban in July as being permanent.

Hamas operative arrested near Bethlehem

Israeli security forces arrest a Hamas operative in the Bethlehem area, in the West Bank.

The man is arrested by troops from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan special forces unit in the village of Beit Ummar, located northwest of Hebron.

The man has been taken for questioning by security forces, the IDF says.

Malaysian student not being probed — police

A 17-year-old Malaysian high school student is not under investigation for sedition after “liking” a pro-Israel Facebook page, Seberang Perai police chief Shafien Mamat says.

Shafien tells the Malaysian Rakyat Post that it is the incident — which culminated in the student receving threats from individuals at his school, prompting him to lodge a complaint with police — which is under investigation, not the student himself.

He adds that after taking statements from five individuals, including the pupil and teachers, police believe a misunderstanding was the main cause of the incident.

“We hope to conclude our investigations by this week and hand over the report to the Deputy Public Prosecutor’s office to be assessed,” Shafien says.

Earlier, Malaysian media reported that the teenager was being investigated by Malaysian police for sedition, sparking outrage over perceived growing intolerance in the Muslim-majority country.

The 17-year-old student in the northern state of Penang had “liked” a page that declared “I love Israel” and featured a picture of the Jewish state’s flag, Penang police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi was quoted as saying by Malaysian media.

Abdul Rahim reportedly said a sedition probe was under way and that the student claimed to have accidentally clicked “like.”

Sedition can result in three years in jail in Malaysia, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

— AFP contributed to this report.

Long-neglected Gaza heritage wilts in war

The Gaza Strip, a narrow sliver of territory tucked into the eastern Mediterranean between Egypt and Israel has been home to settled communities since at least 3,300 BC, historians say, governed by the Caananites, Pharoahs, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century.

It was ruled by the Mamluk dynasty in the 13th century, and three centuries later joined the Ottoman Empire, which held sway until the British took the area in 1917.

But Gaza has relatively little to show for its history.

Centuries of conquest and conflict, and rapid population growth since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, have hit the enclave’s cultural heritage badly. Squat apartment blocks built from cinder blocks line many of the city’s streets.

A Palestinian woman and a child walk past the destroyed Omari mosque on August 12, 2014 in Jabaliya, northern Gaza Strip. (photo credit:  AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

A Palestinian woman and a child walk past the destroyed Omari mosque on August 12, 2014 in Jabaliya, northern Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT)

“It’s not a priority for anyone,” says Yasmeen al-Khoudary, who helps curate a private museum set up by her engineer father Jawdat.

“When you think of Gaza you never think of history, or ancient Gaza or archaeology, you always think food, medicine, refugee camps, Hamas.”

Israeli authorities restrict the entry to Gaza of some key construction materials, including cement and steel, which they say Hamas could use to build attack tunnels, and so renovations look difficult.

But in the Darraj neighborhood, which is home to some of Gaza’s oldest buildings, sites such as the Grand Omari Mosque and the Church of Saint Porphyrius still stand, both of them in good condition.

The Hamam al-Samara, Gaza’s only remaining Turkish bath, has served the residents of Darraj for more than 1,000 years, and has more recently become a tourist attraction for the few who visit.

— AFP

Read the full story here.

Russell Brand campaigns for Israel boycott

British comedian and actor has added his voice to those calling for a boycott of Israel in the wake of its month-long Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip — but has gone a step further, urging banks and pension funds to sever investment ties with Israel and introducing an online campaign to pressure top firms to withdraw their investments in projects that “finance illegal settlements.”

In the latest episode of his online show “The Trews,” Brand singles out UK bank Barclays — albeit with a pinch of humor — for managing the portfolios of Elbit, an Israeli defense electronics company that, in Brand’s words, “make the drones that bomb Gaza.”

Accusing Barclays of “scurrilous financial duplicity,” Brand mocks a “lovely, affable” ad by the bank advertising a free service to help elderly customers use the internet, which he says “sneakily” masks the somewhat less affable reality of the bank’s investments in Israeli drones “to bomb dispossessed people in the Middle East.”

He then introduces a petition on online campaigning site Avaaz — which has gained over 1,666,000 signatures so far — to “aggravate” Barclays “and several other companies to withdraw their financial involvement with companies that support and facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza.”

Palestinians blast ‘terrible’ Israeli truce proposal

Amid a five-day extension of a temporary Egyptian-mediated truce between Israel and various Palestinian sanctions, the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo calls an Israeli proposal for a permanent agreement “terrible,” Elhanan Miller reports.

Speaking to Lebanese news channel Al-Mayadeen earlier today, unnamed Palestinian sources involved in the negotiations say that the proposal conditions the expansion of activity in Israel’s border crossings with the Gaza Strip on a detailed agreement with the Palestinian Authority, not Hamas, and refuses to provide a timetable for their opening. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is not mentioned in the Israeli paper at all, nor are the payment of Hamas employee salaries — held up by Arab Bank, ostensibly due to Israeli and American pressure — and the abolition of the 300 meter (984 foot) no-go zone adjacent to the perimeter fence, which the IDF prohibits Palestinians from entering.

Israel, the sources say, has only agreed to “a gradual removal of the ban as part of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement.”

Israel also rejects the Palestinian demand to expand the permitted fishing zone to 12 miles. The establishment of a seaport and an airport, as well as the release of Palestinian prisoners, are issues deemed by Israel “secondary” and postponed to a later stage, the sources say.

Read the full story here.

Palestinian fishermen arrive back from fishing in the port of Gaza City on August 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and Hamas went into effect. (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinian fishermen arrive back from fishing in the port of Gaza City on August 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and Hamas went into effect. (photo credit: AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

Israel confirms US suspended missile shipment

A senior Israeli official has confirmed to Israeli media that the US suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza.

The decision to hold off on the transfer was most likely on grounds of increased diplomatic tension, the official says, corroborating a Wall Street Journal report earlier in the day that claimed the White House and State Department had been angered by a transfer of arms to Israel and had ordered greater oversight into future sales.

Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY Wikipedia)

Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY Wikipedia)

The report claimed that US-Israeli tensions are at a record high, with US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to hold a “particularly combative phone call on Wednesday” and officials on both sides resorting to name-calling.

The accounts sparked an internal debate between Israeli politicians, while others, such as former US ambassador Michael Oren, attempted to patch up the divide.

“It’s true that occasionally there are disagreements, but it’s important to keep the disputes behind the scenes and not air the dirty laundry. The relations between the president and prime minister are critical, and it’s best to avoid harming the ties,” he said.

— Marissa Newman

Nasrallah speaks of his love of soccer

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, is rarely seen in public and known mostly for the group’s military exploits — but apparently, he’s also a football fan.

In an interview published by Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper today, Nasrallah speaks at length about Israel, Syria and the Palestinians, but also reveals a few personal tidbits, including his longtime love for the beautiful game.

“I love football, and I used to play it with friends,” he tells the newspaper, which is close to his Hezbollah movement.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, battles for the ball with Germany's Mats Hummels during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, left, battles for the ball with Germany’s Mats Hummels during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (photo credit: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

In the past, he tells the daily, he used to follow football “for fun and as a change of pace.”

“I supported Brazil most of the time, and sometimes Argentina, particularly during (Diego) Maradona’s time. I liked the way he played.”

Nasrallah says he didn’t watch much of this year’s World Cup, which swept up most of Lebanon in football fever, because of the conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Gaza.

But he says he had watched part of the final that pitted Germany against Argentina “for my son’s sake.”

“Since he was supporting Germany, I decided to support Argentina to create a bit of suspense,” he says. The decision proved to be a misstep: Germany bested Argentina with a single goal in the 113th minute of the final, securing its  fourth World Cup title.

— AFP

Most Americans disapprove of Obama’s actions on Israel

Most Americans disapprove of US President Barack Obama’s actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a new poll by Fox News.

The poll, which was conducted among a sample of 1,001 registered US voters by Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw & Company Research and whose results were published yesterday, reveals that Americans are more or less evenly divided on Obama’s presidency, with 42 percent saying they approve of it and 49% expressing their disapprove.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and President Barack Obama embrace at a ceremony welcoming the US leader at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and President Barack Obama embrace at a ceremony welcoming the US leader at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, on March 20, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

When it comes to specific controversial issues, such as immigration, foreign policy and actions on Israel, the disapproval rating appears to be higher. Fifty-seven percent say they disagree with Obama’s immigration policy, with 33% approving of it and 10% undecided; 54% say they disagree with the president’s Israel policy, with 30% approving and 15% undecided, while 53% disapprove of his foreign policy, with 35% approving and 11% undecided.

However, the Israel statistics show that approval for Obama’s actions on Israel has actually risen in the American public, up from 29% in July.

Reported rift with US ‘worrying trend’ — Lapid

Rumors of frayed relations between Washington and Jerusalem are a “worrying trend,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid, a security cabinet member, says.

Addressing a Wall Street Journal report saying that the US had suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza, Lapid says, “This is a worrying trend and we cannot allow it to continue. Our relations with the United States are a strategic asset that must be maintained.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid, speaks during a meeting of his Yesh Atid faction  at the Knesset, on June 30, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid at a meeting of his Yesh Atid faction, June 30, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

He adds that he spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate majority leader Harry Reid last week to thank them “for the emergency funds which they transferred to Israel” for the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“Sometimes we just need to say thank you and ensure that our important relations with the United States remain strong,” Lapid asserts.

Home Front Command okays large gatherings

The IDF Home Front Command gives new instructions to civilians in light of the 5-day ceasefire extension, allowing large gatherings across the entire country, Ynet reports. At the same time, it will leave public shelters open in communities up to 40 kilometers from the Gaza border.

These new instructions are valid until Monday at 6 p.m., six hours before the ceasefire is slated to end.

Tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the Belz Hassidic dynasty attend the wedding ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Rokach, the grandson of the Belz Rabbi, to Hana Batya Pener on May 22, 2013.(Photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Tens of thousands of Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the Belz Hassidic dynasty attend the wedding ceremony of Rabbi Shalom Rokach, the grandson of the Belz Rabbi, to Hana Batya Pener on May 22, 2013. (Photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Ex-defense minister denies crisis with US

There is no substantive crisis between Israel and the United States, asserts former defense minister Moshe Arens, as pundits and officials on both sides assess the reportedly sorry state of bilateral ties. And what about the shipment of Hellfire missiles, which Israel sought and which Washington suspended, in an apparent move to pressure Jerusalem over the Gaza operation? “It’ll arrive,” he tells The Times of Israel.

Raphael Ahren

Moshe Arens (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Moshe Arens (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Herzog says government has ‘lost its senses’

In the wake of reports about new tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog says that “the government of Israel has completely lost its senses politically,” Ynet reports.

“Every day another front against our friends in the world is opened.”

Labor Party Leader Isaac Herzog speaks during a plenum session on the peace process, Monday, April 7, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaks during a plenum session on the peace process, Monday, April 7, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

“We don’t have to agree with the US on every issue,” he continues. “There are essential matters that Israel has the full right to decide, and there are matters of style and protocol. This government is consistently failing in both of them.”

SA Jews file complaint against pol who called for ‘eye for an eye’

Turning to the police and the South African Human Rights Commission, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is initiating both criminal and civil charges against Tony Ehrenreich, Provincial Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions (Western Cape branch), for hate speech and incitement to violence against the Jewish community’s leadership.

Ehrenreich published a post on August 13 on his Facebook page accusing the SAJBD of being “complicit in the murder of the people in Gaza” and calling for attacks on them whenever a woman or child in Gaza was killed.

“The time has come to say very clearly that if a woman or child is killed in Gaza, then the Jewish board of deputies, who are complicit, will feel the wrath of the People of SA with the age old biblical teaching of an eye for an eye. The time has come for the conflict to be waged everywhere the Zionist supporters fund and condone the war killing machine of Israel.”

“Ehrenreich’s inflammatory post incites violence and hatred against the representative body for South African Jewry. What makes it even worse is the fact that he holds a leadership position within COSATU, South Africa’s largest trade union organisation. It also comes at a time of heightened tension over the Israel-Gaza conflict, thereby enflaming an already volatile situation,” says SAJBD Chairman Mary Kluk.

No PM comment on report of US arms suspension

Netanyahu’s office still has not responded to a Wall Street Journal report saying that the US had suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza.

Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY Wikipedia)

Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY Wikipedia)

The paper also reports that Washington has increased its control over arms transfers to Israel after the administration was shocked to discover in late July that the Pentagon was providing the Jewish state with ammunition for the war without the knowledge of the White House and State Department, just as officials were trying to bring about a cessation of hostilities.

Speaking to US media, PMO spokesman Mark Regev says that it is natural that weapons shipments are handled between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon, and that there are no allegations that Israel did anything wrong in this regard.

Cabinet to meet at 5:30

The security cabinet is set to meet soon to discuss the ceasefire extension finalized last night in Cairo.

40 Ukrainian teens in Israel for kibbutz camp

The Jewish Agency has brought 40 Jewish teenagers from Ukraine conflict zones to a special summer camp in Israel, at Kibbutz Kalia on the Dead Sea. The participants are between the ages of 14 and 17 from Donetsk and other violent areas of Ukraine.

The ZMAN.IL summer camp takes the campers around the country, and introduces them to Israeli culture and Jewish history.

One of the campers, a boy named Daniel who fled Donetsk with his parents and siblings, says, “I finally found peace and quiet in Israel.”

Also, the Jewish Agency is providing urgent aid to 400 Ukrainians who have been rescued and brought to Israel since May. Two thousand individuals have made aliyah this year from Ukraine through the end of July, primarily from southeastern Ukraine, compared to 600 during the same period in 2013.

 Jewish teenagers from embattled areas of Ukraine enjoy a Jewish Agency summer camp experience in Israel. (photo credit: Emanuel Shechter)

Jewish teenagers from embattled areas of Ukraine enjoy a Jewish Agency summer camp experience in Israel. (photo credit: Emanuel Shechter)

B’Tselem fires back at national service director

After national service at the B’Tselem rights group was canceled amid the NGO’s criticism of the IDF and Israel, the organization’s director calls for Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach, who’s responsible for national service, to take action against Sar-Shalom Jerby, the official who initiated the move.

“In a democracy,” writes B’Tselem director Hagai El-Ad, “clerks don’t have decisive authority in political arguments. Make Jerby’s authority clear to him, or replace him with a man or woman who is able to internalize the idea that democracy is a system in which public debates are held openly, and government employees remember their responsibilities to the public, and don’t use their jobs as a hatchet for advancing themselves politically.”

El-Ad calls Jerby “an administrative clerk” who “was confused and forgot his role.”

Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, had sent El-Ad a strongly worded letter in which he announced that national service in the organization would no longer be permitted.

Jerby writes that “in light of the organization’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad, I have decided to revoke your status as an operational body permitted to accept national service volunteers.”

He says the decision was made “during a period in which the State of Israel is coping with the threat of thousands of rockets and missiles on millions of its citizens, and is conducting an extensive operation to remove the threat over all the residents of Israel.”

Security cabinet convenes

Channel 2 reports that the ministers in the security cabinet meeting are presenting to Netanyahu what they want Israel to demand in the framework of a long-term ceasefire agreement.

Udi Segal adds that they are also discussing relations with the US in the wake of reports of new tensions.

Palestinians wanted 72-hr ceasefire

The Palestinian delegation pushed for a 72-hour truce during talks in Cairo this week, according to Channel 2, while Israel wanted a longer ceasefire. In the end, Egypt decided on the 5-day truce.

Bennett calls for end of negotiations on Gaza

Before entering the cabinet meeting this afternoon, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says Israel should “stop the inappropriate negotiations, and go to a one-sided move against Hamas, open the crossings to humanitarian goods to Gaza, and to respond with disproportionate strength to every instance of fire on southern communities,” Ynet reports.

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett speaks at the Israel Conference for Peace, which opened today at David Intercontinnental Hotel in Tel-Aviv, Tuesday July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett at the Israel Conference for Peace, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Hamas TV airs clip of missile production

Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV aired footage yesterday of M-75 rocket production in the Gaza Strip. The report says the clip was shot on August 7.

“Yaalon threatens us with a ground offensive,” says Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida in the video, according to a MEMRI translation. “We say to him: You are threatening us with something we are anticipating, you son of a Jew?

“The enemy should know that we have already compensated for the equipment and ammunition we lost in the war.”

“Your defeatist leadership claimed to have destroyed our rocket capability,” says a Hamas member. “However, despite the aggression, our production continues – from the workshop to the battlefield.”

New ad campaign against Schabas announced

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s organization, This World: The Values Network launches a full-page advertising campaign against the appointment of William Schabas to head the UN commission to investigate Israel’s operations in Gaza.

According to statement released by the organization, orders have been placed with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Guardian and the London Times in Britain, as well as online outlets.

The ad demands that the UN remove Schabas, and instead investigate the government of Syria, ISIS, and Hamas.

“Schabas remains a steadfast friend of Iran and its genocidal former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sponsoring conferences in Tehran with organizations tied to the fundamentalist, anti-Semitic regime in Iran that demands the annihilation of Israel,” reads the ad. “The UN’s appointment of Schabas is just the most recent symptom of the organization’s well-documented anti-Israel bias.

“The UN Gaza commission is a kangaroo court with the sole purpose of demonizing Israel,” it continues. “Schabas frequently says ‘Israel gets off light’ at the UN and claims that Hamas – the genocidal, anti-Semitic tyrant of Gaza, which uses Palestinian children as human shields – is not a terrorist organization at all. In fact, Schabas refuses to say whether he will investigate Hamas’ actions at all.”

A new ad from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s organization, This World: The Values Network, against the appointment of William Schabas at the head of the UN commission investigating Israeli conduct during the Gaza conflict (photo credit: This World)

A new ad from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s organization, This World: The Values Network, against the appointment of William Schabas at the head of the UN commission investigating Israeli conduct during the Gaza conflict (photo credit: This World)

Palestinians tweet support for Ferguson, MO

Al-Jazeera reports that Palestinians are tweeting messages of support for citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, where riots have broken out in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed black man by police over the weekend.

Some of the messages give tips on how to deal with tear gas.

Many users are seeking ways to implicate Israel in the police response to the demonstrations.

Hamas source reports breakthrough in Cairo talks

A Hamas official living abroad says that the organization agreed to the 5-day ceasefire extension yesterday because of a breakthrough in talks over a long-term truce, Ynet reports.

“The language that Egypt proposed over the last two days can lead directly to what we call a breakthrough and an answer to Palestinian demands,” he says.

Israelis gather in TA in solidarity with south

Israelis gather in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for a solidarity rally with residents of the south.

The organizers say it is not a political rally, but rather a demand for peace and quiet for communities on the Gaza border.

In addition to speeches from political leaders and residents from the south, a number of bands will play at the event.

Long-term truce based on 2012 deal under consideration

The long-term ceasefire under consideration during talks in Egypt is similar to the understandings agreed upon in 2012 after Operation Pillar of Defense, Channel 2 reports. There will be a ceasefire from both sides, the border crossing will be more open, and Hamas will receive money from the PA for unpaid salaries. The border access will involve Israeli and Egyptian supervision.

The report says it is Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader in Qatar, who has been central to the torpedoing of deals thus far. Israel’s negotiators are due back in Cairo only on Saturday night.

However, notes reporter Udi Segal, if Mahmoud Abbas gives money directly to Hamas, a terrorist organization, US law would require that all aid to the PA be cut off immediately. Abbas will thus have to transfer the money to clerks who work for the Hamas government, but are not themselves members of the organization’s political or military wings.

Channel 2 also indicates that the cabinet is being briefed on the progress in Cairo, and that a deal may indeed be in the offing.

Gaza journalists calling for direct talks with Israel

In what might be “trial balloon,” a number of pro-Hamas journalists in the Gaza Strip are calling for direct talks with Israel, Channel 2 reports.

Two boys walk past destroyed homes in the northern Gaza strip, near the border with Israel, Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Two boys walk past destroyed homes in the northern Gaza strip, near the border with Israel, Wednesday, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: Roberto Schmidt/AFP)

Netanyahu says Gaza op will not end until goals achieved

Netanyahu meets with the heads of regional councils on the Gaza border — Hof Ashkelon, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Sdot Negev — before the demonstration in Tel Aviv in solidarity with the south.

The PM promises that the fighting in Gaza will not end until Israel achieves its goals of restoring quiet and security to the south for an extended period, while seriously damaging the “terror infrastructure” in Gaza.

Netanyahu says Israel embarked on Operation Protective Edge after the rocket fire on the south renewed. “We responded with strength even to the steady drip of rockets,” he says.

He also notes that Israel hit 160 “terror targets” over the weekend when rockets were again fired at Israel.

Netanyahu emphasizes that the government approved the establishment of a student village in Sderot at the cost of NIS 50 million, and in 2015 and 2016 the government will invest NIS 417 million in improving the south’s home front defenses.

Alon Schuster, head of Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council, says that he feels there has been a change, and that Israel is not going to return to the pattern of rockets of the last 13 years. “If they don’t agree to this change,” he says, “then it may be that there will be a big war here, after which the situation will change.”

US confirms new approach to arms deliveries after Gaza op

The State Department confirms that the US has changed its approach to weapons deliveries to Israel as a result of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

“Due to the crisis in Gaza we took additional care and took steps to look harder at [munitions] deliveries to Israel,” says deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Read the full article here.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf (screen capture: Youtube)

Security cabinet meeting ends

The meeting of the security cabinet in Tel Aviv’s Kirya military headquarters ends. The ministers will reconvene tomorrow morning.

In TA, 10,000 call for end to rocket attacks

Around 10,000 Israelis pour into downtown Tel Aviv, calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all.

Organizers say the rally united people across Israel’s often bitter divides of left and right, as well as religious and secular Jewish communities.

Israelis voice solidarity with residents of the south during a rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, Thursday, August 14, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Israelis voice solidarity with residents of the south during a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, Thursday, August 14, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern town of Sderot, tells the rally there must be a solution — be it political or military — to what he calls 14 years of rocket attacks.

“I have full confidence in the government and in the army, but at the same time I ask as mayor of Sderot that they put an end to this situation once and for all,” Davidi says.

“Finish the job!” he says. “This is a universal principle. We want to live in peace,” he adds.

Police tell AFP that around 10,000 people attended the rally in Rabin Square.

Members of the crowd wave Israeli flags and hold up banners calling for peace with the Palestinians and others scrawled with the words: “Occupy Gaza now!”

“We all came here to send the message that rocket fire on the south is not only a problem for the south but a problem for the rest of the country,” says Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol regional council.

He thanks the military for launching the offensive.

“I hope they will transform the military victory into a political victory that will bring quiet to the whole country,” he says.

— AFP

Gazans voice some criticism of Hamas

AP reports:

“We do not want to be bombarded every two or three years. We want to lead a good life: Sleep well, drink well and eat well,” says Beit Lahiya resident Ziad Rizk, a 37-year-old father of two, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He stares at the damaged apartment building where he lived. His sofa and a blue baby carriage were perched precariously on a tilting concrete slab that was his floor.

It is impossible to say how widespread such discontent is among Gaza’s 1.8 million residents. Under Hamas rule, it’s rare and dangerous to share even as much as a hint of criticism of the government with outsiders.

Still, the men’s boldness in voicing their opinions could be a telling sign that some Gazans see Hamas as weakened.

Significantly, a Hamas rally last week attracted 2,000-3,000 people, a low number compared to its routinely massive rallies, particularly considering it was held at a time when the group is at war with Israel.

The men who spoke with the AP were all friends and neighbors who live in the Abraj al-Nada, or Al-Nada Towers, a collection of apartment buildings that was hit hard by Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling on July 17 in the northern Gaza district of Beit Lahiya.

 In this Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, Palestinian Ziad Rizk, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four poles next to one of the destroyed al-Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip.  (photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

In this Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 file photo, Palestinian Ziad Rizk, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four poles next to one of the destroyed al-Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Even as they shared their views with the AP, they hedged their opinions. They never, for example, expressed a desire to see Hamas removed from power or abandon armed struggle against Israel. They have no love for Israel, though older members of the community fondly remembered the days when they commuted to Israel for day jobs that put food on the table.

“I respect the resistance. The fighters may be spending the night out there in open space facing the enemy while I have the comfort and satisfaction of being with my family,” said Loay Kafarnah, a taxi driver who lost his apartment in the shelling.

“But we also want to live. How can we have a war every two or three years? Is that a life?” he said, sitting on rickety plastic garden chairs with a group of close friends and neighbors.

Visible not far away were green fields and trees across the border in Israel. An Israeli train sped by.

“Look at what they have,” the 27-year-old Kafarnah said. “Why can’t we live like that too?”

His friend, a school teacher who also lost his home, delivered a more pointed criticism of Hamas.

“We have put up with a great deal. They take us to war, fire rockets on Israel from outside our homes and invite destruction to our homes. Fine, but now what?” said the green-eyed teacher in his late 20s, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation.

“Does anyone in the government know what happened to us? Shouldn’t they come offer us help? Or a few comforting words?”

Rizk said he had hoped government officials would be there to take details from residents to offer assistance or future compensation. “But I have been wasting my time,” he said.

Ramadan Naufal said his family has moved from the house of one relative to another since the strikes on his home.

“They are fed up with us and I know it,” said the portly 46-year-old. So he buys groceries every day for his hosts “to cushion our intrusion.”

“This war was something else. No rock, tree or man has been spared,” he said, then adding the refrain said by many: “How can we cope with a war every couple of years?”

PA instructs imams to preach Israel boycott

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs instructs West Bank imams to give sermons on Friday urging a boycott of Israel products, Palestinian news outlet Wattan reports.

Senior cleric Sheikh Yusuf Adeis says that buying Israeli products supports the Israeli killing machine.

The imams are also instructed to give sermons about the importance of the al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, and the purported risks it faces from Israel.

Gaza op costs Israel NIS 15 million a day

Operation Protective Edge’s logistical demands cost Israel NIS 15 million ($4.3 million) per day, Israel Radio reports. The total stands at NIS 420 million ($121 million).

The figure does not include spare parts, ammunition, or compensation to reserves.

Armored vehicles and planes used up twice as much fuel as they did during the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.

A convoy of IDF tanks park at a deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 2, 2014, (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A convoy of IDF tanks park at a deployment area near the border with the Gaza Strip on August 2, 2014, (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

150 people packed in boxes in Gaza protest

One hundred and fifty men, women, and children squeeze into wooden boxes outside the British parliament buildings in Parliament Square, London, in a protest aimed at putting pressure on the UK government to help lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The square demonstration is organized by the British Oxfam charity and aims to exemplify the conditions in which that the people of Gaza are forced to live due to the blockade on the territory.

“Under the blockade, the entirety of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility,” Oxfam says in a statement. “This constitutes collective punishment and is illegal under international law.”

The protest also serves to launch a nationwide action campaign the charity is organizing to help with its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“The international community will be guilty of a dereliction of duty if it stands by and watches the blockade continue to impose further misery on Palestinians in Gaza,” says Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in Israel and the Palestinian territories. “Israel does have legitimate security concerns, but punishing everyone in Gaza will not achieve lasting peace and security for either Palestinians or Israelis.

“Enough is enough — the blockade must be lifted now.”

TA’s southern solidarity rally winds down

Over 15,000 people who attended a solidarity rally aimed at showing support for Israel’s rocket-ravaged southern communities start to head home as the event comes to a close.

The masses stream away from Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where the rally took place.

Thousands of Israelis gather at Rabin square in Tel Aviv to take part in a solidarity rally with residents in Southern Israel,  August 14, 2014. (photo credit: Amir Levy/Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis gather at Rabin square in Tel Aviv to take part in a solidarity rally with residents in Southern Israel, August 14, 2014. (photo credit: Amir Levy/Flash90)