The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Thursday, August 21, the 45th day of Operation Protective Edge. As the fate of Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif remained unknown, Israel confirmed Thursday that it killed three top Hamas commanders; Gazan terrorists continued heavy rocket fire into Israel, bringing the total since a truce was breached Tuesday to over 300. The cabinet okayed the call-up of 10,000 reserve soldiers, even as the US and others attempted to get ceasefire efforts back on track. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to hit back “seven times as hard” at Hamas attacks, and said all military options were open. (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 45 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: Some 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel since Hamas breached a truce on Tuesday afternoon. Israel has pounded Hamas targets in Gaza, including bombing the home in Gaza City where Hamas terror chief Mohammad Deif and his family were believed to be late on Tuesday. Deif’s wife and son were killed. Hamas says Deif survived. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not be drawn on the subject, other than calling Hamas leaders legitimate and prime targets.

The Cairo ceasefire talks are over, for now at least.

Hamas is vowing more attacks Thursday, including warning foreign airlines not to use Ben Gurion Airport.

Israeli ship unloads cargo in California despite protests

Officials said late Wednesday that an Israeli-owned commercial ship has unloaded its cargo at a port in California after being delayed for days by a group of pro-Palestinian protesters.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said about 30 workers unloaded cargo from the Piraeus at the Port of Oakland starting Tuesday night despite the presence of a small number of protesters.

According to Sargent, workers had refused to unload the ship after it arrived on Saturday because of safety concerns raised by the presence of protesters and police.

The protesters were demonstrating in response to recent Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip.

– AP

Hamas official in Turkey claims responsibility for killing of 3 teens

Israel’s Channel 2 broadcast footage late Wednesday of what it said is Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri taking credit for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in June.

The recording, apparently made at a conference in Turkey, represents the strongest link yet between the attack and Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades armed wing.

“I praise the brave action that the al-Qassam Brigades carried out, the kidnapping of the three settlers to Hebron,” he said, adding that some say it was done on behalf of Palestinian inmates hunger striking in Israeli prisons.

Israel quickly accused Hamas of involvement following the abduction of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach, but the terror group denied it.

Islamic Jihad: Israel has no choice but to return to talks

An Islamic Jihad official says Israel will be forced to return to the negotiation table following what he calls the failed attempt to assassinate Hamas military leader Muhammad Deif.

Khaled al-Batash says Palestinian factions would be willing to return to Cairo for ceasefire talks, Ynet reports.

Mohammad Deif — dead or alive?

After remaining quiet for most of the day Wednesday, Hamas officials announced late Wednesday that Gaza terror chief Mohammad Deif was not in the home targeted by Israel late Tuesday and was still alive. Deif has survived multiple assassination attempts, lives in hiding and is believed to be paralyzed from previous attempts on his life.

Hamas military wing Abu Obeida said Israel was “unable to get to our commander Deif,” adding that he would “lead the army that will enter to liberate the holy al-Aqsa mosque” in Jerusalem. Earlier however, a different Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri had referred to Deif on Hamas TV as “the dead man” in an apparent slip of the tongue.

Muhammad Deif

Muhammad Deif

Fox News quoted a senior Israeli official saying that Jerusalem believed Deif was killed in the strike.

Asked whether Deif had been targeted, Netanyahu said late Wednesday: “The leaders of terror organizations are legitimate targets… No one is immune.”

The house belonged to a family of known Hamas supporters. In footage taken after the strike, rescue workers were seen searching for survivors in the rubble where the building once stood.

Relatives of 27-year-old Widad Deif, the wife of Hamas's military commander Mohammed Deif, carry her body during her funeral procession at the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on August 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Roberto Schmidt)

Relatives of 27-year-old Widad Deif, the wife of Hamas’s military commander Mohammed Deif, carry her body during her funeral procession at the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on August 20, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Roberto Schmidt)

Thousands of people attended the funeral for Deif’s wife and son, who were killed in the strike. Mourners chanted “revenge” during the procession.

In a televised statement, Abu Obeida also warned international airlines against flying into Israel starting Thursday. Earlier in the conflict, many airlines suspended flights into Israel after a rocket landed in a town near Israel’s main international airport.

PM slams ministers who criticize handling of war, compares Hamas to ISIS

Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday night indicated he was not sure whether an Israeli air strike had killed Hamas terror chief Muhammad Deif, but stressed that terror chiefs were a legitimate and prime target for Israel.

At a press conference together with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Netanyahu also went to considerable lengths to describe Hamas as part of a network of Islamist terror groups including Islamic State, Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda, in a clear effort to muster greater international support for Israel’s ongoing battle against Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

“You saw the beheading of an American journalist… the savagery of these people,” he said of Islamic State and the case of James Foley. “We face the same savagery.”

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the press Wednesday, August 20, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to the press Wednesday, August 20, 2014. (Screen capture: Channel 2)

He also leveled heavy criticism at cabinet colleagues who have publicly criticized the government’s handling of Operation Protective Edge, telling them to give public support to the government, and leave aside their “empty slogans” and “unrealistic” positions.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have both repeatedly urged that Hamas be smashed in a dramatic military offensive, while Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid have pushed for a greater emphasis on a role for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the international community in resolving conflict. Netanyahu named none of them, but appeared to be referring to them all.

He urged ministers to do what he said he did in the past, as opposition leader or cabinet minister: “Give support and speak less.”

Ya’alon also weighed in on the issue, slamming ministers’ unacceptable public criticism “while we are burying our dead.”

The PM said ministers have had every opportunity to speak at 27 cabinet meetings since the start of the operation, but should not broadcast criticism in public.

– Read our full story on Netanyahu’s press conference here.

Muhammad Deif’s alleged death certificate surfaces

Channel 10, citing a Palestinian news agency report and photo, says a death certificate has been issued for Hamas military leader Muhammad Deif by Gaza’s Shifa hospital.

The report has yet to be confirmed.

A record 168 rockets launched at Israel Wednesday

Ynet reports that Wednesday saw the most heavy rocket barrages on Israel since Operation Protective Edge began 44 days ago.

According to the report, 168 rockets were launched from Gaza throughout the day, beating the previous (dubious) record of 154 on the 5th day of the operation.

Deif’s alleged death certificate sparks forgery debate

The new photo of a death certificate bearing the name of Hamas military leader Muhammad Deif, along with those of his dead wife and son, seems to be an exact copy of a photo issued by Shifa hospital Wednesday morning, with one crucial difference: the first did not have Deif’s name on it.

This begs the question: Which certificate was faked — the first, or the second?

Security Council urges sides to resume talks

The UN Security Council calls on Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table to quickly agree on a lasting ceasefire.

In a statement unanimously adopted, the 15-member council “offered full support to the Egyptian initiative and called upon the parties to resume negotiations to urgently reach a sustainable and lasting ceasefire.”

–AFP

Gal-on berates PM’s talk of new diplomatic horizons

Meretz chief Zehava Gal-on responds to the prime minister’s statements earlier of new political horizons for Israel, saying “Netanyahu had five years to present and advance a diplomatic horizon, and instead we got a campaign of procrastination, victimization and political foot-dragging.”

The leftist leader, Walla News reports, insists that “there cannot be any substance to talk of a diplomatic horizon…as long as Netanyahu does not go for an all-inclusive final [peace deal] with the Palestinian unity government, now.”

Iron Dome intercepts 2 rockets over Ofakim

Two rockets are fired from Gaza at the Ofakim area. The rockets are intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

Kerry in talks with Qatar, Turkey to renew truce

US Secretary of State John Kerry is in contact with Qatar and Turkey to renew the truce between Israel and Hamas, a spokeswoman for the state department says.

Israel has rejected Turkey and Qatar as facilitators of a ceasefire agreement, saying they are not impartial and have the interests of Hamas in mind.

“Today, the secretary has spoken with the Israeli prime minister, the Israeli foreign minister, the Turkish foreign minister, and the Qatari foreign minister,” Marie Harf tells reporters. “We need countries that have leverage over leaders of Hamas who can help put a ceasefire in place.”

“We hope that the parties can reach an agreement,” she says. “Ideally on a sustainable ceasefire, but if not, then agree to an extension [of the truce].”

Harf shies away from agreeing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements equating Hamas with the Islamic State. “I’m not going to compare them in that way,” she says. “Let’s be clear…they’re both foreign terrorist organizations designated under United States law. But I’m not going to do any more comparison of them.”

UNSC considers resolution calling for sustainable ceasefire

The British Ambassador to the UN Security Council, Mark Lyall Grant, says council members are discussing a possible resolution that would call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.

Jordan has circulated such a resolution, but Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar told reporters Wednesday that “we’re taking our time to talk to the Americans, to the Europeans” because “the whole idea is to have a Security Council that’s effective.”

–AP

Canadian MP quits party over leader’s ‘pro-Israel’ stance

A member of Canada’s largest opposition party has left its ranks over what she said was party leader Thomas Mulcair’s excessively pro-Israel position on the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Sana Hassainia of the New Democratic Party says she can no longer accept Mulcair’s position that “Israel has the right to defend themselves against a people that are completely powerless,” CTV reports. She will remain in parliament as an independent.

Tunisian-born Hassainia says that while she agrees that Hamas is a terror organization, it is the civilians and not militants who are the main victims of Israel’s attacks in Gaza.

Mulcair has voiced strong support for Israel’s right to self defense, while also campaigning for aid to Palestinian children hurt in the conflict.

Melbourne Jewish school briefly evacuated due to bomb scare

A Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia was briefly evacuated Thursday after a suspicious vehicle near school grounds was feared to be a car bomb.

However, police sappers called to the scene checked the vehicle and ruled out any danger, and students returned to their classes.

Rocket sirens sound in the Eshkol region

Rockets on Ben Gurion Airport? Not yet

Almost an hour after Hamas promised to begin firing rockets at Ben Gurion Airport, there are no reports yet of any attacks.

Hamas has warned international airlines to steer clear of Israel “from 6 a.m.” Thursday.

Four Palestinians said killed in Israeli strikes overnight

Palestinian medical officials in Gaza say four Palestinians were killed during the night in air strikes in the city of Rafah, in the south of the Strip.

According to Haaretz, 40 people are said to have been wounded in the attacks, many of them in critical condition.

Two sirens in Gaza periphery false alarms

It seems that two red alert sirens in the town of Beeri in the last hour were false alarms.

US says Israel targeted Abu Khdeir family

The US is concerned that Israel targeted family members of slain Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir, including two who are American citizens, during protests following his death, a State Department spokesperson says.

Khdeir was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists on July 2, in an apparent revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank two days earlier. The incident sparked protests and riots in East Jerusalem, where Khdeir’s 15-year-old cousin, Tarek Abu Khdeir, a US citizen, was arrested on July 5 and allegedly beaten in detention. He has since been freed and returned to Florida.

The US slammed the actions of Israeli security forces and called for an investigation in to the matter.

On July 28, another cousin of Abu Khder, also American, was arrested in Israel as well, the State Department says.

Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf identified him as “Mohammed Abu Khdeir.”

“We can confirm that Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a US citizen, was arrested on July 28. The US consulate general in Jerusalem is providing consular assistance. A consular official visited him on August 14th. The consulate is also in contact with Mr. Khdeir’s family and his lawyer,” Harf says.

Yet “we are concerned that the US consulate general in Jerusalem was not notified of his arrest by the government of Israel.”

And “we are also concerned about the fact that members of the Khdeir family appeared to be singled out for arrest by the Israeli authorities,” Harf adds.

Israel has charged three people for the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir and all have reportedly confessed to the crime.

— AFP

UK still allowing arms exports to Israel

UK companies are still being allowed to export arms and weapons components to Israel, despite Britain’s announcement last week that it would suspend export licenses in the event of a resumption of hostilities, a UK government spokesperson says.

“We said we would suspend licenses if there was a significant resumption of hostilities,” the spokesperson says. “We are closely monitoring the situation. Our assessment so far is that the resumption of hostilities has been limited.”

Three senior Hamas commanders killed in op

Hamas confirms three of its senior commanders were assassinated by Israel last night.

It names Raed Al-Attar, commander of Rafah, and Muhammad Abu Shamala, the head of its southern command, and Mohammed Barhoum, also of the southern command, as those slain.

Al-Attar was involved in the capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Palestinian flag flown from Manhattan bridge

A Palestinian flag bearing the words “Boycott, Divest, Sanction” was flown from the Manhattan bridge on Wednesday evening by pro-Palestinian activists, local NY media report.

The flag was unfurled around 7 p.m., and was removed by police some 20 minutes later, CBS New York reports.

No arrests were made.

Hamas leaders are killed in Rafah strike

The three Hamas senior commanders — Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, Mohammed Barhoum and Raed al-Attar — are killed in the Israeli airstrike near the southern town of Rafah early this morning.

Palestinian police and health officials say that six people are killed in the Rafah strike and that dozens of others remain trapped in the rubble of a four-story building targeted by Israel.

Israel Radio’s Gal Berger says that Hamas’s military wing has few commanders, and that the assassinations are a heavy blow to the terror organization.

AP contributed

Israel confirms assassinations of Hamas leaders

The Shin Bet confirms it targeted two Hamas leaders, Raed Al-Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh.

“The strike was the result of intelligence and operational activities, which led to the detection and attack on two central operatives from the heart of Hamas’s military leadership,” it says in a statement.

A third Hamas member, Mohammed Barhoum, was also killed in the Rafah airstrike.

Royal Jordanian cancels flight to Tel Aviv

Royal Jordanian airlines cancels its morning flight from Amman to Tel Aviv, Ynet reports, after Hamas threatens to target the airport beginning at 6 a.m.

The airline says the reason for the cancellation is the security situation.

The news website reports that the carrier had only just resumed its flights to Tel Aviv this week, after withholding all flights for a month due to the rocket threat.

Meanwhile, despite its warning, the Gaza terror organization has not shot rockets at the airport this morning. Flights continue to run on schedule, though security is significantly increased.

Gilad Shalit and Hamas commander Raed Al-Attar

Slain Hamas commander Raed Al-Attar can be seen in the photo below — in the top left corner — during the October 18, 2011 release of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, highlighting his prominent role in the abduction and five-year captivity of the Israeli soldier.

Raed Al-Attar with IDF soldier Gilad Shalit (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)

Raed Al-Attar with IDF soldier Gilad Shalit (photo credit: Youtube screenshot)

Sirens in Gaza periphery

More details on slain Hamas leaders

The Shin Bet releases more information about Hamas commanders Raed Al-Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh. Both men, 40, have a long history of plotting and perpetrating attacks on Israel under Hamas, beginning in the early 90’s — the same time military chief Muhammad Deif joined its ranks.

Most notably, the two orchestrated the 2006 attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing during which two IDF soldiers were killed and IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was captured.

Al-Attar, who is the Rafah commander, is also responsible for the abduction and murder of Lt. Hadar Goldin during Operation Protective Edge. His Rafah troops carried out the attack, the Shin Bet says. The Rafah brigade was involved in other incidents during the campaign, in which IDF soldiers were wounded.

Raed Al-Attar (courtesy: Shin Bet)

Raed Al-Attar (courtesy: Shin Bet)

Abu Shamaleh was most recently involved in the July 17 tunnel infiltration of 13 Hamas men into southern Israel, near the town of Sufa. The attack was thwarted by the IDF.

Similarly, Al-Attar oversaw the construction of cross-border tunnels into Israeli territory, it says.

In addition, Abu Shameleh was involved in killing an Israeli soldier in 1994 in Rafah. In 2004, he was involved in an offensive which killed six troops, and injured ten others. In May 2008, he directed an attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing, which used booby-trapped jeeps and injured 13 troops.

Al-Attar, too, has an extensive track record. In 1994, he was involved in a shooting which killed an Israeli soldier on the Egyptian border. In 2002, he planned a deadly attack on an Israeli post near Kerem Shalom during which four soldiers were killed.

Mohammed Abu Shamaleh (photo credit: Courtesy/Shin Bet)

Mohammed Abu Shamaleh (photo credit: Courtesy/Shin Bet)

Four children said killed in Gaza

The Gaza spokesman for the emergency services says at least six Palestinians, including four children, are killed in Israeli airstrikes.

One strike targets a group of people in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, killing a man and a 13-year-old boy, while a second hit Gaza City, killing four people, three of them children, the Palestinian spokesman says.

AFP

2 rockets hit Eshkol; sirens didn’t sound

Two rockets explode outside a town in the Eshkol region. The Code Red sirens did not go off to warn of the incoming projectiles.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Israel will pay, Hamas says

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warns Israel will “pay a heavy price for the assassination of Al-Qassam commanders.”

“The Israeli crimes won’t break the Palestinians’ resolve, and will not weaken the resistance,” he says, according to the Walla news website.

Man lightly injured in Eshkol rocket attack

A man is lightly injured by rocket fire, after several missiles explode in the Eshkol region.

Gilad Shalit’s father declines to comment on assassinations

Noam Shalit, the father of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, offers no comment on the assassination of his son’s abductors, but says he hopes the rocket fire ceases.

“We are not responding to the assassination of Al-Attar. The only thing we wish is that the quiet will be restored to the southern communities, and that all IDF soldiers will come home safely,” he says, according to Walla.

Gilad Shalit with his father Noam, on the day of his release from captivity (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry /Flash90)

Gilad Shalit with his father, Noam, on the day of his release from captivity (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry/Flash90)

‘Growing indications’ Deif was killed

Israel is said to increasingly believe that Hamas military leader Muhammad Deif was killed in yesterday’s airstrike on his Gaza home.

Israel Radio Gal Berger tweets: “Updated information as of this morning: in Israel there are growing indications that the head of Hamas’s military wing Muhammad Deif was killed in an assassination [attempt] in Sheikh Radwan two nights ago.”

Injured man in moderate-serious condition

A man in the Eshkol region who was injured earlier by rocket shrapnel is in moderate-to-serious condition, and is not lightly wounded, as reported earlier.

The 33-year-old suffered wounds to his chest and is receiving medical treatment.

Sirens in Beersheba, Ashkelon

15 Palestinians said killed in Gaza today

Gazan medical officials tell AFP that 15 people have been killed by Israeli fire today, including the three senior Hamas members and four children.

The Palestinian sources say the Gaza death toll stands at 2,065, since Operation Protective Edge began on July 8. Israel maintains that hundreds of those killed were Hamas fighters.

Sirens in Gaza periphery

Empty kindergarten hit by rockets

A kindergarten in the Eshkol region is damaged by rocket fire.

The building was empty during the strike.

Several rockets land in open areas in Merhavim region

At least two projectiles explode in open areas in the Merhavim Regional Council.

There are no reports of injuries or damage.

Sirens in central Israel

Sirens sound in parts of the Shfela region.

Palestinian site claims Deif killed

A Palestinian website posts an article stating that Hamas leader Muhammad Deif is killed by Israeli fire, and claims Hamas’s armed wing covered up the incident by erasing hospital files.

The website also features a picture that it says is of Deif’s body.

The photo could not be immediately authenticated.

The article was taken down from the Saham News website shortly after it was posted yesterday.

According to Globes, which managed to screenshot the article before it was removed, it also featured the alleged death certificate for Deif, which may or may not have been fabricated.

“The bodies arrived at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, after the occupation planes attacked the al-Dalo home, in the Rimal neighborhood in the north, in Gaza City, last night,” it reports. “The document we obtained was confiscated by an armed squad of the Al-Qassam brigade from Shifa’s archive, and also changed the check-in information in the hospital to erase Deif’s name from the list.”

We at Saham News are forced to tell the Palestinian nation, “with great sadness,” of the death of Deif, it concludes. “We belong to Allah, and to him we return.”

Sirens in Beersheba, Ashkelon

Wounded man was shielding children from harm

The 33-year-old man who was moderately to seriously injured by shrapnel earlier this morning in the Eshkol region was helping children to safety when he was hurt.

According to Ynet, the man stood near a kindergarten during the attack, and managed to push a teacher and a number of children into the fortified room, but did not have enough time to enter himself.

In sweeps of the area, residents discovered that a rocket hit a barn earlier today, killing several cows and causing extensive damage to the structure, Walla reports.

Sirens in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza border towns

Assassinations offer little comfort to victims’ families

Simcha Goldin, the father of the late Lt. Hadar Goldin, tells Channel 2 the news of the assassination of the man behind his son’s murder offers little comfort.

Hamas commander Raed Al-Attar, who was killed by Israeli forces today, was responsible for Hamas activity in the southern city of Rafah, where Goldin was abducted and killed.

Simcha Goldin speaking at the funeral of his son Hadar at the Kfar Saba cemetery Sunday August 3, 2014. His wife Leah is at his side. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Simcha Goldin speaking at the funeral of his son Hadar at the Kfar Saba cemetery Sunday August 3, 2014. His wife Leah is at his side. (Screen capture: Ynet)

“I’m not happy because of it — I’m still grieving,” Simcha Goldin says. “But I knew the IDF would do its work and it’s fine, but it’s unrelated to joy or hatred or anything like that.”

Noam Shalit says he has not been in touch with his son Gilad yet, and does not know if he heard about the fate of his abductors.

Bomb found in Holon

Police uncover a bomb in the central city of Holon, Ynet reports.

Sappers are on the site defusing the explosive device, and the area has been closed to traffic.

It remains unclear whether the bomb was intended for a criminal or nationalistically-motivated attack.

Slain Hamas leaders had ‘planned devastating attacks’ — PM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praises the Shin Bet’s “exceptional intelligence” and the IDF’s operational activity, which led to the detection and successful assassination of Hamas leaders Raed Al-Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh.

The Hamas leaders had “planned devastating attacks against the citizens of Israel,” he says.

Operation Protective Edge will continue “until its goals are reached — restoring long-term quiet for Israeli citizens, while striking a significant blow to the terror infrastructure,” Netanyahu says.

No injuries in latest rocket barrage

A massive barrage of missiles launched on southern and central Israel causes no injuries, with most of the rockets landing in open areas.

According to Ynet, a rocket falls in an open area outside of Ramle, two hit near Ashdod, six land in the Eshkol region, and another rocket explodes in Sdot Negev.

Police defuse Holon explosives

Police tell Ynet that the bomb found in Holon has been neutralized by sappers, and that the foiled attack was likely criminal in nature.

Despite rockets, school year to begin Sept. 1

Education Minister Shai Piron says the school year will begin nationwide on schedule on September 1, dispelling rumors that the education system would be affected by the ongoing rocket fire.

“We are prepared for any scenario,” he says, according to Walla.

Sirens in Ashkelon

Mortar hits shelter in Eshkol region

A mortar directly hits a fortified room in a home in the Eshkol region.

No injuries are reported, but the house sustains damage.

Sirens in Hof Ashkelon

Sirens in Gaza periphery, Ashkelon

Sirens in Ashdod; rockets fall in Sdot Negev

Sirens sound in the city of Ashdod.

Two rockets fall in an open area in Sdot Negev, causing no injuries or damage.

Woman injured in car accident during siren

A woman in her sixties is seriously injured in a car accident near Ashkelon, which occurred as the Code Red sirens blared. She is transferred to Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital for medical treatment, Walla reports.

Three others are lightly injured in the collision.

Two said killed in Gaza airstrike on car

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports that two people are killed in Gaza City, after Israeli aircraft target their car.

In a separate attack, it reports, four people are killed in a cemetery in the Sheikh Radwan district. The four were burying their relatives who were killed last night, the news agency reports.

Iron Dome downs rocket over Ashdod

The Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over the city of Ashdod.

Two other missiles fall in open areas in Ashkelon.

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

2 rockets fall in Eshkol town; no injuries

Muhammad Deif’s daughter also killed in strike

Palestinian sources report that rescue services have uncovered the body of Muhammad Deif’s daughter from the wreckage of Deif’s house.

The strike also killed the infant son and wife of Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military force in the Gaza Strip.

The fate of Deif himself is still unclear.

Hamas said to execute 3 ‘collaborators’

Sirens in Gaza border towns, Ashkelon

Abbas, emir, Mashaal meet in Qatar

The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports that PA President Mahmoud Abbas met in Qatar with Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and debate possible resolutions.

Abbas arrived in Qatar with the head of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo Azzam al-Ahmed, Fatah official Saeb Erekat and several other PA representatives.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is said to later join the meeting.

In this file photo provided on Nov. 24, 2011, by the office of Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader Mashaal, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are seen together during a meeting in Cairo, Egypt. (photo credit: AP/Office of Khaled Meshaal)

In this file photo provided on Nov. 24, 2011, by the office of Khaled Mashaal, Hamas leader Mashaal, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are seen together during a meeting in Cairo, Egypt. (photo credit: AP/Office of Khaled Meshaal)

Man lightly injured by rocket fire

Two rockets explode inside a town in the Eshkol region, lightly injuring a man, Ynet reports.

Meanwhile, several towns in the Hof Ashkelon region lose power after a rocket damages a power line.

3 rockets land in open areas in Sdot Negev

Sirens in Beersheba

Iron Dome downs seven rockets

The Iron Dome intercepts seven rockets in the past hour — five over the Hof Ashkelon region, and two over the Merhavim Regional Council.

In video, slain commander describes tunnel project

In a video dating back more than ten years, Hamas commander Raed al-Attar — who was assassinated earlier today — describes the terror group’s idea to dig cross-border tunnels to attack Israel.

“Due to what Israel did to the resistance organizations of our nation, the members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades thought carefully how to respond to the Israeli attacks and to the Israeli crimes,” he says in the video, which was posted by Ynet.

The military wing decided to “invent a new weapon,” he continues.

“This weapon was the war of the tunnels that the occupation did not take into account.”

The second Hamas chief killed today, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, also makes an appearance in the video. He calls for Hamas to reclaim Palestine from Israel, and fight for the release of the Palestinian prisoners.

“Gaza is very dear to us, and close to our hearts, but all the land and all of Palestine is occupied,” he says.

“The West Bank is still occupied, and Haifa, Acre, Jaffa, and Jerusalem are still occupied.”

4 rockets hit open area in Eshkol region; no injuries

More details emerge on third slain commander

While Israel has confirmed the deaths of two high-ranking members of Hamas, the terror organization says a third senior figure, Muhammad Barhum, is killed in the Rafah assassination.

Born in 1969, Barhum was a senior Hamas operative in Rafah responsible for smuggling weapons into Gaza from neighboring Egypt.

He lived in Syria and Libya for several years in order to raise funds for Hamas and transfer them to the Gaza Strip.

AFP, Times of Israel staff

Rocket lands in Eshkol region; no injuries

Israel confirms it killed third commander

The IDF confirms its strike in Rafah overnight also killed Hamas leader Mohammed Barhum.

Ministers approve call-up of 10,000 troops

The government ministers permit the drafting of an additional 10,000 IDF reservists, Ynet reports.

In this Monday, July 21, 2014 file photo, Israeli soldiers patrol the town of Sderot after a group of Hamas terrorists was detected infiltrating into Israel. With deadly fighting raging next door in the Gaza Strip, southern Israeli towns along the border have turned into mini army bases as most residents have fled. (Photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

In this Monday, July 21, 2014, photo, soldiers patrol the town of Sderot after a group of Hamas terrorists was detected infiltrating into Israel. (Photo credit: AP/Tsafrir Abayov)

5 more rockets land in open areas

Three rockets explode in open areas in Sdot Negev, and two others land in an unpopulated area in Hof Ashkelon.

‘Positive’ meeting between Abbas, emir, Mashaal

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Qatar was “positive,” Israel Radio reports, quoting Palestinian sources.

The meeting was also attended by Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and various Palestinian representatives.

Another meeting is called for this evening.

A handout picture released by the Palestinian president's office (PPO) shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal (C-R) in the capital Doha on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM)

A handout picture released by the Palestinian president’s office (PPO) shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal (C-R) in the capital Doha on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM)

IDF tweets infographic on Abu Shamalah, Attar

“Hamas pays the price for terror,” writes the IDF spokesman’s office as it tweets out an infographic on Mohammed Abu Shamalah and Raed Attar, two of the three senior Hamas commanders killed overnight by an Israeli airstrike.

Mortar shell hits yard near Ashkelon

The yard of a house in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council is struck by a mortar shell fired from Gaza. The building and a car are damaged.

58 rockets, shells fired since midnight

Since midnight, 58 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports. Forty-eight hit Israel, one failed to launch properly, and Iron Dome intercepted nine.

In addition, the Israeli Air Force has attacked 40 targets Thursday.

Damage seen in a home hit by a mortar shell in the Eshkol region on August 21, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Damage seen in a home hit by a mortar shell in the Eshkol region on August 21, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Small aircraft banned from Rishon to Mizpe Ramon

In light of the renewed rocket fire from Gaza, Israel’s Airports Authority issues a directive banning small aircraft and paragliders from flying in the skies from Mizpe Ramon in the south to Rishon Lezion in the north, Ynet reports.

Aircrafts spraying pesticides over agricultural fields in Ramat Negev, March 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Aircraft spraying pesticides over agricultural fields in Ramat Negev, March 11, 2013. (photo credit: Flash90)

Hamas political leaders fair targets, says general

After Israel kills three senior Hamas military commanders, Gen. Yoav Mordechai, responsible for the government’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza, says on Sky News Arabic that “no one from Hamas’s leadership will enjoy immunity — not at the political level or the military level,” according to Ynet. “All of Hamas’s leadership is in the Shifa Hospital. ”

There will be no negotiations under fire, he adds.

“We have nothing against the people in Gaza. If only Gaza would become Singapore; but Mashaal and Haniyeh want to turn it into Somalia.”

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, at the Bitunya Crossing near Ramallah (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/ Flash 90)

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, left, at the Bitunya Crossing near Ramallah (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/ Flash 90)

Sderot mayor pleased with strike on Hamas

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi expresses support for the strike that killed three top Hamas commanders overnight, and calls for patience as the army and government operate against Hamas.

Instead of striking empty buildings or open fields, he tells Channel 2, “we should save our ammunition instead for those who caused the situation to deteriorate.”

“I’d rather be on the side that makes Hamas submit, than the side that is made to submit,” he adds.

More details on Abbas-Mashaal meeting

As the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal hold a series of meetings in Qatar, Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari says that there are a number of issues the two Palestinian leaders must sort out.

The timing of elections for the unity government is a key question, as is Hamas’s role in the West Bank, says Ya’ari. The role of the PLO in the new government is also an outstanding issue.

Abbas is trying to convince Mashaal and his Qatari hosts to agree to a ceasefire with Israel, he adds.

A handout picture released by the Palestinian president's office (PPO) shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal (C-R) in the capital Doha on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM)

A handout picture released by the Palestinian president’s office (PPO) shows Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) meeting with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani (C) and Hamas exiled leader Khaled Meshaal (C-R) in the capital Doha on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM)

Three rockets hit Eshkol

Three projectiles strike near communities in the Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries and light damage to a car are reported.

2 rockets hits Sdot Negev, no injuries

Ashkelon’s Briza Festival canceled

After being postponed twice due to continuous rocket fire from Gaza, then confirmed for August 24-30, Ashkelon’s annual pop music festival Briza will be canceled, Channel 2 reports.

The festival was meant to celebrate its 23rd summer, and was slated to be two days longer this year, said organizer Eli Maimon.

Israeli pop sensations Eyal Golan, Rita, Miri Mesika, Shiri Maimon, Mosh Ben Ari, Keren Peles, Shimon Buskila, and hip-hop group Hadag Nahash were set to perform during the festival.

Singer Eyal Golan and the mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, at the press conference for Briza Festival in Ashkelon (Photo credit: Sigal Aylend Shilman)

Singer Eyal Golan and the mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, at the press conference for Briza Festival in Ashkelon (Photo credit: Sigal Aylend Shilman)

Ashkelon mayor says no school while under fire

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni says that he will not allow schools in Ashkelon to open if rockets continue falling, despite Education Minister Shai Piron’s announcement today that the school year will begin nationwide on schedule on September 1.

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (left) with Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, May, 2014. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash 90)

Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni (left) with Interior Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, May, 2014. (Photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash 90)

Sirens in Gaza border region

Israel attacks senior Islamic Jihad member

The air forces attacks an Islamic Jihad member in the southern Gaza Strip as he left a building from which rockets had been fired. The IDF says that it identified a hit on the senior member of the organization.

Israel also fires at 5 terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip involved in launching rockets from a cemetery. The IDF says that around 130 rockets have been fired at Israel from cemeteries during Operation Protective Edge.

Over 300 rockets in past two days

According to IDF figures, Hamas and other groups in Gaza have fired over 300 rockets at Israel since it broke the ceasefire on Tuesday.

In addition, 241 truckloads of food and medicine reached Gaza from Israel Wednesday, the army says.

Soccer season to be delayed

Israel’s top two soccer leagues will have their season openers pushed back because of the rocket fire from Gaza.

‘We know Deif was in the building’

Though Israel cannot say yet whether or not Hamas military chief Muhammad Deif is still alive after a strike that killed his wife and son and daughter, we know that he was in the building at the time, says Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari.

He adds that bodies are still being pulled out of the ruins.

Video of strike on Hamas commanders released

The IDF releases footage of the strike that killed three senior Hamas commanders early Thursday morning.

Ministers promise to keep criticizing Gaza op

After Netanyahu scolds his ministers for publicly criticizing his handling of the fighting in Gaza, several ministers say they will continue expressing their opinions, says Channel 2’s Udi Segal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arriving at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, August 17, 2014. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arriving at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, August 17, 2014. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/Pool)

Sirens on Gaza border

Sirens sound in Ashkelon, Gaza border towns

Instead of wedding, slain officer’s family holds meal for poor

Major Benaya Sarel, the commander of the Givati reconnaissance company who was killed in Rafah three weeks ago, was supposed to marry his fiancee Gali Nir tonight. Instead, NRG reports, his family and friends are holding an exquisite meal at a soup kitchen.

Relatives and friends seen mourning over the grave of Major Benaya Sarel, during his funeral at the old Jewish cemetery in Hebron on August 3, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Relatives and friends seen mourning over the grave of Major Benaya Sarel, during his funeral at the old Jewish cemetery in Hebron on August 3, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Rockets hit near Netivot

After sirens sound in the southern city of Netivot, several rockets strike open areas nearby.

Pegasus Airlines cancels 2 flights

Turkish carrier Pegasus Airlines cancels a flight from Turkey to Israel scheduled to land tonight, Ynet reports. It also cancels a flight scheduled to land Friday.

‘Hamas down to final 25% of rockets’

Channel 2’s Ehud Yaari says Hamas is now down to the final quarter of its rocket stocks, and has only a few dozen that can reach beyond the Gaza envelope.

He also reports on the tensions in Hamas between the Gaza and Qatar factions as political chief Khaled Mashaal convenes Hamas’s leadership in Qatar. Gaza political leader Ismail Haniyeh and his faction are furious with Mashaal for saying there will no ceasefire, and that fighting would go on for months, even years.

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal answers AFP journalists' questions during an interview in the Qatari capital of Doha, on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal during an interview in the Qatari capital of Doha, on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)

Sirens sound in Gaza border towns

Sirens sound in Ashdod

NGO asks US to extradite Hamas sheikh behind 3 teens’ murder

Israeli legal NGO Shurat Hadin has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder to request the extradition of Turkey-based Hamas official Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri, who is believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, one of whom was an American citizen.

“Turkish authorities cannot allow a statement by a senior Hamas terrorist condoning and taking responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of innocent teenage boys announced on Turkish soil, and at the same time claim that Turkey is a humane country,” writes Shurat HaDin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner. “Turkey is giving shelter to a terrorist who was released from prison for committing other terrorist acts, and who now brazenly announces his personal involvement in the abduction and murder of more Israeli civilians while comfortably residing in Turkey.”

Salah al-Arouri speaking in Turkey. screen capture: Youtube)

Salah al-Arouri speaking in Turkey. screen capture: Youtube)

Al-Arouri, a senior Hamas religious figure, is heard on a video that surfaced Wednesday saying that he “blessed the heroic action” which was “carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades” — the armed wing of Hamas. This action, “the kidnapping to Hebron of the three settlers,” was an “operation spoken of far and wide,” al-Arouri added.

The sheikh was speaking at a conference of Muslim scholars in Turkey.

“There are those who say that it was your brothers in the al-Qassam Brigades, who carried it out for the sake of al-Qassam members who are in jails and who sit in a hunger strike,” al-Arouri continued, according to a Hebrew translation provided by Channel 2.

Sirens in Beersheba and environs

‘Hamas’s medium-range capability devastated’

Israel Radio’s Eran Zinger reports that Hamas is focusing most of its fire on towns near the Gaza border, after its medium-range rocket capability was badly damaged. He also says that the assassination of the three senior commanders early Thursday was a damaging blow to the organization’s morale.

Two rockets shot down over Beersheba

Iron Dome knocks down two rockets over Beersheba, while three more hit open areas near the city.

An Iron Dome missile defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An Iron Dome missile defense battery set up near the southern Israeli town of Ashdod fires an intercepting missile on July 16, 2014 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

82 rockets fired at Israel

Since midnight, 82 rockets have been fired at Israel, Channel 2 reports.

A man running for cover in Beersheba is seriously injured when he is struck by a car. Rescue services bring him to Soroka Medical Center.

‘US is behind you,’ says powerful Congressman

Netanyahu meets Thursday with influential Republican congressman Darrell Issa of California.

“The radical Islamic terrorism now threatens the entire world,” says the PM at the start of their meeting. “It threatens Israel, it threatens the United States, it threatens the moderate Arab regimes, it threatens Europe, everybody. I think that we face the same Islamist terror network and we have to fight it together. Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas…The free world and democracies have to stand together against this terrorism. That’s the only way we’ll roll them back, ultimately that’s the only way we’ll defeat them. I want to welcome you and I want to thank the strong American support from the President, through the Secretary of State, through both houses of Congress and the Senate, everybody, the American people. It’s a great source of support for Israel at this time.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Congress Member Darell Issa, in Tel Aviv on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Congress Member Darell Issa, in Tel Aviv on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

“I think it’s a point of great discovery that is important that the United States coordinate with its closest ally anywhere and particularly one that knows this area and one that has developed an amazing ability to work with difficult partners,” Issa responds. “I was in Jordan; I was in Egypt; and they sang very much the praises of how, in common interest, important things are being done to go after fundamentalism, whether it’s the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas or of course the threat of Da’ash. And that’s where this relationship has an opportunity to become even stronger and more united and it’s your leadership that’s helped bring that together. You know you have the support of Congress and the entire American people.”

55% approve of PM’s decisions over last week

Most Israelis approve of Netanyahu’s handling of the the conflict in Gaza over the past week, according to a Channel 2 poll.

Fifty-five percent said they approved, 33% disapproved, and 12% didn’t answer or didn’t know.

However, the number is well below his 82% approval rating on July 23, and 63% rating on August 5.

The Prime Minister is also enjoying modest support for his criticism of government ministers. Fifty-six percent approve, while 19% disapprove.

European powers discussing ceasefire resolution

UN diplomats say Britain, France and Germany are discussing a possible Security Council resolution calling for a sustainable cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and an international monitoring mission to ensure its implementation.

One diplomat says both Israelis and Palestinians officials have privately suggested Security Council action would be helpful in persuading their constituents to accept measures to end the conflict.

The diplomats say the resolution would include opening up Gaza’s borders and a return of the Palestinian Authority in the territory. It would also include security assurances for the Israelis, including ways to prevent Hamas from acquiring more arms and building more tunnels. The international monitoring mission would likely be a joint-UN-European effort.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private and sensitive.

— AP

Sirens in Judean lowlands, Samaria

‘Kerry, Netanyahu speak almost every day’

Israel’s Channel 10 news reports that Netanyahu, as the prime minister said last night at his press conference, indeed speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry virtually every day.

It says the US is drafting a resolution aimed at ending the Israel-Hamas conflict via the UN Security Council. Remarkably, however, it reports that the US has not yet shared the text of this resolution with Israel.

The same report quotes an unnamed senior Israeli official saying the flap over the US blocking the sale of Hellfire missiles to Israel “is behind us.” The US is describing the incident as a case of “simple bureaucracy,” that is now resolved.

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meeting with John Kerry in Jerusalem on Monday, March 31, 2014. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/Flash90)

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, meeting with John Kerry in Jerusalem on Monday, March 31, 2014. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/Flash90)

Rocket intercepted over Jerusalem hills

After sirens are heard in Samaria and the Modi’in area, Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over the Jerusalem hills.

‘Hamas making mistakes as commanders killed’

Hamas “doesn’t know if it has a commander,” says a senior Israeli security source quoted by Channel 10. He also says that Hamas has been making mistakes recently as morale is low and the chain of command is damaged. The strike on three senior commanders in Rafah took the organization by surprise, he says.

Whether or not Muhammad Deif was killed this week, the source says, he is not in issuing commands and is, for now at least, out of the fight.

Hamas takes credit for rocket near Modiin

Hamas’s military wing says it fired an M-75 rocket toward Modiin, Ynet reports. The rocket was shot down by Iron Dome.

‘I will always stand for total boycott of Israel’ — Galloway

Anti-Israel British MP George Galloway tweets a series of messages about his interrogation by British police, after he called for the city of Bradford to become an “Israeli-free zone.”

He strikes a defiant tone, arguing that he is not an anti-Semite, but will always oppose “Zionist Apartheid” Israel.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Ashdod

US colleges cancel Israel programs after FAA ban, State dept. warnings

Some US colleges are pulling students from overseas study programs in Israel as the Gaza war rages, though the relative calm beyond the immediate battle areas is raising questions in some quarters about why they had to leave.

Colleges say security was the top concern, citing advisories about hazardous travel from the US State Department and from insurance companies that cover students for health, accidents, security and even the cost of evacuation.

“On the one hand, we want to introduce students to the dimensions of conflict,” said Yehuda Lukacs, director of the Center for Global Education at George Mason University in Virginia. “But this was too much because their safety and security were challenged.”

George Mason was one of at least seven schools nationwide to suspend a summer study program that operates in Israel or the West Bank. Others include Claremont McKenna College in California, UMass Amherst, the University of Iowa, Trinity College in Hartford, Michigan State and Penn State. UMass Amherst and New York University have also halted fall semester programs.

When Israel launched an air offensive against Hamas on July 8 in response to rockets fired into Israel and expanded its assault with ground troops 10 days later, officials at UMass Amherst were initially unfazed.

“We agreed that the program should go on even though rockets were flying,” said Jack Ahern, vice provost for international programs.

But that soon changed when the Federal Aviation Administration told US airlines July 22 they were temporarily banned from flying into Tel Aviv’s airport after a rocket exploded nearby. That lent an air of unpredictability as to whether students could get out if needed.

“With an airport closed for more than 24 hours, we don’t want students stuck,” said Lisa Sapolis, director of Trinity’s Office of Study Away.

UMass Amherst officials decided to cancel the fall semester program based on the State Department advisory, Ahern said.

“To study in a country in conflict can be extremely rewarding,” he said. “It was not a decision we take lightly. We try to err on the side of being permissive and allowing students to go where they want.”

— AP

Lady Gaga insists on performing as scheduled

Though Israeli organizers of the September 13 Lady Gaga concert in Tel Aviv tried to get her to move her show back to October or the spring, the singer’s representatives are planning to keep the concert on its original date, news site Mako reports.

Looks like Lady Gaga is also making her way here this summer (Courtesy Ran Rahav)

Looks like Lady Gaga is also making her way here this summer (Courtesy Ran Rahav)

US says Gaza rocket fire ‘unacceptable’

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf says during a press conference rocket fire from Gaza is “unacceptable,” and that it must stop.

She also says that any allegations of wrong-doing should be investigated.

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

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

Details of European resolution efforts emerge

More details come to light on the joint German-French-British effort to broker a UN Security Council resolution to end the fighting.

The countries circulated a document entitled “Elements” to diplomats, outlining key points in the potential resolution, Haaretz reports. Major features include PA control of Gaza, a ban of unauthorized weapons sales, reconstruction of Gaza under international supervision, and restarting peace talks based on the 1967 lines.

The document recommends the full reopening of border crossings, and the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli diplomats were briefed on the document, but did not receive a copy themselves. They were eventually able to obtain a copy.

The resolution would condemn “all violence and hostilities directed against civilians, as well as indiscriminate attacks resulting in civilian casualties, and all acts of terrorism.”

The United Nations Security Council meets at the UN on July 22, 2014 in New York City. (photo credit: Kena Betancur/Getty Images/AFP)

The United Nations Security Council meets at the UN on July 22, 2014 in New York City. (photo credit: Kena Betancur/Getty Images/AFP)

Hamas celebrates delay of Israeli soccer season

After his organization suffers a serious blow Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri finds a bright spot, saying that the decision to delay the start of Israel’s soccer season “is proof of Netanyahu’s failure to provide security for Israelis, and is proof that the resistance rules their lives, and that the policy of assassinations is ineffective.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

Source says targeted killings done differently now

A senior Air Force officer tells Israel Radio’s veteran military reporter Carmela Menashe that there have been significant changes in the way targeted killings are approved and carried out. The source says that the ties and communication between intelligence operatives and those who pull the trigger are much closer, and the approval process is quicker. He adds that numerous strikes were called off during Operation Protective Edge because of insufficient intelligence or out of a fear of harming civilians.

The officer says that multiple bombs of 2-3 tons were fired at the house in Rafah in which three senior Hamas commanders were killed, in order to ensure they wouldn’t escape with their lives.  The bombs were appropriate for making sure the mission was carried out an neighboring buildings weren’t struck, he adds.

Palestinian mourners carry the body of one of three senior Hamas commanders during their funeral in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Palestinian mourners carry the body of one of three senior Hamas commanders during their funeral in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Iron Dome shoots down rockets over Ashdod, Ashkelon

‘Difference between IS and Hamas is tactics’

Col. Richard Kemp, the former commander of British troops in Afghanistan who has been outspoken in his support of Israel’s military tactics, writes an article today in the British paper The Jewish Chronicle arguing that the West does not recognize Hamas’s true nature.

“Few seem able to comprehend that the very extremist ethos that drives the barbarians who are subjugating ever-expanding swathes of Iraq and Syria, and who threaten Jordan and Lebanon, also drives Hamas,” he writes. “The difference is not in the depth of religious fanaticism or the extent of bloodlust, it is only in current tactics.

“Consequently, the same political leaders, commentators and human rights groups that demand something must be done to curb the horrific excesses of the Islamic State are fostering its equivalent in Gaza. What Western governments cannot see, many governments in the Middle East can. Countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan understand that Hamas and all it stands for is a threat not just to Israel but also to them.”

“As Hamas continues to break ceasefire after ceasefire by launching rockets at Israel’s civilian population, the Israeli government will continue to respond with military force. It has no alternative – to defend its people and its territory is every government’s inalienable obligation. When civilians die as a result, world leaders should hold to account Hamas, the group that caused and willed these deaths, rather than instinctively pile ill-judged pressure on Israel.”

Col. Richard Kemp, Jerusalem, July 24 (Photo credit: ToI staff)

Col. Richard Kemp, Jerusalem, July 24 (Photo credit: ToI staff)

Two people reported killed by airstrike in Rafah

Palestinian sources report that two men were killed by an Israeli airstrike while riding a motorcycle in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Israeli Radio reports.

The two deaths brings the total number of Palestinians killed today to 28, according to the report.

Mashaal led Israel to Deif with phone call — report

Hamas political head in exile Khaled Mashaal reportedly broke protocol and directly contacted the head of the military wing in Gaza, Mohammed Deif, to discuss a ceasefire with Israel, a call that was intercepted by Israeli intelligence, News1 reports, citing Lebanese media reports.

There is no confirmation of the report, which was also carried by Israel’s Channel 10 news.

The call seemingly led intelligence to the location of Deif, who has been in hiding for years.

Shortly after the contact, Israel authorized the Tuesday strike on a Gaza residence, in which several were killed, including members of Deif’s family, the report states. It has not yet been confirmed if Deif was killed in the strike as well.

According to Palestinian sources cited in the Lebanese media, Mashal has been pressured to agree to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, but wished to consult directly with Deif, and did so contrary to established Hamas secrecy protocols.

Haniyeh: Israel to pay ‘heavy price’

Ismail Haniyeh, the top Hamas politician in Gaza, releases a statement promising Israel will pay a heavy price in retaliation for the elimination of three senior members of the organization’s military wing.

“The path is long, and the fighters of the al-Qassam Brigades will cause the enemy to pay a heavy price. The crimes of the enemy only strengthen our adherence to our demands of a stop to aggression, a lifting of the siege and a life of freedom,” Haniyeh writes, according to a Ynet translation.