The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Tuesday, August 26, the 50th day of Operation Protective Edge. Hamas killed two Israelis in a mortar attack just before an open-ended truce took effect Tuesday evening, bringing the Israeli death toll in Operation Cast Lead to 70, and Israel struck targets in Gaza including several high-rises where it said Hamas had command centers. Hamas hailed victory in the conflict; Israel’s cabinet was divided on the truce terms, but was not asked to vote on the deal. (Wednesday’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 50 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: Israel’s war against Hamas enters its 50th day, amid all kinds of reports about unofficial truce negotiations, apparently based on an Egyptian proposal for a one-month timeout.

Truce talk or not, Hamas fired over 100 rockets and mortars into Israel on Monday, and Israel struck Hamas and other targets in Gaza.

The relentless attacks on Israel’s south have seen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval ratings plummet. Those attacks also led the family of Daniel Tragerman, 4, killed by a mortar shell on Friday, to say that they will not return to their kibbutz, Nahal Oz.

Poll shows massive drop in Netanyahu ratings

A series of public-opinion polls broadcast Monday found a massive drop in support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The surveys, conducted by Shiluv Millward Brown and published on Channel 2, showed that Netanyahu’s approval rating dropped from 82 percent to 38% in the past month, and by 17% in the past four days alone.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on August 20, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on August 20, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

The size of the surveyed population, or the questions asked, were not detailed in the Channel 2 segment, and the statistics were not immediately available on the website of Shiluv Millward Brown.

Concerning the impending beginning of the school year, 63% of those polled voiced opposition to the opening of schools in southern Israel. Sixty-eight percent also said the government’s treatment of the south has been unsatisfactory.

Unconfirmed report that PFLP-GC chief killed by Islamists

Unconfirmed reports late Monday claimed PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril was killed in an IED attack in Syria carried out by the Nusra Front. It was not clear when or where the attack supposedly took place.

PFLP-GC chief Ahmed Jibril (right) pictured with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut in May 2002. Jibril's son, Jihad Jibril, was killed in a car bombing in Beirut that month. (photo credit: AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

PFLP-GC chief Ahmed Jibril (right) pictured with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut in May 2002. Jibril’s son, Jihad Jibril, was killed in a car bombing in Beirut that month. (photo credit: AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

Jibril’s group is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

IDF confirms strikes on Lebanon; Lebanese forces en route to launch site

The IDF confirmed late Monday that two rockets were fired into Israel from Lebanon and that it retaliated with artillery fire at the source of the attack.

According to Lebanese news outlet MTV, Israeli planes were seen flying over the southern Lebanon towns of Nabatieh and Jormok, after the rockets were reportedly fired from the latter town. Lebanese army forces were en route to the launch site, Lebanon’s government news outlet said.

Truce efforts advancing, end of hostilities essential, Hamas says

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said late Monday the Islamist group concedes that there are contacts to reach a truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions and that “the efforts are advancing more than in the past, but we haven’t received a concrete response from Israel.”

“We’re prepared to discuss at a later stage the various controversial issues: the sea port, the prisoners and the airport,” he said. “What’s important at this stage is ending the Israeli aggression, opening the crossings and rebuilding the Strip.”

Lebanese TV posts footage said to be rocket launch at Israel

A correspondent for the Lebanese channel Al Mayadeen tweets a video allegedly showing rockets being launched from Lebanon at northern Israel earlier tonight.

A rocket was reported to hit outside a community near the town of Kiryat Shmona. A second rocket was fired but the IDF did not detail an impact site.

Israeli media indicated the rocket hit near the ceasefire line, possibly on the Lebanese side.

The Israeli military responded with artillery fire toward the source of the launch, the IDF said.

Commercial building in Gaza City collapses after Israeli strike

Palestinians report that an 11-storey commercial building, called the Italian compound, was struck down in the Nasser neighborhood of Gaza City, injuring an unknown number of people.

At least 20 injured in Gaza building collapse — report

Palestinian medical officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip report that at 20 people are injured following an IDF strike on a building in a Gaza City neighborhood.

One Palestinian journalist says at least two people were killed in the attack.

US prepares own draft for Gaza ceasefire UN resolution

The US has presented its own draft elements for a Security Council resolution on a ceasefire between Israel, Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups, Reuters reports, and is working with other countries on a joint text.

US officials and UN diplomats say the US draft has been presented to several countries and follows a separate text brought forward by Jordan and a previous one jointly by Britain, France and Germany.

“The US has come up with its own draft,” a UN diplomat, who declined to be named, tells Reuters. “It’s quite different from the two others. Now they’re working to combine the drafts and come up with a common text.”

“We’ll work on coming up with a single draft,” another UN diplomat told Reuters “What’s important is that the Americans are engaging and there’s a new momentum in pushing for a ceasefire resolution in the Security Council that would be better than previous ones.”

UN diplomats say the US and Israel have been increasingly open to the idea of Security Council resolution on a ceasefire.

Gaza attacks trigger Israeli exodus from border; state offers help to those leaving

Hundreds of Israelis left their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip on Monday, reflecting growing frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire raining down on their communities. Tens of thousands of Israelis have fled the area in nearly two months of fighting, which has turned the communities into virtual ghost towns.

With the school year fast approaching, the government began offering assistance to residents Monday in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.

Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left over the course of the fighting, including hundreds on Monday. Some went to stay with relatives and friends, while others are staying at hostels or were taken in by strangers who want to help fellow Israelis.

Fields that once yielded vegetables and flowers are barren and pockmarked by Palestinian mortar shells. Streets are empty and most homes eerily silent.

The government this week offered to help anxious Israelis close to the war zone leave their homes, the first time it has sponsored a large-scale evacuation.

“It is their right to leave, and we will assist them with temporary solutions,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid said in a TV interview Sunday.

— AP

Since 8:30 p.m., all quiet on the Gaza border front

Since about 8:30 p.m. last night, no projectiles have been fired into Israel’s Gaza border communities or at all, Israel radio reports.

Yesterday, Gaza terrorists fired some 125 rockets and mortars into Israel, the majority at town bordering the Palestinian enclave.

Erdogan visits wounded Palestinians in Ankara hospital

Turkish Prime Minister and President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits Palestinians wounded in Operation Protective Edge who are being treated in Ankara hospitals, Al Ray, a Gaza-based news agency in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave, reports.

At least 50 Gazans have been transfered to Turkish hospitals over the past two months of fighting. Turkey says it plans to bring 150 more wounded Palestinians for treatment.

Watch: Gaza tower struck by Israeli jets comes down

Video footage emerges of the Gaza tower struck overnight by Israel, killing two and injuring over 20, according to Palestinian medical official in the Gaza Strip.

The tower reportedly contained some residential apartments and media offices.

US General John Allen in Israel for post-ceasefire talks

US General John Allen, a four-star marine and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, is on an unannouced visit to Israel today. He is set to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss the possible renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians once the Gaza operation ends, Israel Radio reports.

General John Allen (photo credit: US Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)

General John Allen (photo credit: US Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons)

Sirens in Tel Aviv

Two loud explosions heard over Tel Aviv region

Sirens sound in Ashkelon

IDF says 15 targets hit in Gaza overnight

The IDF says it struck 15 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight.

On Twitter, Palestinians in Gaza reported massive jet and drone activity across the Palestinian enclave.

Rocket hits home in Ashkelon; no reported injuries

At least 1 rocket intercepted over Tel Aviv region

The IDF says at least one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system this morning as a massive barrage was fired at central Israel.

Over Tel Aviv, residents heard at least two loud explosions after the sirens blared.

Sirens in Gaza periphery

Rocket sirens sound in the community of Nir Oz, just outside the Gaza Strip.

Rockets in response to tower bombing

Israeli media reports that Hamas claims responsibility for the early morning barrage at Tel Aviv, saying it is in response to the overnight bombing of a tower block in Gaza City that left two dead and 20 injured.

The group’s armed wing claims to have shot four missiles at Tel Aviv and one at Haifa. There were no sirens or reports of rockets near Haifa.

Damage but no injuries in Ashkelon — police

Israel police confirm a rocket scored a hit on a home in Ashkelon, causing damage but no injuries.

Israeli news outlet Haaretz reports the house was empty at the time, and a water line was damaged by the rocket.

According to Channel 10 News reporter Alon Ben David on Twitter, an 8-year-old boy was lightly injured by shrapnel. There is no confirmation of his report.


IDF confirms it hit schools in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces confirms via Twitter that it hit over 15 targets in overnight airstrikes, including “terror sites” used as command and control centers for Hamas.

Among the targets, the army says, were two schools in the central and northern Strip being used as rocket launching sites.

One of the schools hit, the Ali Bin Abi Taleb school, was also being used as a shelter by internally displaced Palestinians, who were warned via text message and voice message to leave, the IDF says.

It says a mortar shot from the school on Friday struck and killed 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman in Nahal Oz, just outside the Strip, according to the army.

Three reported injured by morning rockets

Israel Radio reports three people were lightly injured in the early morning rocket barrage, likely from shrapnel.

Reports had earlier emerged that one of the injured was an 8-year-old boy.

A house in Ashkelon suffered serious damage from a rocket hit.

Six injured in strike on Ashkelon home

Other Israeli media now reporting six people lightly injured in the rocket hit on a home in Ashkelon, mostly from flying glass.

The Ynet news website says three of those injured are children.

Channel 2 interviews inhabitants of the home, who were sleeping at the time and did not make it to a shelter, but managed to avoid serious injuries.

Pictures from the scene show serious damage to the home, including a large hole in the roof.

IDF arrests 23 in West Bank overnight

The IDF says it arrested 23 Palestinian suspects in terror-related activities overnight in the West Bank.

Among the suspects are eight from the Jenin area, nine from the Nablus area, one from a village near Ramallah, one from the Kalkilya region, one from a village near Bethlehem and three from the Hebron area.

The suspects were taken “for investigation by the security forces,” the army says.

Sirens sound in Eshkol

Sirens are sounding in the Eshkol Regional Council near Gaza as an ongoing rocket barrage from Gaza continues this morning.

Photos of destroyed Gaza tower

Photos continue to emerge on social media of the destroyed Al Basha tower in Gaza, which the IDF says was used by Hamas as a command and control center.

Al-Qassam Brigades rejects Gaza disarmament

As international efforts to address the Gaza conflict pick up steam, including a “disarmament for rehabilitation” proposal that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni wants to take to the UN for international backing, Hamas’s armed branch, the Al-Qassam Brigades, warns that it will not accept any international deal on Gaza that includes disarmament of Gaza’s armed groups.

IDF: Gaza damage maps show we targeted rocket fire

The IDF posts a video arguing that maps of the damage in Gaza show IDF strikes have targeted rocket launching sites in the Strip.

Hamas official says group now accepts Egyptian ceasefire

A senior Hamas official, spokesman and political bureau number-two (after Khaled Mashaal) Moussa Abu Marzouk, says Hamas accepts the formulation in the latest Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

The statement could have far-reaching repercussions, as the Egyptian proposal does not condition the ceasefire on economic or political benefits for Hamas or Gaza — a red line for Hamas until today that stymied past ceasefire attempts.

Abu Marzouk makes the comments to the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat.

An Islamic Jihad official tells the paper that the Egyptian proposal will strengthen the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, as it gives the West Bank-based authority control of Gaza’s border crossings — a proposal already accepted by many members of Israel’s security cabinet.

The Jihad official says his group decided to accept the Egyptian proposal in order to prevent the deaths of any more Palestinian children. He adds that Israel failed in Operation Protective Edge because it has failed to disarm the Strip or prevent the construction of additional tunnels.

Two rockets slam into Eshkol region

Two rockets from Gaza landed in the Eshkol region. One hit a building in a village in the area, causing damage. There are no reports of injuries.

Sirens sound in Gaza periphery

Sirens are sounding in the Gaza periphery.

Photo of Ashkelon house badly damaged by rocket

A photo of the Ashkelon home badly damaged by rocket fire from Gaza this morning. Residents of the house, who had not made it to the bomb shelter when the rocket hit, were “miraculously” (in the family’s words) only lightly hurt.

IDF video of overnight strikes on Gaza rocket sites

The IDF publishes footage of its overnight strikes on Gaza rocket launching sites.

One strike has “secondary explosions,” indicating additional ordinance at the site that was detonated by the IDF missile.

Rockets continue to fall in Eshkol

The hour-long barrage of rockets on the Eshkol Regional Council continues, with four rockets falling in the area in recent minutes and sirens continuing to sound in villages throughout the rural region. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Sirens in Kerem Shalom

Sirens are sounding in Kerem Shalom, on Gaza’s southern border.

Ex-AP Jerusalem reporter slams Gaza coverage

In a scathing critique in Tablet of international coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Matti Friedman, reporter and editor at AP’s Jerusalem bureau from 2006 to the end of 2011 (and former Times of Israel writer), pens a few shocking revelations about the journalistic attitudes behind AP’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and explains that “the agency is wholly average” among large international news outlets covering the region.

There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)

But, Friedman continues, Hamas intimidation “is largely beside the point.”

Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story. In addition, reporters are under deadline and often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both. Reporters don’t need Hamas enforcers to shoo them away from facts that muddy the simple story they have been sent to tell.

It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players—a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.

Anything that doesn’t fit the preordained story doesn’t get published, Friedman charges.

The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians, and which were undermined by the Palestinians, is considered unimportant and rarely mentioned. These lacunae are often not oversights but a matter of policy. In early 2009, for example, two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story.

Some staffers were furious, but it didn’t help. Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.

This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

There is no response from AP in the article.

Ariel U hosts families fleeing Gaza periphery

In a press release, Ariel University, located in the northern West Bank city of Ariel, says nearly 100 families who left the Gaza periphery due to ongoing rocket fire are being hosted in the institution as-yet empty student dorms.

“More families are set to arrive in the coming days,” the statement says.

The academic year begins at the end of October, so the dorms are empty and available for the coming weeks.

According to the university, “activities have been arranged for parents and children. The activities include evening camp fires, communal meals, movie screenings, tours of the area and other festivities.”

“Given the dramatic escalation in rocket fire from Gaza in recent days many people have found it difficult to return to their homes. Despite being located 20 kilometers east of the Green Line, the City of Ariel and its 20,000 residents remain largely unaffected by Operation Protective Edge.”

Sirens sound in Gaza periphery villages

Sirens are sounding in Nirim and Ein Hashlosha, near Gaza.

50-day Gaza fighting anniversary inspires ironic tweeting

It’s no secret that journalists like round numbers that make for pithy headlines. On day 50 of the Gaza fighting, some are ironically noting the “anniversary,” and even calling for the war to end today for just that reason.

Nearly 600 babies born in UN shelters during fighting

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness tweets that 594 babies have been born in the organization’s shelters since the start of the Gaza fighting.

Gaza girl, 1, in Israel for heart surgery

A one-year-old girl from Gaza is in Israel for life-saving heart surgery today at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, according to a press release from Save a Child’s Heart, a charity that helps children obtain life-saving cardiac treatments.

The release explains:

The girl, Fajar, a Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) patient arrived from Gaza with her father on Sunday evening. Fajar will be operated on Tuesday at around 11 a.m. by SACH lead surgeon Dr. Lior Sasson and his team.

Fajar is one of 25 children from around the world treated in Israel currently by SACH including children from the West Bank, Syria, Iraq, Romania, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zanzibar.

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international non-profit organization. We are known worldwide for our commitment to saving lives by improving the quality of cardiac care for children from developing countries and creating centers of medical competence in these countries. SACH provides life-saving cardiac surgery and other lifesaving procedures at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel. Our doctors and nurses also hold preoperative and follow up cardiology clinics in Israel and abroad on a weekly basis. To date, we have saved the lives of over 3,400 children from Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East.

Two rockets fall in Eshkol, none hurt

Two more rockets fall in the Eshkol Regional Council, bringing the number of rockets that fell on the area this morning to at least a dozen.

There are no reports of damage or injuries from the latest attacks.

IDF returns active duty troops to north

Amid sporadic rocket fire on the northern border in recent days, the IDF has begun to return active duty battalions to the north.

The battalions were replaced on the northern border by reservists who were called up to free the younger, better-trained troops for fighting in Gaza.

According to Israel Radio, the Golani infantry brigade is now redeploying along the Lebanese border.

Lebanese army finds launchers used to strike Galilee

The Lebanese military finds three rocket launchers in southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese media. Two of the launchers had been used to fire rockets on the Galilee, but the third launcher had not been fired due to a malfunction, the Lebanese army says.

Minister warns ‘no simple solutions’ in Gaza

Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Services Minister Yuval Steinitz says Gaza must be demilitarized at the end of the current conflict, but that “there are no simple solutions” to the Israel-Hamas standoff.

Israel must also be extremely wary about security control in the West Bank, because mortar fire from West Bank cities of the type fired from Gaza in recent days could hit Jerusalem, Kfar Saba, Highway 6 and other major population centers and strategic arteries in the center of the country, Steinitz told a conference of the Israel Bar Association in Ashkelon this morning.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

“We are 50 days into the Gaza campaign and there are no simple solutions,” he says.

He also urges cabinet ministers who have criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to back the PM for the duration of the fighting. “Though there are different views, and that’s legitimate, it’s important [for cabinet ministers] to fully support the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff.”

Sirens sound in Gaza periphery villages

Sirens are sounding in the Gaza periphery villages of Zikim, Karmiyeh, Yad Mordechai and Netiv Haasara.

Maccabi TA manager quits over safety fears

Maccabi Tel Aviv manager Oscar Garcia has decided to leave the team just three months after returning to it due to the security situation in Israel, British media are reporting.

Two English soccer clubs, Leeds United and Fulham FC, are reportedly considering hiring Garcia.

Garcia left Maccabi in 2013 after leading it to victory in the national championship, but returned to the Israeli team last May after just 11 months managing England’s Brighton Seagulls.

According to the media reports, Garcia is leaving Maccabi “amid concerns for his family’s safety” due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and rocket fire on Tel Aviv.

“His family left Tel Aviv to return to Spain a few days ago but he stayed to give the club time to appoint a successor. Maccabi are expected to announce Pako Ayestaran, former No.2 to Rafael Benitez at Liverpool, as Oscar’s replacement at a press conference today,” the Brighton news site The Argus reports.

Ashkelon rocket said to be larger, possibly new type

Security officials say the rocket that struck a home in Ashkelon this morning carried an exceptionally large warhead. Twenty-one people were wounded, eight of them children, from the explosion’s shock wave and flying shrapnel and broken glass.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the rocket may have been a new type to be launched from Gaza, and intended for central Israel.

J’lem rail disrupted, delayed due to violence

CityPass, the company that runs Jerusalem’s light rail, says it expects disruption and delays in the city’s rail service due to ongoing violence in East Jerusalem that has caused damage to multiple train cars and stations.

The light rail has faced daily incidents of rock- and firebomb-throwing, damaging many cars and leaving them unfit for use. Just 15 out of 23 trains are currently usable, the company says in a statement today.

“This means that fewer trains are available than are needed, and that will reduce the frequency [of trains] all along the line,” the statement reads.

Train cars have been damaged on a daily basis, it says.

Some stations, including the one in Shuafat in northern Jerusalem, have also been damaged multiple times.

Man indicted for aiding Israeli teens’ killers

A resident of East Jerusalem is under indictment for allegedly aiding one of the alleged planners of the killing of Israeli teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah to escape after the murder.

The Jerusalem District Prosecutor’s Office has filed an indictment in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court for obstruction of justice and harboring a criminal against Wail Karme, a resident of Anata, a Palestinian village on Jerusalem’s northeast municipal boundary.

According to the indictment, Karme offered Husam Kawasme, who Israel says commanded the Hebron-based Hamas cell that kidnapped and murdered the teens in June, a safe place to hide after the attack.

Karme and Kawasme are cousins, and the bodies of the teens were eventually found on Karme’s land. According to the indictment, Karme knew where the teens were buried but kept the information secret until he was arrested by Israeli security forces.

Israel closes Kerem Shalom crossing — report

Palestinian media is reporting that Israel has closed the Kerem Shalom crossing.

‘Gaza is disarming — by firing at us’

Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin offers some bitter sarcasm today over the continued rocket fire on his rural region.

“Gaza’s disarmament continues — through the massive fire on the Eshkol Council that is emptying the arsenals of Hamas,” he says, mocking the government’s demands that Gaza be disarmed even as over a dozen rockets hit the Eshkol region this morning.

“Since the start of the escalation [on July 8], more than 1,300 rockets have fallen in Eshkol,” Yellin says. “Operation Protective Edge has now ended and the war of attrition continues,” he adds, a reference to years of rocket fire from Gaza, including during times of ceasefire.

“The government of Israel should wake up, stop talking and start doing. Hamas’s leaders are in bunkers and you are in Jerusalem,” he adds, addressing cabinet ministers.

Yellin calls on the cabinet to hold its weekly meeting in a community on the Gaza border. “I’m sure the decisions that will be made [in such a meeting] will be correct, fast and connected to reality.”

Two rockets shot down near Ashkelon

Two rockets from Gaza are shot down by Iron Dome over the Ashkelon Beach area.

Sirens sound in Ashdod, Ashkelon

A barrage of rockets has just been fired from Gaza at southern towns and villages. Sirens are sounding in Ashdod, Ashkelon, the Ashkelon industrial zone, Nitzan, Nitzanim, Bney Darom, Nir Galim, Zikim and Karmiya, among others.

Rocket falls in kindergarten in Ashdod, none hurt

A rocket from Gaza falls in a kindergarten in the southern city of Ashdod. No one is hurt in the explosion, according to initial reports.

Photo of rocket in Ashdod kindergarten playground

Photos are emerging on social media reportedly of the rocket that just struck the playground outside a kindergarten in Ashdod.

No one was hurt in the attack.

Rocket shot down over Ashkelon

A rocket is intercepted by Iron Dome over Ashkelon. The rocket was part of a barrage fired from Gaza on nearby towns in recent minutes.

Six said killed in IDF strikes on Gaza

Six Palestinians are reportedly killed in Israel Air Force strikes on Gaza, the Palestinian news site Ma’an says, citing witnesses in the Strip.

The dead include two “employees from a local electricity company,” the website says, along with “two unidentified Palestinians” in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

Hamas says shell that killed 4-year-old had targeted IDF chief

Hamas’s armed wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claims it can track senior IDF leaders and was targeting military officers in last Friday’s mortar shelling of Kibbutz Nahal Oz in which four-year-old Daniel Tragerman was killed.

The group’s website quotes “Abu Khalil,” who it describes as a “field commander in the artillery” of the Brigades, explaining that the mortar attack was carried out after Hamas received intelligence that IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz would be visiting the village that day.

The report claims, based on the “confusion” evident at the site of the attack as ambulances rushed to the scene, that Hamas’s shells had hit senior IDF officers.

While Gantz was present in the kibbutz that day, no IDF or other leaders were hurt in the attack. The IDF announced on Saturday that Gantz had visited Nahal Oz the previous day.

Hamas illustrated the report rather colorfully with a photo of a rifle sight over Gantz’s photo.

Hamas fired 4,450 rockets in 50 days — IDF

In the course of the 50 days of the Israel-Hamas conflict, Hamas has fired 4,450 rockets and other projectiles at Israel, the army says.

Of these, 3,555 fell in Israel – 221 of them in residential areas.

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 714 incoming rockets.

In Gaza, the Israel Air Force has hit 5,226 Hamas and other terror targets, the army says.

Egypt, PA to announce truce, peace proposals

Later tonight, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are planning to simultaneously announce both a ceasefire and a diplomatic initiative by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to establish a Palestinian state.

Senior Palestinian officials tell The Times of Israel that according to the joint Palestinian-Egyptian plan, the Palestinian leadership will convene in Ramallah between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. this evening to introduce Abbas’s framework to “put an end to the occupation” and establish a Palestinian state.

At the same time, Cairo will call for a permanent ceasefire based on the agreements reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012. According to the Egyptian proposal, the Palestinian factions’ demand for a seaport and airport will be discussed in a month’s time.

— Avi Issacharoff

Hamas claims ‘victory’ as truce is agreed upon

Hamas claims it has won a “victory” after negotiating a truce with Israel, AFP reports.

The news agency quotes a Palestinian official saying a long-term truce in the Gaza Strip had been agreed upon.

Meanwhile, Channel 2 political analysts Ehud Ya’ari confirms that a truce has been reached, and Ynet quotes senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk as saying the talks in Cairo had ended.

“The negotiations are over, we have reached agreements,” Abu Marzouk said.

Several rockets shot down over south

As Hamas announces that it has successfully negotiated a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, several rockets are shot down over southern Israel.

The rockets are shot down over Sha’ar Hanegev, Sderot and Hof Ashkelon.

Hamas chief in Cairo boasts of ‘victory for resistance’

Amid reports of a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk announces that the negotiations between the two sides are almost at an end and that an announcement will soon be made of a ceasefire and an “end to Israeli hostilities.”

Haaretz quotes Abu Marzouk, who is the deputy of Hamas’s Gaza chief, Ismail Haniyeh, as saying that the agreement constitutes a “victory” for the resistance movement and rewards the resilience of the Palestinian people.

Abu Marzouk speaks in Cairo, where the negotiations were taking place. Haaretz reports that Abu Marzouk returned to the Egyptian capital this morning after meeting Hamas political leaders, including political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, in the Qatari capital.

Israel says truce reports are just reports

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev says reports of a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip — announced mostly by Hamas — are “just reports.”

He says the truce agreement has not been signed yet, though a senior Hamas official in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, says the talks between Israel and the Palestinian factions have nearly come to an end.

Truce deal to end blockade — Palestinian source

The Palestinians have reached agreement with Israel on a “permanent” ceasefire for the Gaza Strip — which will also provide a framework to end the blockade over the Gaza Strip, a senior official tells AFP.

“The contacts that have been going on have agreed a permanent ceasefire, a (deal to) end the blockade and a guarantee that Gaza’s demands and needs will be met,” the official tells AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There is no immediate comment from Israel. However, Israel has been hesitant about easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip, fearing the concessions will enable Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups operating in the Gaza Strip to import concrete for tunnels, rocket-making materials and weapons for use against Israel.

— AFP and Times of Israel staff

Sirens sound in Eshkol, Sdot Negev

Truce deal said to include provisions for opening crossings

The ceasefire Israel and the Palestinian factions are reportedly on the verge of signing in Cairo will also include provisions for the opening of the crossings out of and into the Gaza Strip.

Ynet reports that the crossings will be opened under the supervision of Palestinian Authority security forces.

Sources in the Palestinian Authority say the truce will be announced by Cairo and Ramallah at 7 p.m. this evening. While Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, says the Islamist movement “is now awaiting the official announcement of Cairo,” no Israeli official has confirmed any agreement.

The agreement will provide a framework for a permanent ceasefire, as well as lifting the blockade on the Gaza Strip — a condition the Palestinian factions in Cairo have insisted upon.

— AFP and Times of Israel staff

Truce agreement said to expand fishing area

The truce agreement reported reached between Israel and the Palestinian factions will reportedly expand the permitted fishing area in the Gaza Strip, Ynet reports

3 injured as rocket hits southern town

Just one hour before a ceasefire announcement, three people are injured in a rocket attack on an Israeli town in the Gaza periphery.

Rockets are also fired from the Gaza Strip at Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi, Ofakim and Ashkelon, Channel 10 defense correspondent Alon Ben David reports.

3 seriously injured in Eshkol region

The three people who were injured in a rocket attack on the Eshkol region just two hours before a ceasefire announcement are seriously hurt, Channel 2 reports.

4, not 3, injured in Eshkol attack

Four people, not three, were injured in a mortar attack on the Eshkol region, in southern Israel.

One of the injured is in critical condition, while the other three are in serious condition.

Egyptians say ceasefire to begin at 7 p.m.

A permanent ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip will come into effect at 7 p.m. this evening, Channel 2 reports, citing Egyptian sources.

Man wounded in mortar attack dies

One of the six people wounded in a mortar attack on the Eshkol region, in southern Israel, has died of his wounds after attempts to save his life failed, Channel 2 reports.

Two people are still seriously injured, and three others lightly hurt.

Israel agrees to truce

Israel has agreed to a truce in the Gaza Strip, starting at 7 p.m. tonight, Channel 2 reports.

It is yet to be seen if the truce commencing this evening is part of a negotiated agreement over a long-term ceasefire.

Abbas confirms truce to go into effect at 7

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas confirms that a truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip will go into effect at 7 p.m. this evening.

Sirens blare throughout southern Israel

Just minutes before a truce in the Gaza Strip take effect, Code Red sirens blare throughout southern Israel.

The alerts sound over the Eshkol region, where one man was killed and 5 others injured in a mortar attack earlier this evening, as well as Netivot, Sha’ar Hanegev, Sdot Negev, Beersheba, Merhavim and Bnei Shimon.

Abbas formally announces deal on Gaza truce

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announces that a deal has been reached with Israel over a long-term end to seven weeks of fighting in Gaza.

In a televised speech at the start of a leadership meeting in Ramallah, Abbas says, “We announce the Palestinian leadership’s agreement to Egypt’s call for a comprehensive and lasting truce, beginning at 7 p.m. today.”


Booms heard over Tel Aviv

As rockets and mortars continue to be fired at Israel, moments before a truce takes effect, residents of central Israel report hearing booms over the area.

Hamas has now accepted old Egyptian proposal — report

As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announces a proposal for a long-term truce, Channel 2 says the document is the same Egyptian proposal from a month ago calling for an immediate halt to hostilities, with negotiations to follow after that.

According to the report, the deal has been accepted now by Hamas in Gaza, having been rejected previously due to objections from political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal.

Hamas claims Tel Aviv rocket fire, then deletes tweet

Hamas claims responsibility for the rocket fire at Tel Aviv just before an open-ended truce takes effect this evening.

The organization’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, says it “hit Tel Aviv” with an M-75 “homemade projectile” in response to Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

UPDATE: The tweet has been taken down.

Official confirms Israel accepts truce proposal

Army Radio quotes “the most senior and official” Israeli government source confirming that Israel has accepted the Egyptian proposal for an open-ended truce.

The official says the terms do not include any response to Hamas demands, including those for a seaport, airport, prisoner releases, or transfer of funds to pay salaries.

He adds that those issues will be discussed in a month, if the quiet proves itself.

Hamas’s spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, is hailing victory for several reasons, Army Radio reports — for example, because it imposed what he calls an “air blockade” on Israel, a reference to the suspension by many foreign airlines of flights to Ben Gurion Airport for two days last month.

It also forced Israelis close to Gaza to flee their homes, he says. They can return now, he says, because Hamas has decided they can — not because Netanyahu has decided they can.

Fireworks, gunshots as Gaza celebrates ‘victory’

Fireworks and celebratory gunshots are heard in the Gaza Strip as its residents celebrate what Hamas spokesmen have hailed as a resistance “victory” against Israel, Al Jazeera reports.

Gazans, including gunmen, flock to the streets

Thousands of Palestinians flood on to the streets of Gaza City after an open-ended truce agreed between Israel and the Palestinians goes into effect.

Among the celebrants are gunmen — some from Hamas — who fire in the air in celebration just moments after the truce begins, AFP correspondents say.

Mosques use their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants of “God is greatest” as the war-torn enclave hails the apparent end to some of the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence in a decade.


Hamas hails triumph over Israel

After an open-ended truce goes into effect at 7 p.m., Hamas tweets a graphic boasting of its triumph over Israel.

In the graphic, captioned “And so Gaza has triumphed,” three Palestinian gunfighters — one wearing a green Hamas headband flanked by two others, presumably belonging to other armed Gaza factions — can be seen pointing their weapons at a Israeli soldier raising his hands in the air and holding a white flag.

The soldier is shirtless, his military-issue shirt slung over his shoulder. A large black Star of David is tattooed on his bare back.

Behind the soldier, tanks — presumably Israeli ones — are seen retreating, presumably from the Gaza Strip, amid a cloud of fire and smoke.

Video purports to show 15 simultaneous interceptions

Footage uploaded to the YouTube video sharing website earlier today purports to show 15 simultaneous Iron Dome interceptions over the skies of Israel.

In the video, several Israelis — one of them wearing a Jewish prayer shawl, indicating that he is mid-prayer — hide in and behind a shelter on a military base as sirens sound overhead, signaling incoming rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

Not long after, a flurry of interceptions by Iron Dome takes place — first two, then four, then several more, with booms signaling interceptions following.

Finally, the siren and booms die down, the interceptions leaving white streaks across the sky.

Israel soccer qualifier with Belgium postponed

The Euro 2016 qualifier between Israel and Belgium initially scheduled for September 9 is postponed until March 31, 2015, due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the Belgian Federation (URBSFA) announces.

An agreement is reached between the two relevant federations and European governing body UEFA to put back the match, which was expected to take place in Jerusalem.

Israel and Belgium are alongside Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Wales in qualifying Group B for the Euro 2016 finals, which will be held in France.


Half of cabinet ministers oppose truce

Half of the ministers in the security cabinet are still opposed to the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire, even as an open-ended truce in the Gaza Strip takes effect, Channel 2 reports.

According to the report, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch say they are opposed to the Egyptian framework, with Communications Minister Gilad Erdan also voicing reservations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly approved the proposal without putting it to a vote in the cabinet, as the move does not legally require the ministers’ approval.

Earlier, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the ceasefire must not expire as soon as Hamas re-arms. “Hamas can’t be given any concessions or political achievements. Everyone has to realize that Hamas has not achieved anything,” Livni said.

‘Truce stipulates immediate border opening’

Egypt says the Gaza ceasefire that went into force at 7 p.m. today provides for an immediate opening of Israeli border crossings to aid and reconstruction supplies.

Alongside a comprehensive ceasefire, the two sides are said to agree to the “simultaneous opening of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza to enable the rapid entry of humanitarian aid and relief and reconstruction supplies” into the Strip, an Egyptian foreign ministry statement says.

The Egyptian-brokered deal also provides for the immediate extension to six nautical miles off the Gaza coast of the limit imposed by Israel on the territory’s fishermen.

It foresees “continuation of indirect negotiations between the two sides on other matters within one month of the ceasefire taking effect.”


US ‘strongly supports’ Gaza ceasefire

The United States gives full backing to the announcement of a new open-ended truce between Israel and the Palestinians after 50 days of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

“We strongly support the cease fire announcement,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says.


AJCongress welcomes truce, calls for Gaza demilitarization

The American Jewish Congress welcomes the announcement of an open-ended truce between Israel and the Gaza Strip and calls for the demilitarization of the coastal enclave.

The organization’s president, Jack Rosen, says in a statement that “the incessant violence waged against Israel over the past 50 days has thankfully come to a halt, but what comes next is critical for the lifespan of this agreement… If this ceasefire is to succeed, Hamas must decide once and for all that it is more important to improve the lives of the residents of Gaza than to bolster its rocket caches.”

Noting that an Israeli was killed as a barrage of mortars was fired from Gaza just before the truce took effect, a “troubling signal of Hamas’s intentions moving forward,” Rosen says, “A demilitarized Gaza, free from rockets and tunnels, with a boosted Palestinian Authority security presence led by President Mahmoud Abbas, may be the type of shift that could set the stage for renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But first, the eyes of the world must turn toward Hamas and ensure that the end to the current violence is not merely a ‘timeout’ to rebuild a regime of terror that has cost so many lives on both sides.”

Jewish couple attacked in NYC

A Jewish married couple were verbally and physically attacked in New York City by assailants — apparently Palestinian supporters — yelling anti-Jewish statements, the New York Post reports.

On Monday evening, a gang pulled up in two cars and several motorcycles and surrounded the couple on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the New York Post says. Several of the vehicles displayed Palestinian flags.

The wife was hit with a water bottle and her husband was punched in the side of his head, according to the newspaper, which cites law enforcement sources.

Police reportedly believe the couple was singled out because the husband was wearing a kippah.


Hamas, Jihad chiefs make first appearance since July 8

Several senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders appear in public shortly after a Gaza truce takes hold, the first time they have done so since the conflict began on July 8.

Among them is Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of the Hamas political wing, and senior Jihad official Mohammed al-Hindi, who gives a rousing victory speech to thousands of people gathered in a square in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood.

“We’re going to build our port and our airport, and if they attack the port, they attack the port. But anyone who attacks the airport will have their airport attacked again,” Zahar says.

He refers to a two-day suspension of flights into Tel Aviv by major US and European airlines in mid-July after a rocket from Gaza struck near the runway, in a move hailed as a victory by Hamas.


Kerry hopes truce will end rocket attacks

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry hopes that the truce accepted today will pave the way to a permanent resolution regarding the Gaza Strip.

In a statement issued hours after the truce goes into effect, Kerry writes that the US “strongly supports” the agreement and “hopes very much that this ceasefire will prove to be durable and sustainable, that it will put an end to rocket and mortar attacks, and that it will help to bring about an enduring end to the conflict in Gaza.”

Kerry also calls for the acceleration of “the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza” and says that the US is “prepared to work with our international partners on a major reconstruction initiative, with appropriate measures in place to ensure that this is for the benefit of the civilian population in Gaza, not Hamas and other terrorist organizations.”

The US will partner with the Palestinian Authority rather than with Hamas in forwarding reconstruction plans.

— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Main points of Gaza truce deal

Israel and Hamas accept an Egyptian proposal for an open-ended truce in war-torn Gaza on Tuesday in a move to end 50 days of bloodshed.

Here are the main points of the Egyptian proposal as explained by Azzam al-Ahmad, lead Palestinian negotiator, in the truce talks.

Border crossings

The agreement provides for an immediate easing of restrictions on the two main crossings between Israel and Gaza to allow in aid and reconstruction supplies.

The move would facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and food as well as medical supplies and materials to repair key infrastructure including the water network, the electricity grid and mobile phone networks.

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)

Fishing limits

Restrictions imposed on Gaza fishermen are to be relaxed, with an immediate extension of the fishing zone to six nautical miles from the shore, to be extended later to 12 miles.


The Egyptian proposal foresees discussion of a number of as yet unresolved issues, including a future prisoner swap deal.

Such an arrangement would involve the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel in exchange for militants handing over the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the fighting.

Hamas wants hundreds of prisoners released, among them those arrested in a major Israeli arrest campaign in the West Bank in June and around 60 who were released in a 2011 prisoner swap deal then re-arrested.

Gaza airport and seaport

A key Hamas demand for the reopening of Gaza’s airport and its seaport will be discussed in negotiations which will take place in Cairo within the next month.

Blockade and demilitarization

The deal provides for a lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza, which was imposed in 2006 and tightened a year later amid attacks from the coastal enclave.

There are no specific details on issues such as restriction of construction materials which could be used for terrorist purposes or a resumption of exports to the West Bank and overseas.

Israel has linked the lifting of the blockade and the reconstruction of Gaza to the disarming of terrorist groups in a demand flatly refused by the Palestinians.


Sur Baher residents celebrate Gaza ‘victory’

Residents of Sur Baher, in East Jerusalem, go out into the streets to celebrate the “victory” of Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Waving Palestinian — and possibly Hamas — flags and shooting fireworks into the night sky, they chant what are presumably pro-Gaza slogans in Arabic, a video by the Palestinian Shehab News Agency shows.

Meretz head pans Netanyahu over truce

Hours after an open-ended truce between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip takes effect, Meretz chairwoman Zahava Gal-on blasts the agreement, saying it shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s strategy against Hamas has failed.

“The truce agreed upon between Israel and Hamas comes too late, and its terms prove conclusively that Operation Protective Edge is a strategic failure on the part of Netanyahu, who went to war without objectives and ended it by granting Hamas a huge victory on the backs of the residents of the south,” she says in a statement posted to Facebook.

Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-on, June 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Meretz leader MK Zahava Gal-on, June 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Accusing Netanyahu of failing to understand the extent of the plight of residents of Gaza border towns, Gal-on says Netanyahu hypocritically refused to recognize the Palestinian unity government of which Hamas was part, yet negotiated with the terrorist organization under fire.

“There is no clearer indication of the profound failure of his policy,” she says. “One thing is clear: the same agreements could have been reached months ago, with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority and not with Hamas, under fire — and without engaging in an unnecessary war for which we are paying a very heavy price in terms of lives lost, casualties, and soon enough, a heavy financial price as well.”

She then calls on Netanyahu himself to “pay the price and go home.”

Death toll in mortar attack rises to 2

One of the wounded in the mortar attack on the Eshkol region earlier today has died, bringing the death toll in the attack to 2.

The man, who was at first said to be seriously injured, succumbed to his wounds late this evening.

Four others were wounded in the incident, one of them seriously and three others lightly.

J Street welcomes Gaza truce

J Street welcomes the truce reached with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Gaza Strip, praising the two sides for seeing “there is no military solution to their conflict” and saying the “awful bloodshed” had ended “without winners — only losers.”

In a statement released today, the organization’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, urges both parties to carry out their commitments so the ceasefire proves durable, allowing for “broader efforts to improve the lives of the Palestinian population of Gaza” while enabling Israelis to live without fear of terrorist attacks.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder and director, speaking at the group’s 2012 conference. (photo credit: J Street)

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder and director, speaking at the group’s 2012 conference. (photo credit: J Street)

“The ceasefire also offers an opportunity for the parties to urgently address the root causes of the violence including those at the very heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the occupation,” he says.

“That is why, once this war is behind us, Israel and the PLO must not merely settle for an illusory status quo, but instead work urgently toward a long-term political agreement that establishes two states, side-by-side in peace and security and an end to the underlying conflict and the occupation. This cease-fire is a beginning, but only a comprehensive two-state solution can bring an end to the suffering we have witnessed,” he adds.

“Without doing so, we are likely to see Hamas come back stronger and with better weapons.”

UN chief welcomes Gaza ceasefire, calls for PA control of Strip

The United Nations secretary-general is welcoming the open-ended ceasefire reached by Israel and Hamas in Gaza but warns that “any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence.”

The statement by the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said Gaza “must be brought back under one legitimate Palestinian Government,” that the blockade of Gaza must stop and that Israel’s security concerns must be addressed.

It adds: “After 50 days of profound human suffering and devastating physical destruction, any violations of the cease-fire would be utterly irresponsible.”

The UN statement stresses that a political process that leads to two states is the only way to reach lasting peace in Gaza.

— AP

Blair lauds Gaza ceasefire agreement

Quartet representative to the Middle East Tony Blair reacts to the Israel-Hamas ceasefire agreement which went into effect earlier this evening, saying he welcomes the deal and congratulates Egypt on mediating the negotiations successfully.

“The Quartet will now concentrate on a long-term plan for Gaza and for its reconstruction, including the effective and efficient re-opening and re-connection to the outside world under the authority of the PA Government,” he says. “Such a plan will enable a proper and decent life for the people of Gaza, as well as protect the security of the people of Israel.”

“It is only tragic that such a ceasefire has come too late to save the lives of so many innocent people.”

Kerry says hopes Gaza ceasefire leads to ‘enduring end to conflict’

US Secretary of State John Kerry writes on Twitter in reaction to the ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel. “Good outcome on cease-fire agreement,” Kerry says in telegraphic prose. “hope durable and sustainable/end rocket attacks/help enduring end to Gaza conflict.”

Nirim security chief killed in mortar strike

One of the two Israelis killed in the mortar strike on Kibbutz Nirim in the Eshkol Regional Council is identified – 55-year-old Ze’ev Etzion, the security chief for the kibbutz.

Israel Radio reports that he was also a volunteer ambulance driver for Magen David Adom.

Another Israeli died on his way to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. A man who was seriously injured was operated on and is currently in intensive care.

They were fixing electric problems caused by another mortar strike.

Kibbutz Nirim security chief Zeev Etzion (screen capture: Channel 2)

Kibbutz Nirim security chief Zeev Etzion (screen capture: Channel 2)

Head of Eshkol Regional Council tells residents to stay away

Haim Jelin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, instructs residents not to return until it is clear that the ceasefire is for real, Israel Radion reports.

Jelin tells Channel 10 that if the rocket fire continues, he will ask government ministers to come to the region with their families, and decide on their next steps in rocket range. “It’s easy to make decisions from the bunkers, as Hamas does.”

‘This is a difficult day for Kibbutz Nirim’

After two civilians, including the kibbutz security chief, were killed at Kibbutz Nirim while fixing electricity lines damaged by mortars, emergency teams are again working to restore electricity.

“There is no communications or electricity, and it is expected to be fixed in the next two hours,” says the Nirim spokesman, according to NRG. “The emergency team is working in order to give an response to the residents, with the help of the army and the regional council…This is an extremely difficult day for Kibbutz Nirim. We lost a dear friend, and we are hoping and praying for the welfare of the injured.”