Israel launched a major operation against Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza in the early hours of Tuesday morning, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, following heavy Hamas rocket fire over the preceding days. By Tuesday night, Hamas had fired over 140 rockets in 24 hours into Israel, as far north as Hadera; Iron Dome intercepted about 30 of them. Palestinian media put the Gaza death toll at over 20. Israel also thwarted an infiltration from the sea. This liveblog is now closed. Our new July 9 liveblog is here.

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IDF hits 50 targets overnight

The IDF announces that it hit 50 targets in the Gaza strip overnight Monday after launching a major operation aimed at “restoring stability to the South.”

Among the targets hit were concealed “rocket launchers, launching infrastructures, a weapon storage facility, training bases and terror tunnels shafts,” the army says in a statement.

The IDF names the Hamas operatives associated with some of those targets as Ei’ad Sakik, Abdullah Hshash, Samer Abu Daka and Hassan Abdullah, all of whom, it says, have been involved in terrorist activities in the past.

“We are determined to lay a significant blow on Hamas’ terror capabilities and infrastructure, eliminate any threat on Israeli sovereignty emanating from the Gaza Strip and restore stability to the southern region,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says. “Terrorists perpetrating the aggression against Israel have a personal price to pay and will bear the consequences of their actions.”

The IDF launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning after militants launched over 100 missiles and mortars at Israeli territory in 24 hours. The army has called up 1,500 reserve soldiers in anticipation of continuing escalation.

Meanwhile, Hamas is giving no indication that the rocket fire on Israel will subside, warning that it will respond to further Israeli air raids by firing on targets deeper into Israel, including Tel Aviv.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum says: “This is not the time for quiet. We have a bank of various targets. An Iron Dome [missile battery] will be needed in every Israeli home.”

A rocket landed in an open area of the Eshkol region bordering Gaza just after sun-up, causing no injuries or damage.

Click here to read up on developments overnight and Monday.

Obama calls for restraint

US President Barack Obama calls for Israelis and Palestinians alike to restrain themselves and put an end to acts of retribution, in some of his first public comments on the matter since the murder of three Israeli teenagers touched off a new round of violence and deepening mistrust.

In an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Obama calls it a “dangerous moment” for the region where a vaunted US peace effort recently collapsed. Writing in emotional terms, he says he couldn’t imagine the pain suffered by the parents of the three Israeli teens, but was also heartbroken by the senseless murder of a Palestinian teenager who many suspect was killed as payback.

“All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution,” Obama says.

— AP

17 reported injured in Israeli airstrikes

According to Palestinian medics, Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip overnight leave 17 people injured, including seven children and two women. Two of the injured are in serious condition, Palestinian medics say.

On the Israeli side of the border, schools and summer camps in an area of 40 kilometers (25 miles) around Gaza are closed and residents are being asked to avoid any rallies.

AFP

Lapid says Israel is strong, Hamas weak and crumbling

Finance Minister Yair Lapid says in an interview with Israel Radio that Israel has a distinct advantage in this round of fighting as Hamas is currently “weak and crumbling.” While he won’t comment on any specific measures the IDF plans to take, he warns that no Hamas member is safe.

“First and foremost, the aim is to calm the south and allow citizens living there to get up in the morning and be able to send their kids to summer school,” he says.

“It is exacting a price that is unacceptable from citizens of the south, but our aim is to find the most effective way to return calm to the south,” Lapid adds.

“We will do this with strength and power but part of having power means you act in the right way and not just according to the voices shouting from the crowd,” he added, alluding to calls from cabinet hardliners for a full-scale ground assault on Gaza.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor Party) acknowledges that the launch of dozens of rockets last night represented a serious escalation, and Israel has no choice but to “strike a blow to the head of Hamas.”

Herzog says he is confident that Israel is better prepared to handle this round of fighting than in the past, but also cautions that in order to restore quiet, the government must avoid making false promises such as re-conquering Gaza or toppling the Hamas government.

Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar says a major operation was necessary because Israel’s deterrence has eroded. Addressing ongoing clashes between Arab Israeli protesters and Israeli security forces, Sa’ar commends Arab community, saying they are acting responsibly to cool tensions and that only a minority are participating in riots.

— AFP contributed

Arabs said targeted by stone-throwers

There were several incidents of attacks on Arabs overnight, Israel Radio reports.

Close the community of Katzir, near Haifa, rocks were thrown at Arab cars as they passed by. The vehicle of a resident from the Arab town of Ar’ara was damaged.

In Baqa al-Gharbiya, a predominantly Arab town near Haifa, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the community police building, causing damage to an outside wall.

In Hadera, vandals smashed the windscreen of a car and sprayed “Death to Arabs” on the side of the vehicle.

Vandals also threw rocks at cars outside Fureidis, which is also near Haifa, causing damage to a vehicle.

Recent days have seen rioting in the north by Arabs enraged over the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

Gaza rocket lands in field north of Gaza border

A rocket from Gaza falls in an open field in the Hof Ashkelon region.

The attack comes hours after multiple missiles strike the Eshkol region.

No injuries or damages are reported.

IDF plans to intensify operation in Gaza

IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz says that the IDF is planning to intensify its operation in Gaza in the coming days as long as rocket fire continues.

“We are very determined and have an aggressive plan in Gaza,” Almoz tells Ynet. “We are conducting this [operation] in steps that will escalate in the coming days. Residents of the south need to heed Home Front Command guidelines.”

Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Moti Almoz (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Abbas calls on Israel to stop ‘dangerous escalation’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas releases a statement calling on Israel to end what he calls “a dangerous escalation” after Israel launched a major operation in the Gaza strip Tuesday morning.

“Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded Israel immediately stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza,” says a statement from his office published by the official WAFA news agency.

Meanwhile, another rocket falls in an open field, this time in the Sdot Negev region just east of Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

— AFP contributed

IDF strikes two targets in Gaza

The Israeli Air Force carries out two strikes, one in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip and another in Deir el-Balah in the center of the territory.

Palestinians sources are reporting that several people were injured.

Sirens wail in two major Israeli cities

Sirens go off in Ashkelon and Ashdod as Gaza militants target major Israeli cities for the first time today.

Iron Dome intercepts rocket from Gaza

Israel’s Iron Dome defensive system downs a rocket over the coastal city of Ashdod.

Meanwhile, there are reports of more sirens in Ashdod, Gan Yavne and Beersheba.

Hamas official: Don’t expect a ‘white flag’

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran says that Hamas is not looking for a war, but will not simply “raise the white flag” in the face of the major Israeli offensive launched Tuesday morning.

In an interview with the BBC, he also accuses Israel of violating the truce several times in the past two weeks and says Hamas has no choice but to “teach Israel a lesson.”

Defense minister says Gaza op will take time

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, in consultation with the IDF Home Front Command chief, Maj. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, and the director general of the Defense Ministry, Dan Harel, declares a special security situation on the home front, granting the chief of staff the authority to issue life-saving orders to civilians living within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip.

The declaration also ensures that employees living within the declared zone will not be fired from their jobs or penalized for missing work.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (photo credit:Flash90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (photo credit:Flash90)

“We are preparing for a campaign against Hamas, which will not end within several days,” Ya’alon says at a security assessment Tuesday. “Hamas is guiding the current clash to a place where it is able to exact a price from our home front. There is a need for perseverance. Proper civilian conduct has a decisive role in our ability to avoid civilian casualties, and [do] listen to Home Front Command orders regarding proximity to and entry into safe rooms.”

Ya’alon says the army has struck dozens of Hamas assets over the past hours and that the IDF is continuing its offensive “in a manner that will exact a very heavy price from Hamas.”

He reiterates that Israel will not tolerate rocket fire on its civilians and cities and says that Israel is prepared to broaden the campaign, “using all of the means at our disposal to strike Hamas.”

— Mitch Ginsburg

Islamic Jihad takes credit for rockets

For the first time in the latest round of violence, Islamic Jihad is claiming responsibility for some of the rocket attacks on Ashdod and Ashkelon on Tuesday morning.

The organization says it has fired some 60 rockets in recent days.

The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, has initiated an operation called “Stable Building,” Gaza’s Safa news agency reports.

Ynet reports that one of the rocket fired earlier hit near a house in the Hof Ashkelon region, causing a brush fire to break out.

Two other rockets landed in open areas between Ashkelon and Ashdod.

IAF strikes more targets in Gaza

Israel Radio reports that the Israeli Air Force struck targets in Gaza City and Beit Hanoun in the north of the Strip.

16 rockets fired in past hour; 5 downed

The IDF Spokesperson’t Unit says 16 rockets have been fired at Israel over the past hour, five of which were intercepted over the coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.

— Mitch Ginsburg

Minister says government is giving IDF whatever it needs

The IDF has the authority to do whatever is necessary to restore quiet to the south, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch says.

“The IDF has a free hand to act in whatever steps it determines,” he says, according to Ynet. “The political leadership has effectively authorized everything the IDF has requested.”

IDF releases video of two Gaza strikes

Ex-top adviser: Israel could invade Gaza if ‘no other choice’

Maj. Gen. (ret) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, says in a conference call with journalists that there is only one aim to the current operation: to stop the rocket fire on Israeli cities and citizens.

He says that Israel could conquer Gaza “and clean it from all the facilities and terrorists of Hamas,” but that such an operation would take months and does not now seem to be among the immediate goals of the current government.

If the security situation continues to deteriorate, though, he says —  “if we do not find a solution through this exchange of fire, and Hamas will not understand what we can do, we will not have any other choice but the big operation, which we don’t want.”

Saying that for Hamas every civilian street and building is a target, Amidror asserts that the organization, which has several thousand rockets with a range of up to 40 kilometers and hundreds with an 80-kilometer range, could continue launching “forever.”

Yaakov Amidror (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Yaakov Amidror (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

 Mitch Ginsburg

Operation Protective Edge gets meme treatment

Benji Lovitt, Times of Israel blogger and comedian, ribs the IDF’s choice of English name for its Gaza operation.

The op’s original Hebrew name is Tzuk Eitan, which can literally be translated as “firm cliff,” but the army went with a non-literal translation, opting for “Protective Edge” for its English name.

EU expresses ‘unreserved solidarity’ with Israelis

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, says the EU would like to “express its unreserved solidarity with citizens of Israel.”

Speaking at a conference on peace talks organized by Haaretz, the ambassador says that “indiscriminate shooting of rockets against civilians can never be a legitimate response, no matter what your grievances.”

— Raphael Ahren

Israel warned Gaza militants before offensive

Arabic daily Al-Hayat reports that Israel warned Hamas and Islamic Jihad through Egypt on Monday that if the rocket fire persists, the IDF will respond strongly.

“Israel will strike Gaza with a heavy hand if the two movements don’t accept a truce,” a senior Egyptian official told representatives of the two organizations, according to a Palestinian official.

Islamic Jihad has taken credit for at least 60 of the rockets fired on Israel in the last two days.

IDF to call up thousands of reservists

Haaretz reports that the IDF plans to call up several thousand additional reservists to join the 1,500 the military called up Monday, ahead of a possible ground invasion.

Police arrest two teens for ‘price tag’ attack

Police say they have arrested two Jewish teenagers from Haifa in connection with price tag vandalism last month.

Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Flash90)

Hanin Zoabi (photo credit: Flash90)

The youths allegedly spray-painted anti-Arab slogans and other graffiti on the walls of an Arab school disparaging Balad MK Hanin Zoabi, who made incendiary comments about the kidnapping of three Israeli teens last month.

Police are naming the 18-year-old suspect, Yaakov Yair Vaknin, but are withholding the name of the 15-year-old suspect because of his age.

The prosecution is seeking to keep them in custody.

Netanyahu says ground operation possible

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the IDF to be ready to “go all the way,” Israel Radio reports.

Even a ground operation is possible, the prime minister says after a security meeting in Tel Aviv, adding that Hamas chose escalation and will pay the price for it. “This will be a long and strong operation that will create deterrence.”

Meanwhile, in the Strip, Hamas says it has fired a Sam-7 anti-aircraft missile at Israeli Air Force jets over Khan Yunis, but missed the target. The IDF is looking into the claim.

The IAF is carrying out regular strikes against targets in Gaza. There are reports of injuries from one strike on Shojaya in east Gaza.

— Raphael Ahren

Ex-PM Barak throws support behind offensive

“We have to respond forcefully, with determination and reason,” former prime minister Ehud Barak says. “Israel cannot afford to have millions of civilians under rocket threat.”

Speaking at the Israeli Conference on Peace, Barak — who served as defense minister during the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense — refuses to make concrete policy recommendations on how to deal with the current rain of rockets, but said that Israel’s military leadership consists of professionals who understand these issues better than the government.

– Raphael Ahren

Israel halts train service in the south

Israels Railways is halting service between Sderot and Ashkelon in both directions after receiving a directive from the Home Front Command.

Shuttles will be available between the two stations,

Trains will be running only north from Ashkelon until further notice.

Three rockets land in Eshkol region

Three rockets fall in open fields in the Eshkol region east of the Gaza Strip, causing no injuries.

Paramedics say that two people were lightly injured from rockets that struck Ashdod and the surrounding area. One was treated for injuries to his legs from shrapnel, while another sustained a bruise after falling while running for cover. Seven more people were treated for shock.

Three Palestinians were injured in an earlier IDF strike on Beit Lahiya in the north of the strip, a Palestinian source tells Ynet.

Officials say Israel weighing land invasion

Officials in Jerusalem tell The Times of Israel that Hamas chose to escalate the exchange of fire with Israel and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has therefore instructed the army to launch a “continuous, methodological, and forceful campaign” against the terrorist group in the Gaza Strip.

“The directive to the Israel Defense Forces is to be ready to go until the end,” the sources say, adding that even a ground operation is on the table.

It is likely that the IDF will call up additional reservists to prepare for a possible invasion of the strip, the sources say.

The purpose of Operation Protective Edge is to “is exact a heavy price from Hamas, to hit it hard, and to create a significant attack that that will lead to deterrence,” the sources say.

In addition to the op’s military aspect, the prime minister is also active in the diplomatic arena, planning to call to several international leaders to explain to them why Israel was forced to act, they add.

— Raphael Ahren

Palestinians report one dead in central Gaza

An Israeli air strike on the central Gaza Strip killed a Palestinian man on Tuesday in the first reported casualty of Operation Protective Edge, an emergency services spokesman reports.

“A man named Ashraf Yassin was killed in an Israeli air strike west of Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza,” spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra tells AFP.

Witnesses say the man was a militant of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement.

Ynet reports that working on Shin Bet intelligence, the IDF struck the home of Hamas operative Mohammed Abdel Rahman Goda. The house was part of the organization’s infrastructure. Palestinian sources say no one was injured in the strike.

Gaza factions demanding Israel lift siege

“The Palestinian factions will not agree to a truce and will not stop [attacking] until Israel surrenders to their terms — stop the aggression and lift the siege on the strip,” Ynet’s Palestinian affairs correspondent quotes Hamas official Ismail Al-Ashqar, a member of the freedoms committee established under the reconciliation agreement of Fatah and Hamas.

French envoy to visit Ashdod

France’s ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, is visiting the francophone community in Ashdod to express France’s “support and solidarity in these difficult moments.”

The diplomat will arrive in the city at 5 p.m.

— Raphael Ahren

Socialist MK urges leaders to ‘break cycle of violence’

MK Dov Khenin of the socialist Hadash Party is urging Israeli leaders to find a diplomatic solution to the incessant rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israel.

Hadash MK Dov Khenin. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Hadash MK Dov Khenin. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Quoting a letter he received from a resident of the south, Khenin writes on his Facebook page, “More strikes on Gaza will not solve the problem. With every attack the chances of us getting a life worth living decrease. I challenge you [leaders] to do the courageous thing and find a diplomatic way to stop all this destruction and killing. Do every thing you can to bring true quiet to our region.”

In his post Khenin asserts that “it is important to listen to such things and instead of reacting — to think.”

“The cycle of violence is not a foregone conclusion,” he adds. “Let’s really do everything in our power to break it.”

IDF targets terrorist command center

Livni: Ground incursion up to Hamas

Whether or not Israel will launch a ground operation in Gaza will depend on Hamas, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says.

“It is our duty to provide security to our citizens. The question is what’s the right way to do that. It very much depends on the extent to which Hamas will not allow Israel’s citizens to live in peace,” she declares at Haaretz’s peace conference.

Livni refuses to say whether the security cabinet, of which she is a member, currently favors a ground operation, saying merely that it is not the government’s “first choice” but that it will be weighed if need be.

Livni is speaking on a session about the peace talks, at which Palestinian top peace negotiator Saeb Erekat was originally scheduled to speak as well. However, citing the Israeli-Palestinian tensions of the recent days, Erekat canceled his appearance.

— Raphael Ahren

Up to 5 killed in strike on Gaza car

At least one person died in an IDF strike on a vehicle in the Gaza strip, Palestinian sources are reporting.

Conflicting figures are coming out of Gaza as to the death toll, with figures ranging from one to five dead.

Reports are saying one of the men killed was an officer in Hamas’s naval commando unit.

Video said to show strike on Gaza car

Warning: Graphic content

Red alert sounds in Beersheba area

Rocket sirens are sounding around the Beersheba and Ofakim areas, bringing the total number of rockets fired from the Strip to over 100, according to the IDF.

IDF ‘not familiar’ with reported anti-aircraft attack by Hamas

The army says it is “not familiar” with reports from earlier Tuesday about an SA-7 surface-to-air missile allegedly fired at an air force helicopter. The report, though, raises the issue of what Hamas and other terror groups possess in their arsenals of imported and self-made weapons.

The SA-7, which was reportedly first used in combat by Egyptian troops during the War of Attrition with Israel in 1969, is “a well-known and obsolete weapon,” says Tal Inbar of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies.

Israeli aircraft are all equipped with the appropriate defensive systems and flight regulations that keep them out of range of the low-altitude, Soviet-made missile, he says, adding that there have been roughly 10 cases of SA-7 missiles fired from Gaza.

For a more in-depth look into Hamas’s weapons capabilities, click here.

Knesset defense committee chair: Retake Gaza

Voices are growing on the right to retake the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has suggested it. On Tuesday afternoon, Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin, chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, announced his own support for a full IDF takeover.

“Over the long term, there won’t be any escaping correcting the mistake we made,” Elkin told Channel 2 News. “The Islamist terror base [in Gaza], with its thousands of rockets pointed at us, didn’t happen by accident. It happened because of our mistakes, pulling out of Gaza and letting Hamas run in the [2006 Palestinian] elections.”

“It’s clear that every other act [short of a retaking of the Strip] will only serve as a deterrent until the next time they want to test us.”

Hamas official hopes Israel invades ‘so we can kidnap soldiers’

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded to the possibility of an expected Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, saying it would offer Hamas an opportunity to kidnap soldiers.

“As long as the occupation attacks, we’ll respond, and it will pay the price of its crimes. Our will won’t break,” he vowed.

“I hope the occupation makes this error and enters Gaza in a ground operation, so that we’ll have an opportunity to abduct soldiers.”

Abu Zuhri also said a meeting of Palestinian factions was expected on Tuesday, apparently in an effort to unify the various organizations.

Shelah: Hurt Hamas to buy us a ‘long period of quiet’

While the right has called for a retaking of the Gaza Strip, other lawmakers are urging a more restrained strategy. MK Ofer Shelah, the most senior Yesh Atid lawmaker on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (and a one-time contender for chair of the committee), urges a “realistic goal” for Operation Protective Edge.

“A realistic goal,” he says, “is the delivery of such a blow to Hamas, to its capabilities and motivation, that it will give us a long period of quiet.

“Hamas is in a bad state strategically. It’s choked by Egypt,” surrounded by Israel, and rules over a collapsing economy, he suggests.

“We have to give them a reason to understand that the only way to avoid their dire situation getting worse is quiet on their front with us.”

2 arrested in suspected kidnapping attempt

Two suspects are arrested Tuesday afternoon for an alleged attempted kidnapping of a 15-year-old Israeli girl near Jerusalem earlier in the day.

A 15-year-old girl from a Jewish village in the Abu Ghosh area west of Jerusalem reported to police just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday that two young Arab men tried to get her to enter their car. She fled from them and called the police.

The police, on alert for additional revenge attacks following the killings in recent weeks of three Jewish and one Palestinian teenagers, set up roadblocks and begin searching for the vehicle.

Two men and a vehicle matching the description provided by the girl are discovered at the Kalandiya checkpoint, heading to the Ramallah area. The men are taken in for questioning.

Death toll from Israeli strike up to six

The Palestinian interior ministry says six people were killed in an Israeli air strike on a home in Khan Younis an hour ago, Reuters reports.

Media reports had earlier put the death toll at four.

The strike targeted the home of a local Hamas member.

According to Israel Radio, a number of locals had earlier positioned themselves on the roof of the home to try and act as human shields against an Israeli attack.

Earlier, Israeli forces killed Hamas operative Muhammad Sha’aban and two others traveling in a car with him.

Media reports put the total number of Hamas casualties up to this point at 10.

Herzog says, talk peace even in days of war

Israelis must consider ways to reach peace with the Palestinians even in days of national hardship, opposition head MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) says, defending his appearance at a conference sponsored by Haaretz.

“If I were Israel’s prime minister, I would deal a very heavy blow to Hamas, and then drive to Ramallah, enter the Muqata and continue to talk with Abu Mazen,” he says, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “I would put a deal on the table.”

“Zero tolerance for terror, zero tolerance for missiles,” he adds.

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaks during a faction meeting in the Knesset on December 23, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog speaks during a faction meeting in the Knesset on December 23, 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Now is indeed the time to hit Hamas and to restore Israeli deterrence, Herzog says, but Israel should look to build alliances with moderate states in the region to fend off the threat of Islamist extremists. As the United States gradually reduces its involvement in the Middle East, countries such as Jordan and Turkey, but also the Palestinian Authority, “are our partners for a historical process,” he says.

“There is a partner for peace. He’s not easy, he’s difficult, he’s annoying,” Herzog says, referring to Abbas. “But he’s our partner. We need to look him in the eyes and talk to him and understand his distress so that he will understand our distress.”

Israel’s greatest challenge is not the “tactical threat that exists currently because of Hamas,” but rather the strategic threat that looms for Israel if it fails to remain a Jewish and democratic state by implementing a two-state solution.

Cabinet okays call-up of 40,000 reservists

The cabinet approves on Tuesday afternoon an IDF request to call up as many as 40,000 reserve combat troops.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz asked for the additional troops earlier in the day.

The additional forces are slated to replace active duty battalions on other fronts, freeing them up for a possible ground incursion into the Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge.

Iron Dome intercepts Grad over Ashkelon

The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts a Grad rocket over the southern city of Ashkelon following a renewed barrage of rockets from Gaza.

Meanwhile, Code Red alerts are heard in Ashkelon, as well as the Sdot Negev, Sha’ar Hanegev, and Eshkol regional councils.

Death toll in strike on home rises to 7

The Gazan health ministry now says seven people were killed in the Israeli strike on the house in Khan Younis, including two children under the age of 5, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

The ministry says 25 more people were injured in the airstrike, which targeted the home of a Hamas member in the al-Kaware family.

The number would put the Gazan death toll at 11, several hours into Operation Protective Edge.

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an that locals had gathered on the roof of the al-Kaware home before the strike to act as a human shield.

There was no immediate word from the Israel Defense Forces on the strike.

Bennett shoots back at peace confab hecklers

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is being booed as he outlines his view of the Middle East conflict at the Israel Conference on Peace, which was organized by the Haaretz newspaper.

As Bennett, the chairman of the hawkish Jewish Home party, suggests that it is time to think outside the box and abandon the idea of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, a small number of people in the audience shout “apartheid,” “murderer,” and other insults at the minister.

Bennett initially ignores the disruptions, but eventually loses patience. He lists several wars in which he served as IDF soldier, adding that no one in the audience has the right to lecture him on the desire for peace. “No one in this room wants peace more than me,” he says.

Stopping short of calling for the annexation of the West Bank, Bennett suffices by saying that Israeli withdrawals are an unwise move in this tough neighborhood, as Islamist extremists are just waiting to fill the void and obliterate the Jewish state.

“Yes, territory matters,” he says. “Why were no missiles launched from Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]? Because we control the territories. Territory does matter.”

Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, does not shed any light on the government’s plans regarding Operation Protective Edge.

– Raphael Ahren

PM speaks with Peres, Rivlin, opposition leaders

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with President Shimon Peres, President-elect Reuven Rivlin and the heads of all opposition factions in the Knesset — Isaac Herzog (Labor), Aryeh Deri (Shas), Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) and Zahava Gal-on (Meretz) to update them on Operation Protective Edge.

Strike killed head of Hamas naval operations

More details about Muhammed Shaaban, killed in an Israeli airstrike on a car earlier today.

Shaaban, 32, was a senior commander in Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and was also head of the group’s naval operations, family members quoted by AFP said.

They added that the other two people killed in the strike were Hamas militants as well.

The IDF confirmed targeting Shaaban, describing him as “a senior Hamas operative.”

Gaza open to aid and essential goods

A Defense Ministry spokesman says Israel is allowing “all humanitarian aid and essential goods to travel freely into Gaza.”

Nonessential items such as TVs are not being allowed to pass into the Strip, he says.

Defense Ministry spokesperson Jonathan Mosery says that he spoke with the commanders of both the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings and can confirm that at Kerem Shalom alone 180 trucks of merchandise have passed through on Tuesday. He says the situation at the Erez Crossing is similar.

Additionally, the Defense Ministry says the Kerem Shalom crossing is closed to people, aside from journalists, who can cross with advance coordination.

The ministry’s statements came in response to an earlier report by Gisha, a left-wing NGO, that said Israel has restricted the transfer of goods to and from Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing for the third day, limiting it to medicine, food items, fruits, vegetables, and fuel while disallowing clothes, shoes and paper items.

Gisha also reports that the IDF has limited fishing off the coast of Gaza since Sunday to three nautical miles, instead of the usual six.

“There is no doubt that it is unfair, unwise and illegal to [enact revenge] on a governmental scale and cause harm to millions of people. The use of restrictions on the movement of people and goods as a pressure mechanism, especially toward a population which is in a difficult financial situation to begin with, is inconceivable and also illegal under international law,” reads the Gisha report.

“Israel can and should act to protect the security of its citizens, but at the same time, it must refrain from harming citizens in a way that is unnecessary or beyond what is necessary to achieve this goal. Operations that harm the civil population of Gaza without reason or moderation are illegal under international law,” says Gisha director Eitan Diamond.

130 rockets fired at Israel since midnight

Army figures show that since midnight, terrorists in Gaza have fired 130 rockets at southern Israel, while the Israeli air force has struck 150 terror-related targets in Gaza.

–AFP

Arab League calls for urgent UN meet on Gaza

The Arab League has called for the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting to discuss Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against the Gaza Strip, Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi says.

MK Danon anticipates ‘escalation’ in Hamas attacks

As the Israeli air force targets Gaza sites, Likud MK Danny Danon says he anticipates an “escalation” in both the number and range of Hamas attacks against Israel.

He adds, however, that “Israel is finally acting,” praising the public for pressuring the government to retaliate.

“We need to restore our deterrence,” he says.

PM tells southern mayors to prepare for ‘long campaign’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with the heads of regional council affected by the rocket fire from Gaza, telling them that they should prepare for a “long and determined campaign against Hamas until quiet returns.”

The mayors Netanyahu speaks with hail from Sderot, Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva, Kiryat Malachi, Hof Ashkelon, Ofakim, Yoav, Shaar Hanegev, Merhavim, Gan Yavne, Sdot Negev and Be’er Tuvia.

The prime minister also instructs PMO director-general Harel Locker to visit the southern communities to assess their needs and coordinate governmental assistance.

– Raphael Ahren

Politicians flock south

While many in Israel’s south are likely looking to head for safer pastures while rockets rain down on the area, Israeli politicians are flocking to region to show support for residents (and maybe score some points with voters as well.)

Among those visiting southern cities, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch spent some time in an Ashdod shelter.

Meanwhile MK Reuven Rivlin, who will later this month become the country’s president, is spending the day in Sderot.

Reuven Rivlin in Sderot on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Reuven Rivlin in Sderot on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

Rivlin visited a yeshiva that combines Torah study and military service in the city, telling students that “the bravery of Sderot comes from the strength of the Torah, when we see young men who despite the threat of rockets are sitting and learning on behalf of the country, we understand that we are talking about role models.

In Ashkelon, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Channel 2 that “Israel is finally acting,” praising the public for pressuring the government to retaliate.

Central, Northern commands call up reservists

The Central and Northern commands have called up thousands of reserve soldiers, Ynet reports.

Earlier, Israel approved an IDF request to call up as many as 40,000 reserve combat troops.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz asked for the additional troops earlier in the day.

The additional forces are slated to replace active duty battalions on other fronts, freeing them up for a possible ground incursion into the Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge.

German FM warns of ‘spiral of violence’

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warns that the rocket fire on Israel from Gaza and Israel’s airstrikes on the area threaten to develop into a “spiral of violence and counter-violence.”

Steinmeier says that Israel, “of course,” has the right to defend its citizens from rocket attacks, adding that he hopes that “both sides realize that a military confrontation that could spin out of control needs to be avoided.”

– Raphael Ahren

Operation will last ‘very, very long time,’ says officer

Channel 2’s Roni Daniel quotes a “very, very senior” IDF officer as saying that Operation Protective Edge will last a “very, very long time.”

The officer says a ground operation “is certainly being considered,” while Daniel himself assesses that “a ground operation will certainly be necessary.”

Rishon Lezion beach evacuated

The beach of Rishon Lezion, located eight kilometers south of Tel Aviv, is evacuated.

Though no rockets have hit the city, the fourth-largest in Israel, in the recent escalation in violence out of Gaza, M-75 and Fajr rockets were fired at it during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. A Fajr rocket hit a residential building, injuring several people and causing damage.

Rockets wreak havoc on life in south

Hamas’s belligerence is playing havoc with everyday life in Israel, causing weddings and festivities to be canceled as rockets pummel the towns and cities of the south.

Army Radio reported earlier on Merav and Uriel, a young couple who were supposed to get married in Kiryat Gat tomorrow night, and are asking for help finding an alternate wedding hall further north, beyond the range of Hamas’s rockets.

Channel 2 now reports on a Beersheba wedding to which 600 guests were invited — of which 400 have now canceled their attendance.

Changes made to civilian air routes

Channel 2 reports that “various changes” are being made to civilian air routes in and out of Israel as Operation Protective Edge continues.

Hamas, Gaza factions to speak to press after 12 killed

Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza will hold a press conference soon about the escalation with Israel, Reuters reporter Dan Williams tweets.

Twelve Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since the start of Operation Protective Edge last night. Twelve people, among them two teenagers, were killed in a strike on a house in the southern city of Khan Yunis, four were killed in a strike on a car in the Daraj neighborhood in the center of Gaza City, and one was killed this morning in an airstrike west of the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip.

Hamas said earlier that “all Israelis” would be targeted in retaliation for the Israeli strikes.

“The Khan Yunis massacre… of children is a horrendous war crime, and all Israelis have now become legitimate targets for the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement, without elaborating.

IDF: Over 66 rockets shot Tuesday thus far

Over 66 rockets have been fired at Israel since the launch of Operation Protective Edge in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says.

Some eight of those rockets were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system according to media reports.

The rocket fire thus far has been limited to cities relatively close to Gaza, with Ashkelon and Ashdod both absorbing large volleys of rockets.

Officials are gearing up for a possible increase of rocket fire later tonight, especially deep into central Israel. In Rishon Lezion, the public beach was closed, and in Tel Aviv all public shelters were ordered to be opened, for the first time since 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

An Iron Dome Missile Battery near Tel Aviv, on the first day of Operation Protective Edge, July 8, 2014. (Photo by Flash90)

An Iron Dome Missile Battery near Tel Aviv, on the first day of Operation Protective Edge, July 8, 2014. (Photo by Flash90)

3 more killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza

Three more Palestinians are killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of Gazans killed since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the coastal territory to 14.

Citing medics, Ma’an says two of the Palestinians, 48-year-old Ahmad Moussa Habib and 19-year-old Ahmad Ahed Habib, are killed in an airstrike on a scooter in the al-Shujaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza City.

A third Palestinian, Fakhri Saleh Ajjouri, is reported killed after an airstrike targets a motorcycle in the northern Gaza Strip.

Earlier today, seven people were killed in a strike on a house in Khan Yunis, three more were killed in a strike on a car in the Daraj neighborhood in the center of Gaza City, and one was killed this morning in an airstrike west of the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip.

Two Grad rockets fall near Ashkelon

Two Grad rockets hit open areas outside the southern city of Ashkelon.

Earlier, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a rocket over the city.

Over 66 rockets have been fired at Israel since the launch of Operation Protective Edge in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says.

350 Jewish Israelis visit Abu Khdeir home

350 Jewish Israelis pay a condolence visit to the family of slain Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Shuafat on Tuesday afternoon.

Rabbi David Bigman, head of the Maaleh Gilboa Yeshiva in northern Israel, condemns the murder in a public speech at the mourners’ tent, praying that we “rediscover God’s countenance through the humans he created in his image.”

350 Jewish Israelis pay a condolence visit to the Abu Khdeir family home in Shuafat, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/The Times of Israel)

350 Jewish Israelis pay a condolence visit to the Abu Khdeir family home in Shuafat, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/The Times of Israel)

– Elhanan Miller

Home Front Command publishes early warning map

The IDF Home Front Command publishes a map of the country divided into “early warning” areas.

The map divides the country into regions for the purpose of public safety announcements. Israelis can locate their town on the map, which is available in English, Arabic, Hebrew and Russian, and find out what Home Front Command region they are in.

Those regions will be used to issue warnings of impending rocket fire on that area.

For example, Israelis who live in Bet Shemesh live in warning area “Bet Shemesh 188,” while those in Rehovot live in warning area “Shfela 182.”

The map also provides Israelis with an estimated early warning time, the length of time from the launch of a rocket or mortar from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria or Sinai to its fall in an Israeli town. (Bet Shemesh 188, for example, has an early warning time of 90 seconds. Netivot, a town near Gaza that falls in the “Ashkelon 254″ warning area, has just 30 seconds from warning to rocket fall.)

– Haviv Rettig-Gur

Rocket salvo fired at Rehovot, Gedera

A large volley of rockets was just fired at the cities of Rehovot and Gedera, both located on the southern edge of central Israel.

Rocket sirens are also going off across southern Israel, as Hamas apparently fires a large barrage into Israel.

Initial reports indicate no injuries.

Chicago woman makes aliyah — to Beersheba

A 26-year-old Chicago resident announces that after immigrating to Israel this morning, she plans to move straight to Beersheba, even as Code Red alarms sound and rockets fall all over Israel’s south.

The immigrant, Becky Kupchan, is one of 64 new olim — ranging in age from 8 months to 91 years — who moved to Israel from the United States this morning.

Chicago native Becky Kupchan arrives in Israel, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Nefesh B'Nefesh)

Chicago native Becky Kupchan arrives in Israel, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Nefesh B’Nefesh)

The immigrants, who hail from from Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Virginia, will be moving to Beit Shemesh, Givat Shmuel, Hadera, Jerusalem, Karmiel, Modiin, Nes Tziona, Ra’anana, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Ramat Gan, and Tel Aviv.

But one of them, Kupchan, has chosen Beersheba, the capital of southern Israel.

“Although the security situation in Israel is very tense right now, and in Beersheba, where I’m about to move, rockets are falling, I am not afraid and I trust the Israeli government and the IDF,” says Kupchan. “I’m a Jew and I’ve always dreamed about making aliyah to Israel, my home — and at home you always feel safe.”

New olah Becky Kupchan showing her Teudat Zehut (Israeli citizenship card) after her arrival in Israel on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

New olah Becky Kupchan showing her Teudat Zehut (Israeli citizenship card) after her arrival in Israel on Tuesday, July 8, 2014.

Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, who co-founded the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization with whose aid Kupchan has made aliyah, remarks, “The Olim who’ve chosen to make Aliya to Israel during these challenging days are real heroes, and each one of them fills our heart with pride and great inspiration. Becky from Chicago, who has chosen to live in the city of Beersheba in the South, is one of them and we will do whatever we can to assist her in her new home in the State of Israel.”

A group photo of the 64 olim who arrived in Israel Tuesday, July 8, 2014, after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.  (photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Nefesh B'Nefesh)

A group photo of the 64 olim who arrived in Israel Tuesday, July 8, 2014, after the commencement of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram/Nefesh B’Nefesh)

Iron Dome shoots down rocket over Tel Aviv

The Iron Dome missile defense system shoots down a rocket over Tel Aviv after a Code Red siren blares in the bustling central city.

Channel 2 reports that one or two rockets were fired toward the Gush Dan area.

Tel Avivians tweet as they scramble for cover

With the sounding of a rocket siren in Tel Aviv, social media explodes with pictures and personal stories as residents of Israel’s second largest city were forced to scramble for cover.

Departures from Sde Dov airport halted

Departures from Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airport are halted minutes before a Code Red alert sounds in the central city.

Planes are still landing at the airport.

At Ben Gurion Airport, planes are landing and departing as usual, but civilian air routes are being changed.

Earlier, the Eilat airport reopened after it was closed to air traffic this morning.

Terrorists reported killed trying to infiltrate base

IDF forces have reportedly killed two armed members of a Gazan terror cell that tried to infiltrate into the Zikim army base in the northern Negev.

Media reports indicate the two were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops.

The base is located a few kilometers from the northwestern edge of Gaza Strip.

Area residents are being asked to stay indoors until further notice.

Abbas demands Israel halt raids ‘immediately’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urges Israel to stop its offensive on the Gaza Strip, blaming Jerusalem for the escalation in the area.

“Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas demanded Israel immediately stop its escalation and the raids on Gaza,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quotes a statement from Abbas’s office as saying.

Abbas also reportedly calls on the international community “to immediately intervene to halt this dangerous escalation which would lead the region to more destruction and instability.”

He adds that the Palestinian leadership is making “intensive and urgent calls” to Arab leaders to ask them to exert pressure on Israel in hopes of deescalating the situation.

Hamas reports 2 kids killed in Gaza City

Hamas reports that two Palestinian children have been killed in an Israeli airstrike on Ahmed Yassin street in Gaza City, bringing the total number of Gazans killed since Operation Protective Edge began to 16.

Second rocket intercepted over Ashkelon

A rocket is intercepted over the southern city of Ashkelon for the second time today.

Meanwhile, Code Red sirens continue to blare in Sha’ar Hanegev and Ashkelon.

Soldier reported hurt in infiltration attempt

An IDF soldier is said to be lightly injured in an attempt by Gazan terrorists to infiltrate the Zikim army base in the northern Negev.

Israeli troops reportedly killed the two armed Palestinians, members of a Gazan terror cell. Media reports indicate the two were killed in a firefight with Israeli troops.

The base is located a few kilometers from the northwestern edge of Gaza Strip.

Area residents are being asked to stay indoors until further notice.

Meanwhile, police forces are being deployed in great numbers to the area to prevent infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The road connecting Zikim to Ashkelon has been closed to traffic.

Islamic Jihad says it fired rocket at Tel Aviv

The al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, has taken responsibility for the rocket fire on Tel Aviv.

The rocket was most likely an M-75, which is made in Gaza and based on the Iranian Fajr rocket.

IDF warns of ‘heavy price’ for Hamas

Hamas will pay a “heavy price” for its “vicious attacks on millions of Israeli civilians,” the IDF Spokesperson tweets after Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over Tel Aviv.

‘Hamas wants escalation to stay relevant’

Hamas entered the current round of hostilities with Israel because it is in “deep trouble” and finding it difficult to stay relevant, says former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin.

The terrorist organization is in bad shape and therefore was looking to provoke Israel into the current exchange of fire, Diskin says at the Israel Conference on Peace at the Dan Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, minutes after attendants run for cover after hearing a Code Red siren signalizing an incoming rocket.

“Hamas is looking for legitimacy and relevance,” Diskin says.

Israeli leaders routinely enter campaigns such as Operation Protective Edge — in 2008, Cast Lead, and in 2012, Pillar of Defense – with certain plans and objectives, “but you never know how you’re going to get out of it,” Diskin says.

– Raphael Ahren

Ex-Southern Command chief argues against ground op

Yoav Galant, the former commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, argues strongly against a ground offensive against Gaza.

Maj. Gen. (ret. ) Yoav Galant (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)

Maj. Gen. (ret. ) Yoav Galant (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90/File)

He tells Channel 2 that when he led Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, he used ground forces because Israel did not have an effective alternative means of stopping rocket fire. Now it has Iron Dome, he notes.

Galant, who nearly became IDF chief of staff in 2010, says Israel “must conserve the limited resource” of its ground forces. When you “zoom out” and look at the region, Hamas is relatively weak, he emphasizes, compared to some of the other potential threats to Israel.

Gov’t asks southerners to document danger

The Foreign Ministry calls on residents of southern Israel to document the dangers to which they are subjected every day due to rocket attacks on the area in order to give “those outside Israel” a glimpse of “the impossible reality in which a sizable percentage of residents of Israel live.”

Urging southerners to send photos and videos to IsraelUnderFire@Israel.org, along with their names in English, the Foreign Ministry says there is “no better way” to illustrate the plight of residents of the Israeli south than “the testimony of those who experience the difficulty and demonstrate a determination and refusal to succumb to threats — the residents themselves.”

Promising to share the materials with a large audience, the Foreign Ministry warns the residents not to put their lives in danger “for the sake of documenting the situation.”

Hamas claims Zikim infiltration

Hamas says two members of its Naval commando unit were involved in the attack on the Zikim area, though Israeli media reports three people killed in attempted infiltration.

The operation is apparently still ongoing.

Israeli planes attack Gaza targets

Smoke is seen rising on the Gazan skyline as Israeli forces carry out a heavy round of air raids on the Strip.

Meanwhile rocket sirens go off in areas of southern Israel near the Palestinian enclave, as Gazan terrorists attempt to return fire.

Media reports on the Gazan death toll vary from 15 to 16, including seven people killed on a strike on a house earlier in the day.

Netanyahu says attempts at calm rebuffed by Hamas, campaign to end rocket fire may take time

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the campaign against terror groups in Gaza would continue until rocket fire from the Strip ceases, and accuses Hamas of rebuffing all recent attempts at restoring quiet.

“The State of Israel is in the middle of a campaign to bring back quiet and security for our citizens,” Netanyahu says. “We won’t tolerate rocket fire on our cities and towns. So I have ordered a dramatic widening of the IDF operation against the Hamas terrorists and against the terrorists of all other terror groups in the Gaza Strip.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo credit: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The escalation was ordered “only after all attempts to bring back quiet went unanswered, and Hamas chose escalation,” he says. “We do not go joyfully to battle, but the security of our citizens and our children comes first. We will do everything it takes so that the quiet that existed here in recent years will continue.”

IDF operations “are directed at Hamas terrorists, not against innocent civilians,” he adds, “while Hamas intentionally hides behind Palestinian civilians, so it bears the responsibility when they are accidentally hurt.”

Netanyahu calls on Israeli citizens “to listen to instructions from the [IDF’s] Home Front Command. [The instructions] save lives. I call on you to show resilience, because this operation could take some time. From the perspective of the terror organizations, all parts of the State of Israel are a single front, and all citizens of the State of Israel are one target. We must therefore stand as one – unified and certain in the justice of our cause. We are acting resolutely and with determination to return the quiet, and will continue to do so until the quiet returns, so that our citizens and children can live in safety.”

Over 100 rockets hit Israel in 24 hours

Summing up the past 24 hours of attacks on Israel, Channel 2 reports more than 100 rocket attacks, 23 interceptions by Iron Dome and no serious Israeli injuries.

It says all Tel Aviv area municipalities have been told to ensure bomb shelters are open, and that Israel is braced for more rocket fire on the Tel Aviv area, and even as far north as Netanya.

4 terrorists killed in failed infiltration attempt

Four Palestinian terrorists are killed in a failed attempt to infiltrate the Zikim area, located a few kilometers from the northwestern edge of Gaza Strip. They came from the sea, according to Israel Radio.

An IDF soldier is said to have been lightly injured in the exchange of fire with the armed Palestinians, members of a Gazan terror cell.

Meanwhile, police forces have been deployed in great numbers to the area to prevent additional infiltration attempts from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

‘Israel carries out over 100 strikes on Hamas facilities’

The Israeli Air Force has carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas facilities, training camps, rocket launching sites and other terror-related targets, Channel 2 reports.

The IDF is currently carrying out more strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas asks Israel to stop bombing, free prisoners

Israel should stop its bombardment of Gaza and release Palestinian prisoners, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, says as the Israeli Air Force continues to attack terror-related targets in the Gaza Strip.

“We ask Israel to stop the bombardment, return to the ceasefire that was agreed upon, release prisoners, and stop intervening in our internal affairs,” says the armed wing’s official spokesman, Abu Ubeida.

He also calls for Israel and Hamas to return to the understandings reached at the end of the last major round of violence, in 2012.

Jerusalem starts preparing for rockets

The Jerusalem Municipality announces on Tuesday night it will open all public bomb shelters and is “preparing for every possible scenario.”

A list of shelters are published on the municipality website (www.jerusalem.muni.il).

“The municipality also recommends that residents open their private shelters,” according to a statement from Brachie Sprung, senior adviser to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“In the case of a siren or explosion, residents should go to the closest protected area within a minute and a half and close all doors and windows and stay indoors for 10 minutes,” the statement reads. “All residents are asked to continue to listen to instructions from the Home Front Command.”

Despite the precautions, “as of now, all municipal events will take place as scheduled.”

Haaretz accuses Bennett of ‘misleading the press’

Haaretz responds to reports that Economy Minister Naftali Bennett was pushed and punched as he left the stage at the Haaretz Peace Conference this afternoon, saying the Jewish Home head “took advantage of the inappropriate behavior of a single conference participant who jostled him gently in order to claim he was punched and to create headlines by misleading the press.”

Bennett was heckled when he went on stage to speak at the conference, to the point where he could not begin his talk.

When Bennett left the stage, he was said to have been jostled by multiple members of the audience. During the jostling, Bennett was reportedly punched in the back, spun around and demanded to know who had punched him. Before he could receive an answer, his security detail spirited him out of the hall.

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

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

However, the paper said several witnesses, “including various journalists, said there was no punch, and that Bennett was surrounded by security guards at that moment who did not feel the need to intervene or detain any of those present.”

The paper “invited Bennett and other right-wing figures to the peace conference, just like it invites them to participate in its opinion section, in order to create an open, democratic and pluralistic dialogue. We are saddened that Minister Bennett chose to take advantage of this opportunity in order to besmirch the conference’s attendees and Haaretz itself.”

IDF says Zikim infiltrators reached base by sea

Amid reports of an infiltration attempt at the Zikim army base, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner says that 50 minutes ago, Israeli naval surveillance spotted a squad of terrorists advancing toward Israel by sea.

The infiltrators were armed with grenades, the army says. The army confirms four terrorists killed, though Israeli media reports puts the figure at five fatalities.

The army says one IDF soldier was lightly injured.

Lerner cannot confirm whether the squad was swimming or on a boat, but says the navy alerted infantry forces in the area, which engaged the terrorists. The air force engaged the terrorists as well.

“The event appears to be over,” Lerner says, though the IDF says in a statement it is continuing to search the area for other potential infiltrators.

– Mitch Ginsburg

Hamas armed wing releases list of demands

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas organization, releases a list of conditions for “a return to quiet” in the south.

According to Israel Radio reporter Gal Berger, the militia demands that Israel end hostilities in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, stop attacking Gaza from the air and flying in its airspace, recommit to the terms of the ceasefire agreement that was made after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, release the prisoners who were freed under the Shalit deal and re-arrested in recent weeks, and “stop thwarting Palestinian reconciliation” efforts.

“The enemy must not even dream of quiet and stability as long as it does not agree to these terms,” Berger quotes Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Ubeida as saying in a statement recorded at his hiding place.

Abu Ubeida warns that if Israel continues to attack residential buildings in Gaza, Hamas will launch rockets to greater distances.

“The enemy will pay a heavy price for its foolish decision to launch a new attack,” Abu Ubeida is quoted as saying.

‘If Israel gives up Jordan Valley, Tel Aviv could become Sderot’

If Israel were to give up security control over the Jordan Valley in a future peace agreement with the Palestinians – as demanded by the US administration — the West Bank would become Gaza and Tel Aviv would become Sderot, says former national security advisor Yaakov Amidror. “Not one rocket would fall on Tel Aviv, but as many as fell today in Sderot.”

National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash 90)

Yaakov Amidror (photo credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash 90)

This week’s heavy rocket fire from Gaza is “very much connected” to calls for a permanent peace agreement, Amidror adds, speaking at the Israel Conference on Peace. “Israel must not enter agreements that will jeopardize its security… It’s better not to have any agreement at all than to have an agreement that leads to two million people having to hide in bomb shelters, as we had today.”

While personally in favor of a Palestinian state — for demographic reasons — Amidror says he doubts that there will ever be peace between Israelis and Palestinians. “The Palestinians don’t want an agreement, they want to destroy the state of Israel.”

– Raphael Ahren

About 160 rockets launched since morning, says IDF

Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge this morning, about 160 rockets were launched at Israel — 116 of which hit Israel and 23 of which were intercepted, the IDF says, adding that one of the rockets was intercepted “over the Tel Aviv area.”

In response, the IDF and Shin Bet have targeted 150 terror-related sites across the Gaza Strip in over 100 strikes targeting five senior Hamas operatives, about 10 terror tunnels, 98 concealed rocket launchers, and 18 weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.

“Five of the weapon manufacturing facilities the IAF has targeted overnight were concealed within mosques. The Hamas’s modus operandi to operate terror from within civilian population and employ civilians as human shields may bear tragic consequences,” says IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner

US ‘strongly condemns’ Hamas rocket fire

The United States condemns the rocket fire by Hamas into Israel, and says it is concerned for civilians on both sides, after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza killed 16 people.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep a diplomatic channel open with the Palestinians to resolve the crisis sparked by the murders of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian youth.

“We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza,” Earnest says.

The spokesman also backs the Jewish state’s right to respond to the attacks.

“No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks,” he says. At the same time, Earnest says Washington is mindful of the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas.

“This means both the residents of southern Israel who are forced to live under rocket fire in their homes and the civilians in Gaza who are subjected to the conflict because of Hamas’ violence,” he says.

– AFP

UN chief pans ‘indiscriminate’ rocket attacks, urges restraint

UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemns the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and calls on both sides of the conflict to halt their aggression.

Ban “reiterates his call on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further civilian casualties and overall destabilization,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric says.

He adds that Ban “condemns the recent multiple rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza” and that “these indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas must stop.”

— AFP

Explosion and possible infiltration attempt reported at Kerem Shalom

A large explosion is being reported near the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and southern Gaza, where a tunnel has apparently blown up.

Large forces are on the scene searching for a possible infiltrator from Gaza, Israeli media reports.

Residents of the area are being told to stay in their homes.

The reported attack comes about an hour after Israeli forces engaged and killed five Hamas terrorists trying to infiltrate Israel from the sea near Zikim, in the north of the Strip.

Parachute found abandoned near southern kibbutz

A parachute is found abandoned near the kibbutz of Yad Mordechai, located ten kilometers south of Ashkelon.

Security forces are scouring the area for its owner, Channel 2 reports.

Security cabinet meets

The security cabinet has convened for its second meeting today.

Earlier Tuesday, the cabinet gave the go-ahead for the army to call up 40,000 reserve soldiers as sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a ground operation is on the table.

Since its last meeting, dozens of rockets have been shot at Israel and forces have also fought off at least one infiltration attempt from Gaza.

Israeli planes have also continued to bombards targets in Gaza, hitting over 150 targets on Tuesday alone, according to the IDF.

Defense minister: Our goal is zero rockets from Gaza

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon lays out the Israeli end goal of Operation Protective Edge during a visit to the Gaza Division headquarters Tuesday afternoon: “That those on the other side of the fence want a ceasefire, are willing to respect a cease fire, and do not fire even one rocket or mortar after the operation is over.”

“As far as we are concerned the goal is to bring [the situation] to zero shots fired or attacks launched from the Gaza Strip,” he says.

Ya’alon vows to continue with the operation until Hamas “understands that our citizens and soldiers are not to be fired upon.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon seen during a visit at the Gaza Division of the IDF Southern Command, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon seen during a visit at the Gaza Division of the IDF Southern Command, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

He says the operation is intertwined with actions on the home front, saying that the army, mostly the air force, is taking care of the offensive action and the civilians are being asked to do their utmost to stay safe, avoid stepping out to watch Iron Dome in action, and abide by the Home Front Command instructions.

Ya’alon says that the government, up until yesterday, had “a not-unsubstantiated” assumption that Hamas sought a ceasefire; “I won’t go into the details about whether the political echelon there controls the military one,” he says. “In the end, the facts speak for themselves: they brought about the escalation and in essence the moment we understood that, there was no chance of attaining a ceasefire based on the policies of the past days, we entered the campaign with all our might.”

Ya’alon, in response to a question about the authorization granted to call up 40,000 reservists, says that “I don’t know how many of that number we will have to draft but the intention here is to field a force that knows how to properly deal with the Gaza Strip.”

Regarding targeting killings, even of such leaders as Hamas in Gaza head Ismail Haniyeh, Ya’alon says, “I won’t go into our list of targets, but all Hamas personnel know that their blood is upon their heads; I have said that in the past and I say it again today.”

Finally, in response to a question about the internal dynamics in Gaza, Ya’alon says that residents of the Strip should “address their complaints to Hamas. It’s responsible.” — Mitch Ginsburg

Code Red sirens blare in central Israeli cities

Code Red sirens blare in central Israeli cities such as Tel Aviv, Holon, Bnei Brak, Bat Yam, Ramat Gan and elsewhere in Gush Dan.

Earlier, a rocket was intercepted by Iron Dome over Tel Aviv.

Second rocket shot down over Tel Aviv

Less than three hours after a rocket was shot down over Tel Aviv, the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts a second rocket over the vibrant central city.

Meanwhile, Code Red alerts are heard throughout central Israel, including in Tel Aviv.

Rocket shot down over Holon

After a Code Red alert sounds in Tel Aviv and other central Israeli cities, a rocket launched from the central Gaza Strip is shot down over the city of Holon.

Sirens heard in Jerusalem and northern Israel

A Code Red alert is heard in Jerusalem and northern Israel.

Three explosions heard in Jerusalem

Three explosions are heard in Jerusalem after Code Red sirens blare in the capital.

Sirens are also heard in Binyamina and Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael in northern Israel, Rishon Lezion in central Israel and Beersheba and Ashdod in southern Israel.

After a rocket was shot down over Tel Aviv earlier today, a second siren is heard in the city, followed by two explosions and a third siren.

Prisons service to evacuate 200 prisoners from Ashkelon

The Israel Prisons Service decided Tuesday evening to evacuate some 200 prisoners from the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon to prisons farther from the Gaza border.

The prison is an old building, and its top floor lacks sufficient bomb shelters, as required by current building codes. The prisoners who inhabit the top floor are the ones slated for immediate evacuation.

Salvo of 30 rockets reaches deep into Israel

Israel just underwent a massive volley of some 30 rockets, with sirens blaring in southern Israel and as far north as Binyamina, as well as in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Several rockets were reported shot down by Iron Dome, but shrapnel from an interception causes damage to a wedding hall in Ashdod where nuptials are taking place. No injuries reported.

In Jerusalem conflicting reports indicate rockets may have been shot down or impacted outside the city. Residents report hearing a series of three explosions.

Jerusalem issues safety guidelines for rocket fire

The Jerusalem Municipality has issued guidelines for residents in the wake of the “Color Red” siren that sounded minutes ago as five rockets were reportedly shot down over the capital.

The guidelines are:

– Remain in your protected area for 10 minutes, unless given instruction otherwise. After 10 minutes you can come out of your protected area.

– In your protected space, sit on the floor under the window line against the most interior wall available, opposite any windows.

Israelis take cover in the hallway of an apartment building as a Code Red alert sound in Jerusalem, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Israelis take cover in the hallway of an apartment building as a Code Red alert sound in Jerusalem, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

– We ask residents to maintain a clear path in the stairwells so that residents can reach the shelters quickly.

– Those not able to enter a building should lay on the ground and protect your head with your heads.

– Please do not remain in building entry plazas where there is risk of injury from debris and shrapnel should a missile fall near the building.

– Stay away from any unidentified objects or rockets lying on the ground. Report any suspicious objects or materials to the police.

– Municipal crews are prepared to handle the situation and have emergency plans in place throughout the city to allow as normal of a routine as possible.

– The public is asked to continue to listen to the media for further instructions.

– The municipality will continue to update its website, Facebook Page, municipal applications and [municipal call] center 106. Please follow the Home Front Command for guidelines and instructions.

Latest rocket volley had long range, says IDF spokesman

The latest volley of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel reached distances that have not been seen before, IDF spokesman Moti Almoz tells Channel 2.

Almoz says the latest barrage was “massive,” targeting several cities and regions in the country.

While he says the rockets’ range was long, Almoz does not confirm reports that a rocket was launched at the northern city of Binyamina, where a Code Red siren was heard earlier this evening.

Meanwhile, Al-Arabiya reports that launchers in Gaza have targeted Haifa, also in northern Israel, with medium-range missiles.

No rocket landing sites found near Jerusalem

Israel’s Channel 2 news reports that no rocket landing sites have been found near Jerusalem.

However, the military is mum on whether Iron Dome shot any down in the area.

The last time the capital underwent rocket attacks, in 2012, two impacts were found in the Etzion settlement bloc southeast of the city.

Tel Aviv issues emergency instructions

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality announces it has switched to emergency footing in the wake of multiple rocket attacks on the city.

The city has opened all its bomb shelters, listed here.

The IDF’s Home Front Command has published a website with detailed instructions of all areas of the country.

Mira Marcus, the city’s international press director, issued an English-language statement to the public with detailed instructions for residents:

– Following the siren in Tel Aviv and instructions from IDF Home Front Command (http://www.oref.org.il/894-en/Pakar.aspx), the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality has moved to working in a state of emergency and has opened all of the shelters for the public. The full list can be found at: http://gisn.tel-aviv.gov.il/iview2/index.aspx?zoom=14000&layers=592&

– In addition, a GPS-based map of public shelters can be found on the municipal app DIGITEL (in Hebrew.)

– Until IDF Home Front Command orders otherwise, all events are taking place as usual, including summer camps and other municipal public activities.

– The Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality is working in full cooperation with the security forces and is ready to respond to any need in a state of emergency.

Rocket reported to land outside Jerusalem

Rescue organization Israel Hatzolah reports via Twitter that one rocket landed near a settlement outside of Jerusalem.

According to Israel Radio, a home was damaged by the rocket; however Channel 2 says rocket landed near cemetery, with no injuries or damage.

Hamas claims responsibility for four missiles shot at the capital.

Tel Aviv residents say they can’t hear sirens

After two rockets take Tel Aviv by surprise and are shot down by Iron Dome, residents of the city complain that they can’t hear the Code Red alerts warning of an incoming projectile.

Though the sirens sound in other cities adjacent to Tel Aviv or near it, the alarms do not always sound inside the city, leading residents to voice their concern.

Israelis in the Tel Aviv area take cover as a warning siren sounds, signaling an incoming rocket, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israelis in the Tel Aviv area take cover as a warning siren sounds, signaling an incoming rocket, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Thousands evacuated from concert in Jerusalem

Thousands are evacuated from a Berry Sakharoff concert in Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool park after several rockets are fired at the city.

Rocker Berry Sakharoff performs in Jerusalem in 2012. (file photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Rocker Berry Sakharoff performs in Jerusalem in 2012. (file photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

One rocket reportedly hits a house outside the capital.

In Tel Aviv, events and other gatherings are dispersed after a second rocket is shot down above the city.

Hamas claims rocket fire on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa

The armed wing of Hamas claims that it fired several rockets at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa today.

“For the first time, the (Izz ad-Din al-)Qassam Brigades strike Haifa with an R-160 rocket, and strike occupied Jerusalem with four M-75 rockets and Tel Aviv with four M-75 rockets,” reads a statement by the organization.

— AFP

IDF confirms rocket fired from Gaza hit Jerusalem

The IDF confirms that a rocket fired from Gaza hit Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Mateh Yehuda regional council, in the Jerusalem district, reports several hits, including one inside a town. No injuries are reported.

Earlier tonight, Hamas claimed responsibility for firing four M-75 rockets at the capital.

Mateh Yehuda regional council reports several hits

As the IDF confirms that a rocket was fired at Jerusalem from Gaza, the head of the Mateh Yehuda regional council, southwest of the capital, reports several hits, including one inside a town.

No injuries are reported.

Israeli security forces inspect the site in Ramat Raziel, near Jerusalem, where a rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza fell, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Israeli security forces inspect the site in Ramat Raziel, near Jerusalem, where a rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza fell, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Code Red siren blares in Rishon Lezion

A Code Red alert sounds in Rishon Lezion, in central Israel.

Rocket shot down over Rishon Lezion

The Iron Dome missile defense system shoots down a rocket over Rishon Lezion, Israel’s fourth-largest city. An apartment building in Rishon was hit and badly damaged by a rocket during 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.

IDF tells Gaza residents: ‘Don’t go near Hamas’

The IDF is currently broadcasting radio messages on multiple frequencies to the Gaza Strip, warning residents to keep away from Hamas fighters.

“For your safety, get away from Hamas and their hiding places. Don’t go near them. They’re endangering your lives. For your safety, don’t let them near your homes, don’t let them hide in your homes,” the army’s Arabic-language radio message said.

Palestinians carry an injured man outside the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

Palestinians carry an injured man outside the Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib /Flash90)

“The Israel Defense Forces is going to attack buildings used for terror attacks. Anyone in these buildings is putting their lives in danger. You’ve been warned,” it added.

Hamas’s own television stations are not reporting detailed news reports on the ongoing fighting, preferring propaganda music and other content, so many Gaza residents are tuning in to Israeli media to follow the ongoing fighting, according to Channel 2 news correspondent Ehud Ya’ari.

Air force strikes heard in northern Gaza

Explosions heard in Beit Lahiya, Jabalya, other northern Gaza locations, in apparent Israel Air Force strikes.

Smoke rises over Gaza after an Israeli airstrike following several rockets attacks into southern Israel, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Smoke rises over Gaza after an Israeli airstrike following several rockets attacks into southern Israel, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/ Flash90)

Explosions heard in Sharon area, Tel Aviv

Several explosions are heard in the skies over the Sharon area north of Tel Aviv.

In the city itself, at the heart of Israel’s largest metropolitan area, a massive explosion was heard in recent minutes, according to residents.

Herzliya and Raanana earlier reported sirens wailing.

Wedding celebrants seen scurrying for shelter

Channel 2 broadcasts footage of wedding participants in Ashdod fleeing during a rocket strike over an hour ago.

A Grad rocket hit near the wedding, damaging the building but causing no injuries.

Rockets hit Hadera, coastal region

Rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel’s coastal plain, as well as the city of Hadera, located between Haifa and Tel Aviv.

Hadera, which lies in the Haifa district, was hit by three rockets launched by Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. At the time, this was the farthest point in Israel that Hezbollah was able to hit.

This evening, the city becomes the farthest point in Israel that Hamas rockets have been able to reach.

Video shows IDF take out Hamas infiltrators

In startlingly vivid footage from a border surveillance camera, reportedly watched by a female conscripted soldier, viewers can see what she saw in real time: the advance of a team of Hamas operatives from the sea toward either the navy base or the community of Zikim.

The video shows a pair of Hamas gunmen firing their weapons, probably at the Israeli army infantry forces that first engaged them — the soldier on the right can be seen unjamming his weapon — and then running for their lives as an air force helicopter fires upon them.

Five Hamas men, reportedly naval commandos, were killed in the aborted infiltration attempt.

According to Channel 2, the conscripted soldier spotted the infiltration and alerted the forces and directed them to the area. – Mitch Ginsburg

No infiltrator near Kerem Shalom

After scare, the IDF now says there was no infiltration near Kerem Shalom following tunnel explosion, Ynet reports.

Forces also reportedly ended their search for a possible infiltrator near Yad Mordechai, where an abandoned parachute was found.

‘Hamas has 4 times more long-range rockets than estimated’

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group have some 400 long-range rockets, an arsenal four times larger than Israeli intelligence had estimated, Israeli journalist Yossi Melman says.

He says about 30 to 40 of the rockets were destroyed by the Israel Air Force, while 40 were used against Israel, thus far.

“There is a cache of about 300 left for use in the next 10 days, at this rate,” Melman tweets.

Palestinians report Gaza death toll up to 17

The death toll from Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip has risen to 17 after a spate of new attacks on terror-related targets, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports.

In the latest strike, a child is reportedly killed and two others wounded in an airstrike on the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City.

Earlier this evening, a 30-year-old man, Suleiman Salman Abu al-Sawaween, was killed in an airstrike on al-Qarara, north of Khan Younis.

Channel 2 reports that the IDF is telephoning homes it intends to strike where Hamas operatives are believed to live, tells occupants to leave, then fires a blank shell at the building, and then fires live ammunition.

Abbas speaks to Sissi, convenes emergency meeting

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone to discuss the escalation in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reports.

Sissi reportedly tells Abbas that Egypt aims to stop the escalation and reach a ceasefire as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Abbas convenes an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership tomorrow to discuss the escalation.

In 24 hours, over 100 rockets pounded Israel

The IDF says that in the first 24 hours of Operation Protective Edge, in which air raid sirens rang out in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and as far north as Hadera, Palestinian terrorist groups fired a total of 117 rockets at Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted 29 of them.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip have left 23 dead and 122 injured.

Israelis stranded in Istanbul after airline refuses to fly to Tel Aviv

Over 100 Israeli passengers are stranded in Istanbul’s Gokçen Airport after the crew of a Pegasus Airlines flight bound for Tel Aviv refused to fly because of the security situation, Channel 2 reports.

“They told us that the Turkish crew refused to fly to Israel because of the situation, and this is while Turkish Airlines flights to Tel Aviv are taking off as usual,” Amit, a passenger from Flight 779 from Istanbul to Tel Aviv, told the news site.

Pegasus Airlines is a discount Turkish airline which started flying to Tel Aviv in 2012.

For the time being, the flight’s been pushed back to 6:00 a.m. and passengers are stranded at the airport on Istanbul’s outskirts.

Top Islamic Jihad leader killed in airstrike

An Israeli airstrike killed a top Islamic Jihad member in the northern Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning along with five others.

Hafiz Hamad, a leader of Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades, died in an airstrike on his house in Beit Hanoun, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports.

Another two airstrikes are reported to have taken place in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Two Palestinians are reported dead in the attacks.

Air raid sirens sound in Beersheba

Shortly after Israel hits targets in the Gaza Strip and kills a leader in Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, air raid sirens go off in the southern city of Beersheba and the surrounding towns and villages. At least one interception is reported.

According to IDF statistics, eight rockets were launched at Beersheba in the latest wave of 45 launches from the Gaza Strip. Four were intercepted and three hit.

In total since Tuesday afternoon, one rocket hit Hadera, 116 kilometers north of the Gaza Strip; two were intercepted over Tel Aviv; one hit Rishon LeZion and one was intercepted over it; four were launched at Jerusalem, three of which hit the city. In the south, eight rockets were launched at Beersheba, four of which were intercepted and three hit; 27 were launched at Ashdod, eight were intercepted and 17 hit; three were launched at Ashkelon, two were intercepted.

In the last 24 hours, an estimated 154 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip, of which 117 exploded in Israeli territory and 29 were intercepted by Iron Dome.

IDF targets home of senior Hamas commander

The IDF has reportedly struck the house of senior Hamas commander Raed Attar in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. According to an Israel Radio correspondent, all the houses of Hamas’s divisional commanders in the southern Gaza Strip have been destroyed.

It remains unclear whether Attar was at home at the time.

Attar was among those responsible for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, Ynet reports.

Additional Israeli airstrikes are reported across the southern Gaza Strip in the cities of Khan Younis, Rafah and Nussirat.

End of a chaotic day

We’re closing this liveblog at the end of a chaotic first day of Operation Protective Edge. Our colleague Ilan Ben-David will be taking over with a new liveblog right away. To those still up at this outrageous hour in Israel, try and get some sleep.