Operation Protective Edge entered its third day on Thursday. At least 80 rockets had been fired into Israel on Wednesday, hitting as far north as Zichron Ya’akov, and the rocket attacks intensified in the course of Thursday. By nightfall, over 350 rockets had been fired at Israel, about 90 of them intercepted by Iron Dome. The Israeli Air Force had carried out almost 900 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip; Palestinian reports said at least 90 Palestinians had been killed. Here’s how the Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s developments. Friday’s live coverage of the ongoing crisis is here.

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IDF awaits ‘approval’ for new actions against Hamas

As Operation Protective Edge enters its third day, military sources are predicting “various scenarios” for Israel military action against Hamas in Gaza that are just “awaiting final approval,” according to Channel 2.

The aim of these scenarios? “To bring Hamas to the point where it says it will stop firing,” according  to the TV report. “The aim is not to have this conflict drag on too long.”

In the studio, the station’s Palestinian affairs reporter says he greatly doubts that Hamas “will raise the white flag.”

 

Israel using heavy force against Hamas targets

The Israeli military reportedly hit more targets in Gaza in the first day and a half of fighting than during the entire eight-day conflict of November 2012, military sources say.

The current bombing campaign had used 400 tons of explosives against targets in Gaza by Wednesday afternoon.

Hamas’s interior ministry in Gaza said earlier that Israel’s army and air force have struck the coastal strip more than 500 times.

Retired general Yisrael Ziv told Channel 2 just now that the air force was employing immense force against Hamas targets. “You wouldn’t want to find yourself under the kind of bombings” being carried out now, he says, in response to the assertion by the TV station’s Palestinian affairs reporter that Hamas is unlikely to raise the white flag of surrender.

Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over Beersheba

Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip are intercepted over the southern city of Beersheba around 1:30 a.m. after sirens went off. A third projectile exploded outside town. No injuries or damage has been reported.

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera reporter says multiple Israeli army bulldozers were spotted heading south toward the Gaza border.

Hamas lauds use of human shields to protect homes

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri tells the Islamist group’s TV station that the tactic of using Gaza residents as human shields is praiseworthy and effective against Israel.

“The policy of people confronting the Israeli warplanes with their bare chests in order to protect their homes has proven effective against the occupation,” he tells al-Aqsa TV. “Also, this policy reflects the character of our brave, courageous people. We in Hamas call upon our people to adopt this policy, in order to protect the Palestinian homes.”

Hamas: Khan Younis strike kills 10

Hamas reports that an Israeli airstrike on the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis has killed 10 people.

Media reports from the Gaza Strip suggest seven were killed in the Khan Younis strike, including five children.

UK condemns Hamas rocket attacks on civilians

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday evening about ongoing conflict between Gaza and Israel.

According to a statement by 10 Downing Street posted online, “the Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians.”

“The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in the statement.

Rockets break late night silence

Sirens wail in southern Israel as rockets fired from Gaza break the mid-night quiet. Unconfirmed reports say four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Hamas fires rockets at Ashkelon; Israeli gunships fire on Gaza

Hamas’s armed wing claims responsibility for firing six rockets at the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. Multiple rockets are reported to have been intercepted.

Meanwhile, Vice News reporter Danny Gold reports that Israeli warships are firing on the port in Gaza City and Palestinian gunmen are returning fire.

UN chief urges restraint before Security Council meeting

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for restraint and an end to the new wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence in a blitz of phone calls Wednesday to their leaders and key players in the region, warning that the situation raises the risk of another full-blown war.

The UN chief said he also urged the Egyptian president, the rulers of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State John Kerry and others to press the Israelis and Palestinians to return to their November 2012 ceasefire agreement and resume peace negotiations.

Ban was scheduled to address an emergency Security Council meeting on the crisis Thursday.

He said Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and the emir of Qatar assured him they had urged restraint and were working for a ceasefire. He said he discussed with Kerry “what is necessary to do” to restore calm as soon as possible.

“Gaza is on a knife-edge,” Ban said at a news conference. “The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get out of control. The risk of violence expanding further still is real.”

The UN chief said “Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war.”

AP

At least 10 Palestinians killed in early morning strikes

Israeli aircraft and ships have pounded the Gaza Strip overnight. As a result of the bombardment, 10 Palestinians were killed since midnight in the early hours on Wednesday.

Eight members of the al-Haj family died in Khan Younis and two died elsewhere. According to medical sources in the Gaza Strip, the death toll has gone up to 54 since Israel began Operation Protective Edge, and at least 400 Palestinians have been injured.

Sirens wail in area bordering Gaza Strip

As the sun rises on third day of Operation Protective Edge, sirens go off in the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel which borders the Gaza Strip.

Initial reports say two mortar rounds exploded in open areas, causing no injuries or damage.

According to the IDF, eight rockets have been fired into Israel overnight, and the IDF has carried out 54 strikes on the Gaza Strip since midnight.

IDF hits 320 targets overnight, says rocket fire slowing

At the dawn of the third day of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has hit between nearly 800 targets in the Gaza Strip, the IDF’s spokesman says.

Channel 10 news reports that overnight Wednesday/Thursday, the IDF hit around 320 targets, including 58 tunnels, 220 launchers, and the homes of Hamas commanders.

In total, the IDF has hit 513 launchers, and still has hundreds of targets remaining.

An Israeli Apache helicopter shoots a missile over the Gaza Strip on July 9, 2014, the second day of Operation Protective Edge. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

An Israeli Apache helicopter shoots a missile over the Gaza Strip on July 9, 2014, the second day of Operation Protective Edge. (photo credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Hamas and other groups have fired around 360 rockets into Israel, including eight overnight.

The IDF says the pace of the rocket fire is slowing, with 82 rockets hitting Israel Wednesday, and 21 intercepted by the Iron Dome.

‘Decision on ground incursion within two, three days’

As Israel continues to strike targets in the Gaza Strip primarily from the air, a senior IDF official says that a decision will be made in the next two or three days regarding a ground incursion, Ynet reports.

“We are weighing all sorts of things. We still have many more targets to attack from the air. The decision about the timing of the attack will be made within two or three days,” he says.

Nahal Brigade forces are reported massing on the Gaza Border, alongside soldiers from the Paratrooper and Givati brigades.

 

Fourteen Gazans killed overnight

Palestinian officials say 14 people were killed in the overnight Israeli strikes, half of whom were women and children, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.

Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra says among other sites, Israeli planes hit a coffee shop in Khan Younis, killing six. Another seven people were killed in strikes on two homes in the city.

A strike on the home of Raed Shalat in central Gaza killed him, the agency reports.

The figures put the Palestinian death toll at 69, according to the news agency.

Sirens in Bnei Shimon, Sdot Negev

Residents of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council north of Beersheba, and the Sdot Negev Regional Council on the border with the Gaza Strip hear sirens.

Rocket downed over Netivot

Israeli media reports a rocket was shot down by the Iron Dome system over the city of Netivot in the last few minutes.

Sirens are continuing to go off in several southern locations and Gazans greet the new day with a fresh bevy of rocket fire.

Three Islamic Jihad rocket-makers killed — IDF

The army confirms it killed three Islamic Jihad operatives in a strike early this morning.

The IDF says in a statement that the three were involved in manufacturing medium range rockets.

Medium range rockets could hit up to 45 kilometers away from Gaza, putting Ashdod and Beersheba in range.

IDF says Hamas has 6,000 rockets, dozens of them long-range

The IDF releases a backgrounder on Hamas’s and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s arsenals.

According to the report, Hamas has more than 1,000 locally-made short-range (15-20 km) rockets, 2,500 smuggled rockets, around 200 self-produced Grad rockets, and an equal number of smuggled Grads.

As for medium- range rockets (45 km), Hamas has around 200 locally-made improved Grad rockets, and 1,000 smuggled improved Grads.

Hamas also has over 400 locally-produced medium-long- range rockets (up to 80 km).

The group also has dozens of long-range rockets (100-200 km).

In total, the IDF says, Hamas has an arsenal of around 6,000 rockets.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad has a smaller but still significant arsenal- around 2,400 short-range rockets, 800 medium-range improved Grads, and over 100 medium-long-range rockets.

Other terror groups have hundreds of short-range and dozens of medium-range rockets.

The groups also have thousands of RPG-7 rocket launchers, hundreds of mortar shells, dozens of guided anti-tank missiles, dozens of advanced anti-tank missiles, and thousands of explosive devices, says the IDF.

Sirens, booms heard in Tel Aviv and Gush Dan

Warning sirens, and several booms indicating an Iron Dome interception, are heard in the skies of Tel Aviv and the Gush Dan region.

Channel 2 reports four interceptions, with no injuries or damage.

Jerusalem’s camps, schools open Thursday

Camps and summer school programs are open in Israel’s capital today. In addition, the mathematics Bagrut exam will take place today.

Activities that usually meet in temporary structures are moving into more protected structures.

Kindergarten children in their classroom (illustrative photo; credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

Kindergarten children in their classroom (illustrative photo; credit: Edi Israel/Flash90)

In southern Israel and the Lachish region, camps and other activities in areas without bomb shelters have been canceled.

Shrapnel falls in south Tel Aviv

After four rockets from Gaza are reported intercepted over Tel Aviv, shrapnel falls in a south Tel Aviv neighborhood.

A number of cars are reported damaged by falling pieces of rocket.

The Home Front Command instructs residents to remain in protected spaces for ten minutes after a siren is heard in order to avoid the possibility of falling shrapnel after an Iron Dome intercept.

Tel Aviv under fire, in photos

Israel Breaking releases a photograph of Thursday morning’s Iron Dome interception over Tel Aviv.

Hillel Fuld was heading to work at Google when the sirens sounded, and takes this picture of Israeli commuters taking cover.

Four rockets were intercepted over Tel Aviv less than an hour ago.

Hamas takes credit for Tel Aviv rockets

Hamas says it fired two M-75 rockets at Tel Aviv, shortly after Israeli media reports four interceptions over Tel Aviv.

The M-75 has a range of 75 kilometers, and a 60 kilogram warhead, according to the IDF.

Crash in central Israel after sirens sound

An empty bus slams into a car at Geha Junction, between Petah Tikva and Bnei Brak, moments after a siren sounds in the area. It is not clear whether the siren had anything to do with the accident.

One man and two women, one of them pregnant, suffer light to moderate injuries in the crash.

The man is being treated at Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital, and the women are at Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer, Ynet reports.

Flights at Ben-Gurion Airport operate as normal

Flights coming in and out of the Ben Gurion Airport in Lod are operating on their normal schedules today, Israel Radio reports.

Still, passengers should keep updated by checking with their airlines and online.

A general view of the arrival hall of Terminal 3 Ben Gurion International Airport, September 14, 2006. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

A general view of the arrival hall of Terminal 3 Ben Gurion International Airport, September 14, 2006. (photo credit: Gili Yaari/Flash90)

In letter to diplomats, FM defends Gaza op

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sends a letter to his counterparts in all countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, saying the government’s objective for launching Operation Protective Edge is to guarantee Israelis “a life without constant threat” and that, while hoping to avoid an escalation, the government will do whatever it takes to achieve this goal.

“Over the past three weeks, the Hamas terror organization has escalated its attack on Israeli civilians, launching nearly 300 rockets at our cities – including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other major metropolitan areas — putting millions of Israeli lives at risk,” Liberman writes. “Families have been forced into shelters, summer camps for children closed, and all normal daily activities have been impacted. This is unacceptable.”

Jerusalem showed “great restraint” before launching the operation, the foreign minister continues, asserting that the government was eager to restore calm without a major military campaign. “However, Israel’s repeated efforts to achieve calm were met with increased rocket fire by what is becoming a Hamas terrorist state.”

Israel was forced to launch “an operation of self-defense,” whose objective is to secure for Israel’s civilian population “a life without constant threat. Although we are not interested in escalation, we will do whatever is necessary to defend our citizens.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

He describes Hamas as an internationally recognized terrorist organizations that aims to establish an “Islamist state characterized by human rights violations, violent repression of minorities, women, and non-Muslims.” The group using Palestinian civilians as human shields, which is a war crime, and therefore “bears full responsibility for any harm that comes to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike,” Liberman writes.

“Israel is operating with utmost care to avoid civilian casualties. We are focusing on targeting Hamas and other terrorist organizations, their operatives and infrastructure. Israel is giving repeated warnings to civilians to vacate areas they are about to target, using pinpoint technologies to hit only the targeted infrastructure.”

The foreign minister demands that the Palestinian Authority dismantle the Hamas-backed unity government and calls on world leaders to condemn the ongoing rocket fire from Gaza to Israel. “Finally, the international community should continue to demonstrate understanding for Israel to exercise its legitimate right to self-defense,” he concludes his letter.

Liberman is scheduled to brief foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel about the situation this afternoon.

– Raphael Ahren

Photos of car bombed by Israel released

Here are photos of the car struck by Israel early this morning in an attack that killed three Islamic Jihad operatives.

The IDF says in a statement that the three were involved in manufacturing medium range rockets.

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, killing three Islamic Jihad men,according to the IDF, on July 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, killing three Islamic Jihad men,according to the IDF, on July 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/ MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli air strike, killing three people and wounding four others, early on July 10, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinians inspect the wreckage of a car hit by an Israeli air strike, killing three people and wounding four others, early on July 10, 2014 in Gaza City. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Rocket hits Sdot Negev, starts fire

A rocket from Gaza strikes an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, starting a fire, Israel Police tweet.

There are no injuries, and firefighters are on their way to the scene.

Sirens heard in Eshkol

Warning sirens sound in the Eshkol Regional Council, which borders the Gaza Strip.

IDF targets terrorist in northern Gaza

Israeli forces target a Hamas operative in the northern Gaza Strip, according to an IDF statement.

The terrorist was involved in rocket fire at Israel, the Army says.

Earlier Thursday, Israel killed three Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives in a strike on the car in which they were traveling.

Sirens in Dimona, Mitzpe Ramon

Rocket alarms are going off Dimona, home to an Israeli nuclear facility that terrorists have said they are trying to target.

Sirens are also sounding in the sleepy desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, in the middle of Israel’s Negev desert, about 100 kilometers from Gaza.

Sirens are also heard in Yeruham.

On Wednesday, two rockets were downed over Dimona.

Two mortar shells land in Eshkol

After warning sirens sound, two mortar shells land in the Eshkol Regional Council.

No injuries are reported.

Dimona mayor says 1 rocket shot down, 1 falls in open area

Benny Biton, mayor of the Negev city of Dimona, tells Channel 2 that one rocket from Gaza was intercepted, while another fell in an open area.

Dimona is an especially sensitive site, as it is home to the Negev Nuclear Research Center, widely assumed to be home of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from satellite (photo credit: courtesy of United States Government)

The Dimona nuclear reactor as viewed from satellite (photo credit: courtesy of United States Government)

Hamas says it fired two M-75s at Mitzpe Ramon

After warning sirens sound in Mitzpe Ramon, deep in the Negev Desert, Hamas says it fired two M-75 rockets at the city.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas boasted about firing M-75s at Tel Aviv.

The M-75 has a range of 75 kilometers.

Mitzpeh ramon, on the desert's edge. (photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Mitzpeh Ramon, on the desert’s edge. (photo credit: Doron Horowitz/Flash90)

Kerry not planning to come here anytime soon

Despite some calls for US Secretary of State John Kerry to return to the region in order to help broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Obama administration has no plans to send the diplomat, the Wall Street Journal reports.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (photo credit: AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a joint press conference with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry (unseen) on June 22, 2014 in Cairo. (photo credit: AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)

“But with the crisis escalating just two months after formal US-led peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians collapsed, the White House isn’t preparing to dispatch Mr. Kerry to the region to broker a ceasefire,” WSJ writes.

Fatah says it, too, fired on Israel from Gaza

In a first indication of Fatah participation in attacks on Israel from Gaza this week, the Abdul Qader Husseini Battalions, an armed group affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for firing two Grad rockets at Ashkelon and four mortar shells early Thursday morning, just after 1 a.m. A communique explaining the attack was posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page.

“This blessed operation came as an answer to the enemy’s repeated crimes against our defenseless people,” read a statement on the group’s website.

– Elhanan Miller

Sirens heard in Ashkelon

Warning sirens sound in Ashkelon, the coastal city near Gaza’s northern border.

Rockets hit Negev towns

Shortly after Hamas brags about firing two M-75 rockets at Mitzpe Ramon, the IDF confirms that at least three rockets strike communities in the Negev desert up to 84 kilometers from the Gaza Strip.

Several other rockets hit Netivot, says the IDF. One rocket landed in a yard behind a home in Netivot, and several residents are being treated for shock.

Israel’s elephants protect young from rockets

As Israelis across the country are running into shelters and crouching on the sides of highways, animals are also using their protective instincts to shield their young.

These instincts were on display Wednesday at the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan — commonly called the Safari — as four adult elephants gather around two calves as warning sirens are heard.

Zoo spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz posted a video of the elephants protecting their young.

Sirens in Tel Aviv

Rocket sirens are now blaring in the Tel Aviv region, for the second time today.

Emergency numbers during Protective Edge

As you go about your day with sirens going off and rockets falling, here are some hotlines to help you in case of an emergency. Stay safe out there.

  • Home Front Command hotline for information on how to stay safe: 104 (free)
  • Natal (organization for those suffering from trauma from terror attacks) hotline for those in shock: 1 (800) 363- 363
  • Ministry of Education’s 24-hour emotional distress hotline for parents and children: 02-5603733
  • Those injured in previous attacks who need help: 02-6709743 (from 8:30 a.m to 3:00 p.m.)

Thanks to the Kol Zchut organization for the numbers, and visit their website for the full list of phone numbers and websites relevant to issues arising during the fighting.

Booms over Tel Aviv

People in Tel Aviv and the region have reported booms, but officials have yet to identify an impact point and there are no reports of the Iron Dome anti-missile system activating near the city.

Earlier in the day, at least two rockets were shot down over the city, the second most populous in the country. Shrapnel from rockets fell in south Tel Aviv, damaging cars and a gas station.

‘Israel not looking for immediate ceasefire’

Jerusalem is currently not interested in an immediate ceasefire with Gaza, a senior government official says, indicating that Israel seeks to deal Hamas a blow so heavy that it would ensure the terrorist organization will be unable to resume rocket fire against Israel in the long-term future.

“It is quite possible that Hamas would agree to an immediate ceasefire — we’re hitting them hard, they want the situation to cool down,” the senior official tells The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity. Brokering a ceasefire with Hamas would have been possible a week or a two ago, but an agreement that would leave in place the group’s offensive capacities is an outcome of the current conflagration undesirable to Israel, the official suggested.

Israeli soldiers stand next to Merkava tanks positioned on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip on July 7, 2014. ( photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)

Israeli soldiers stand next to Merkava tanks positioned on the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip on July 7, 2014. ( photo credit: AFP/JACK GUEZ)

“Today, we’re not interested in a band-aid. We don’t want to give Hamas just a timeout to rest, regroup and recharge batteries, and then next week or in two weeks they start again to shoot rockets at Israel. Such a quick fix solution is not something we’re interested in.”

While refusing to discuss concretely steps the Israel Defense Forces plan to take in the coming hours and days, the official said that the government is discussing a ground invasion into Gaza “very seriously.”

The security cabinet was scheduled to convene Thursday at 11:30.

– Raphael Ahren

Rockets hit open areas near Tel Aviv

Two rockets impact in open areas in the heavily populated Dan region of central Israel.

Channel 2 news reports several people treated for shock, but no other injuries or damage.

Israeli TV — reporters across the south, experts in the studio

Major Israeli television stations are covering the growing Gaza conflict, with reporters reporting live from cities that have been struck by rockets from the Gaza Strip.

In the studios, national security reporters, retired officials, and current office-holders analyze the situation in between updates on warnings and rocket strikes.

Mayors of cities near Gaza, including Ashkelon, are being interviewed, as are people on the street.

Channel 2 had an interview with a Palestinian resident of the Gaza Strip Thursday morning.

 

Egypt opens crossing to wounded Gazans

The Egyptian government opens the Rafah border crossing to Palestinians injured in Israeli airstrikes, Ynet reports.

In addition, the local Egyptian health ministry branch sends 30 ambulances to the border.

Cairo is also allowing through Palestinians with Egyptian citizenship.

Footage from Al-Aqsa TV shows an ambulance loading wounded before taking them to Egypt.

Owner of burned factory says, ‘Retake Gaza’

The owner of the Denber paint factory speaks Thursday on the backdrop of the factory, which was set aflame by a missile strike last Saturday.

The owner of the Denber paint factory speaking on the backdrop of the factory, which was set aflame last Saturday (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

The owner of the Denber paint factory speaking on the backdrop of the factory, which was set aflame last Saturday (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

He calls the Hamas regime in Gaza “hooligans” and says he would like to see Israel re-occupy sections of the Gaza Strip in order to ensure long term quiet. All told, he says, he has suffered 10-15 million shekels of damage.

Mitch Ginsburg

Netanyahu, MKs forced into shelter

As sirens sound Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in the Kirya defense headquarters in Tel Aviv are forced into a protected room.

The lawmakers were taking a break from the discussion at the time, according to Ynet.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Baz Ratner, Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heading to the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, June 22, 2014. (Photo credit: AP/Baz Ratner, Pool)

No moral equivalence, US senator says

New York Senator Chuck Schumer, a prominent supporter of Israel, gives a fervent speech backing the Jewish state on Wednesday, declaring, “It must be said: There is no moral equivalence between the actions and reactions of Israel, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, to the violence that has occurred there.”

He went on to cite the universal condemnation of the murder of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir among Israeli leaders and public figures, compared to the celebrations and non-condemnations among many Palestinians to the three slain Israeli teens.

Schumer also noted Hamas’s rocket fire leading up to Israel’s operation, its targeting of Israeli civilians, compared to Israel’s measures to protect civilians.

Sirens in Shaar Hanegev, Sdot Negev

Residents of regional councils Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev, both near the Gaza border, hear warning sirens.

Large salvo of rockets out of Gaza

A large volley of rockets is shot across southern Israel and north into the Tel Aviv region, as well as the Judean lowlands.

Sirens sound in Rehovot, Yavne and Ramle, among other places.

Moments earlier several rockets were shot down by Iron Dome over Ashkelon.

The rocket sirens break a morning of calm in Ashdod, which was not targeted since last night.

 

Gazans treated at Haifa’s Rambam Hosptial

As fighting continues in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus is treating more than twenty Palestinians.

According to a statement released by the hospital, there are 3 adults and 8 children from Gaza, 3 adults and 2 children from the West Bank, and 7 more West Bank residents in the outpatient clinics.

More Gazans are scheduled to arrive later this week.

The hospital says that most of the children are being treated in the pediatric oncology and nephrology wards. Most of the children are under the age of three, and they are accompanied by relatives.

Not surprisingly, being in an Israeli hospital while the IDF strikes targets in Gaza, and Israelis run from Hamas rockets, is difficult emotionally for the adult patients.

Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“On the one hand they are in Israel and see the consequences of the actions of Hamas and how people get hurt on this side of the border. On the other hand, their families in Gaza are under attack by the IDF and they fear for the lives of their loved ones,” says Yazid Falah, the hospital’s coordinator for Palestinian patients. “There are those who have told me they are ashamed of what Gaza is doing, and others say they are afraid of how people will talk and look at them here in the hospital.

“Other have said they are afraid to return to Gaza. Others just don’t know what to think. Some have made contact with their families and learned of property damage and casualties near their homes. Those people have a life there and see the kind of life people have here. At the end of the day, they simply want to live in peace, but it is clear to them that the situation has changed. They believe the situation will only get worse”

Still, says Falah, the staff and other patients work to make them feel comfortable.

“When the hostilities escalated, the Palestinian patients feared a cold reception. We explained that would never happen in an Israeli hospital. Here you see people and not nationalities. Many times, Israeli patients reach out to their Palestinian ‘neighbors’ to help them feel more comfortable and to encourage them. Ultimately, all are in the same boat.”

Iron Dome interceptions reported

A number of booms are heard echoing across the Tel Aviv region, worrying residents of the White City who didn’t hear any siren.

Initial reports suggest multiple Iron Dome interceptions south and east of the city, in the Judean lowlands region.

Israeli strike kills 3 terrorists

Three terrorists are killed in an Israeli strike in the northern Gaza Strip. Details to come.

Home of terrorist freed in Shalit deal hit

Palestinian sources report that the home of Yihye Sinwar, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing who was released in the deal to free Gilad Shalit, was struck, Israel Radio reports.

Sinwar was sent to prison in 1989, and his brother Muhammad was directly involved in the Shalit kidnapping in 2006. At the time of his release, Sinwar was considered the most senior Hamas commander in Israeli custody.

Israel Radio also reports that more than 20 homes belonging to terrorists have been attacked Thursday.

Meanwhile, Hamas takes responsibility for the latest barrage at the Shfela region, claiming it fired a new type of missile, the Iranian Sejjil-2 rocket. The name is a Persian-language reference to “baked clay,” mentioned in the Elephant sura, chapter 115 of the Koran.

Two rockets shot down over Beersheba

Two rockets are shot down by Iron Dome over Beersheba, as sirens go off in the southern city and nearby region.

A camera set up in the city by Channel 2 news, broadcasting round the clock coverage of the conflict, films cars stopping on the side of the road and families, including young children, racing for cover as sirens runs out.

Moments later, the camera films the rocket being shot down in the distance over the city, leaving trails of smoke in the sky.

Deaths of Gaza family called ‘tragic mistake’

Israel calls the killing of 8 members of the Kaware family, including 6 children, a “tragic mistake,” reports Buzzfeed.

“Warning was given, and the assessment at the time was that the house was empty. It was a tragic mistake,” says an IDF officer.

Israel says it launched an unarmed missile at the home at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday to warn the family. A family member said someone named “David” then called to tell everyone to leave the home. A minute later, at 3 p.m. a missile hit, knocking down the entire residence.

The building was the home of Hamas commander Odeh Kaware, says Israel.

Palestinian militants of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, carry the body of militant Mohammed Obied during his funeral in the town of Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip on June 30, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian militants of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, carry the body of militant Mohammed Obied during his funeral in the town of Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip on June 30, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

An IDF officer says Israeli forces noticed four individuals who had climbed onto the roof, but it was too late to divert the missile.

AFP reports that 25 Palestinians were killed Thursday, bringing the total number of Palestinians deaths since Tuesday to 76.

Images from Sderot on the front lines

As Sderot on the Gaza border continues to face rocket fire Thursday, Times of Israel military reporter Mitch Ginsburg captures images from the long-suffering city.

Hundreds of rockets have hit Sderot in recent years, some of which sit in a collection in the city.

A collection of rockets that have hit Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

A collection of rockets that have hit Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

The town has been hit with 8600 rockets over past 10 years. The government has spent 500 million shekels protecting the city of 24,000 people, where each of the bus stops, for example, serve as bomb shelters.

A bus stop/bomb shelter in Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

A bus stop/bomb shelter in Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

Children play at a 22,000-square-foot indoor protected playground in the city.

A protected playground in Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

A protected playground in Sderot (photo credit: Mitch Ginsburg/Times of Israel)

Mitch Ginsburg

Sirens in Beersheba

Warning sirens sound in Beersheba.

Ya’alon says many days of fighting ahead

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon says that the fighting in Gaza is not about to let up.

“We have ahead of us long days of fighting and attempts by Hamas to surprise Israel with attacks from the air, the sea, and the land, which demand of our forces in the field to continue to stay alert,” he tweeted.

Ya’alon also tells Israel Radio that Operation Protective Edge would continue “until they understand that escalation is not recommended, and that we will not accept fire at our communities.”

Ya’alon adds that the IDF has achieved much up to this point, and has struck Hamas hard.

Hamas’s missile system commander killed

The commander of Hamas’s rocket branch has been killed, Channel 2 reports.

Commentators say the slain terrorist was responsible for deciding when to fire, how many rockets to launch, and what the target would be.

Details to come.

Sirens in Ashkelon, Ashdod

People take cover as rocket sires blare in Ashkelon, Ashdod and communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Terror attack foiled on Highway 5

Two Palestinians are caught at a checkpoint on Highway 5 with gas tanks in their car, and are being interrogated by the Shin Bet on suspicion that they were on the way to carry out a terror attack.

The suspects were nabbed between the Kessem junction and the city of Ariel.

More details about slain Hamas rocket chief

The Hamas commander in charge of the group’s rocket launches, who was killed a short time ago in a strike in the northern Gaza Strip, is Ayman Siam, a leading Hamas military figure in Gaza and a key decision-maker, says Army Radio, stressing that this information is still unconfirmed.

“If true, it’s a very heavy blow” to Hamas, says Army Radio, as it predicts a consequent upsurge in rocket attacks on Israel.

Hamas denies senior figure Ayman Siam killed

After reports in Israeli media about the death of Hamas rocket system commander Ayman Siam, Hamas denies he was killed, claiming he continues as usual in jihad activities, says Israel Radio reporter Gal Berger.

“We call on the media to be precise and not rely on Israel’s lies,” the organization says.

Highway 5 suspect said to admit intended attack

The two Palestinians arrested at a checkpoint on Highway 5 for allegedly plotting a terror attack were driving in a car with Palestinian license plates, which raised the suspicions of security forces, the police say.

A gas tank and explosives are found in the vehicle.

Police are at the site, and the area is closed off to traffic.

One of the suspects confesses the two were on their way to perpetrate a terror attack, according to Ynet.

IDF tells 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate homes

IDF informs Palestinian citizens in towns along the Gaza Strip border with Israel to evacuate their homes quickly, ahead of military action in the area.

The areas include Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, Abasan al-Kabera, and Abasan al-Saghira in the northern Gaza Strip east of Khan Yunis. Over 100,000 people are said to reside in these cities.

The IDF made similar demands during operations Pillar of Defense and Cast Lead, as well as during the 2006 Lebanon War, generally ahead of an airstrike of a particular area.

Hamas asks citizens not to heed the calls to leave the area that many have received during the past few hours.

– Avi Issacharoff

Hamas falsely reports ‘Zionist’ killed in TA

Hamas publishes a bogus report on its website newsfeed claiming a missile killed “one Zionist” and injured three others in Tel Aviv.

Guards at luxury building bar shelter-seeking residents

Residents of the Givat Amal Bet neighborhood in Tel Aviv attempt to enter the luxury Yoo building for shelter as a siren rings out, but security guards bar them from entering, Channel 2 reports.

Among those approaching the building and requesting entry are a man and his baby, and they too are turned away.

The area is said to lack local fortified areas, leaving many residents without shelter.

“We’re 600 residents without shelter,” resident Bruriah Ben-David tells Globes.

After approaching the IDF Home Front Command, Givat Amal Bet residents are instructed to run to a school in the neighborhood — a 15-minute walk away.

A ‘dangerous moment’ for Mideast, Kerry says

Secretary of State John Kerry says the US is trying to stem the surging violence in Israel and Gaza in a way that allows the Jewish state to continue defending itself from Hamas rocket fire.

Kerry, in Beijing for a summit with Chinese leaders, says it’s a “dangerous moment” for the Mideast.

Kerry says no country can accept such rocket attacks.

But he says de-escalating the crisis is ultimately in everyone’s interests.

Kerry says he spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The goal, he says, is to see if there is some way to restore peace.

– AP

PA, US officials try to broker ceasefire

The Palestinian Authority is mediating with Hamas, in an attempt to broker a ceasefire with Israel.

A senior Palestinian official tells The Times of Israel that US diplomats visited the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday and met with PA representatives.

According to the official, the US diplomats asked the PA officials to work with Hamas in hopes of halting the rocket fire at Israel. The Palestinians contacted Hamas but quickly understood that there “is nothing to talk about” and that the terror organization is not interested in a ceasefire.

The source claims that the US delegation met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, whose response was similar.

Netanyahu does not want US mediation, or any other foreign mediation, to broker a ceasefire and intends to continue fighting Hamas.

Other Palestinian sources say the Norwegian ambassador in Cairo met with senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, who is in Cairo, and gleaned that Hamas does not want a ceasefire. According to the sources, Hamas’s military wing is calling the shots, dictating the political agenda.

Marwan Issa, Muhammed Deif, Raed al-Atar, Muhammad al-Sanwar, and Yahia al-Sanwar and others, all members of Hamas’s military wing, are said to be those refusing to discuss a ceasefire.

According to the sources, Hamas’s military wing’s agenda is to change the present reality: to ensure the survival of the Hamas government, by opening the Rafah crossing with Egypt, to forge ties with Cairo, and to ensure the transfer of funds.

Hamas’s goal is to harm Abbas’s Fatah government and after the present escalation, it does not intend to uphold the reconciliation agreement. The sources maintain that Hamas primarily wants to improve ties with Egypt and thaw the present freeze in talks between the two.

– Avi Issacharoff

Hamas leader not slain in Gaza airstrike

Despite media reports to the contrary earlier today, Hamas rocket system commander Ayman Siam was not killed in an IDF strike.

– Avi Issacharoff

84 rockets hit Israel since midnight, IDF says

The army says 84 rockets slammed into Israel since midnight, and 12 were intercepted by the Iron Dome.

Six others were fired from the Gaza Strip but did not reach Israeli soil.

Death toll climbs to 84, as Israeli airstrikes continue

Twenty-two Palestinians are killed since midnight, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports, bringing the death toll since the start of Operation Protective Edge to 84.

More than 550 are wounded in the Strip, it reports.

The IDF targets a motorcycle with two passengers in Gaza City. The two are said to be injured.

A farm in the coastal enclave is said to be hit by Israeli planes as well, as airstrikes continue to bombard various sites in the Gaza Strip.

Cars damaged in Sderot, Shaar Hanegev

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip damage parked cars in Sderot and Shaar Hanegev.

The Iron Dome intercepts three other missiles over Sderot.

Online IDF campaign name generator

For Hebrew speakers: An online generator for Israeli operation names pokes fun at the grandiose and biblical choices for IDF campaigns.

See http://feelter.net/gaza-operations-generator/ to generate a name that sounds good to you.

IDF targets 3 Islamic Jihad operatives

The IDF says it hit Islamic Jihad operatives Mahmoud Walud, Hazm Balusha, and A’lla Abd Al-Nabi.

Channel 2 reports the three are assassinated in an airstrike.

According to the army, Al-Nabi is “a senior PIJ terrorist who was responsible for launching rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv.”

The army says that 96 rockets are fired at Israel today, and 442 since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas song calls to ‘blow up Tel Aviv’

Hamas broadcasts a song on Al Aqsa TV calling for increased rocket fire and suicide bombs on Israeli targets, specifically Tel Aviv and Ashkelon.

The lyrics to the song, translated by Palestinian Media Watch, are as follows:

“O [Hamas'] Al-Qassam [Brigades],
Fire without asking on (southern Israel’s) Eshkol
To return (the Israeli city) Ashkelon
Let the thieving [Israeli] army lament and go down to the shelters
Let them go down to the shelters
O Al-Qassam, fire your rockets
Make them explode and write your history
O Al-Qassam, victory is from Allah
In Paradise there is a Garden [for Martyrs] calling to you
Fajar 5 [rocket], O blaze, hurry, destroy Tel Aviv
O Martyrdom-seeker (i.e., suicide bomber), O blaze, hurry, blow up Tel Aviv
(Image: a café and a bus destroyed by a suicide bomber)
The free [Hamas'] Al-Qassam say: ‘Allah willing, we will hit and will not fail’”

Israeli press takes stock of campaign

As day three of Operation Protective Edge dawns, the Hebrew newspapers focus on rocket attacks by Hamas making their way deeper into Israeli territory than ever before, and Israeli airstrikes taking their toll on the Palestinian population.

Among the key points mentioned in every paper are the number of rockets fired, the number of Palestinians killed (and number of Israelis hurt: zero), and the increasing number of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

Click here to read the full Hebrew media review.

– Ilan Ben Zion

House in Shaar Hanegev hit; no injuries

A house in Shaar Hanegev sustains a direct missile hit. The home owner was not home during the attack, and no one was injured.

Earlier, nine rockets fall in the Eshkol region. No injuries are reported.

A house in Shaar HaNegev is hit by a rocket (photo credit: Channel 2 screenshot)

A house in Shaar HaNegev is hit by a rocket (photo credit: Channel 2 screenshot)

.

UN chief calls for ceasefire

UN chief Ban Ki-moon appeals for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, calling on the international community to do everything to halt escalating violence in Gaza.

“It is now more urgent than ever to try to find common ground for a return to calm and a ceasefire understanding,” he tells an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

Ban says Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired more than 550 rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the last few days and that Israel launched more than 500 airstrikes on Gaza.

He says all parties, including Palestinian armed groups, must respect international law.

“Once again civilians are paying the price for the continuation of conflict. My paramount concern is the safety and well-being of all civilians no matter where they are,” he tells the Council.

“Israel has legitimate security concerns but I am also concerned at the many Palestinian deaths and injuries as a result of Israeli operations,” he says.

– AFP

Baseball team takes cover on highway as sirens sound

Members of Israel’s national baseball team take cover Thursday morning along the Ayalon freeway on their way to practice, as Code Red sirens blare. The team is preparing to head to Slovenia on July 27 for an international tournament.

All practices and games will continue as scheduled, says Israel association of baseball director Nate Fish, including the summer camp starting July 13, unless the army instructs otherwise.

Lazar Berman

Members of Israel's national baseball team takes cover on Ayalon highway (photo credit: Courtesy/Nate fish/IAB)

Members of Israel’s national baseball team takes cover on Ayalon highway (photo credit: Courtesy/Nate fish/IAB)

Four rockets fired at Jerusalem

Code Red alarms wail in Jerusalem. Times of Israel office puts readers first (though we did all quickly head to our most protected area).

Two booms follow soon after, followed by three more.

Turns out four rockets were fired toward the Jerusalem, Etzion Bloc and Ma’aleh Adumim areas. Two of them were intercepted by Iron Dome, in the Abu Ghosh area.

Channel 2 reports that the government offices, the Knesset and the nearby area “all shook.”

There are no immediate reports of injuries.

US offers evacuation assistance to its citizens in Gaza

The US Consulate General offers emergency help for US citizens seeking to leave the Gaza Strip. Those eligible are advised to contact the Jerusalem consulate with their passport information, as well as details on their spouses and children under 18, by Friday at 8 a.m..

Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett sends out a letter urging continued support for Israel during this operation, and decrying Hamas’s actions for endangering both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.

“As a nation that sanctifies life, we have done and will continue to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. But as you know, Hamas targets Israeli citizens while hiding behind Palestinian citizens. Hamas is responsible for any harm that comes to Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike,” he writes.

“It is imperative that the world hears the truth and understands that Israel is acting in self-defense. It is our duty,” he adds.

Hamas claims rockets attack on Jerusalem

The Hamas movement claims the four rockets fired at Jerusalem.

It says they fell outside a settlement.

Israeli reports say at least one of the rockets fell near the Palestinian town of Bituniya in the West Bank.

A video posted to Facebook appears to show one of the rockets streaking through the sky.

ACRI condemns airstrikes on civilian structures

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) denounces the Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that target residential buildings.

“According to the laws of war, armed forces are required to adopt measures to avoid civilian casualties even when attacking legitimate military targets, and certainly when the legitimacy of the target is questionable. Generally, residential buildings, both in the Gaza Strip and in Israel, are considered civilian sites and do not constitute a legitimate military objective. When there is concern about the possibility of civilian casualties, or when there are clear indications that civilian casualties will eventuate, a military attack must be avoided,” it writes in a statement.

Meanwhile, the IDF maintains in a statement that ir “struck a number of houses throughout Gaza that were being used for military purposes.”

“Hamas conducts its military activities from deep within residential areas in Gaza. By doing so, it exploits the IDF’s desire and efforts to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians. In many cases, Hamas uses its senior operatives’ own homes, where their families and other civilians may be residing, for military purposes. These houses may be used for weapons storage, command and control centers, or communications,” it says in a statement.

“When houses are used for military purposes, they may become legitimate military targets under international law. The IDF only aims its attacks against legitimate military targets as defined under the relevant rules of international law,” it adds.

“When terrorist organizations such as Hamas deliberately use civilian homes for terrorist purposes, it is unavoidable that some civilians will be harmed when the IDF acts against these targets. Hamas exploits such instances to claim that the IDF deliberately seeks to harm the civilian population in the Gaza, but fails to acknowledge that it has intentionally put these Palestinian civilians in grave danger by masking its terrorist activities behind a civilian facade.”

World Cup fans killed in airstrike on Gaza cafe

It was supposed to be an evening of entertainment in Gaza, watching the World Cup semifinal at a cafe in a welcome break from 48 hours of Israeli air strikes.

But the evening was cut brutally short when an Israeli raid flattened the Fun Time Beach cafe in the southern Gaza Strip in the early hours of Thursday, killing nine people and wounding 15.

All that is left of the popular seaside cafe — where dozens broke their Ramadan fast on Wednesday night before settling down to watch Argentina play the Netherlands — is a large crater and a few mounds of sand.

The cafe’s multicolored sign is still standing, somewhat crookedly, as colorful bunting and canvas windbreakers lay strewn on the floor, torn down by the force of the blast.

The Israeli missile scattered the dead and wounded across the beach, and made a hole so deep that seawater filled it up from underground after impact.

“It was a normal social occasion,” said Wael Soboh, a local policeman who is employed by the Palestinian Authority.

“The boys ate their Ramadan iftar meal here, and then began watching the match. It is not a military area.”

Eight people were killed immediately in the blast, medical sources said, all of them residents of the nearby city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Bulldozers were earlier Thursday busy searching for a ninth man believed to buried underneath the soggy sand, as locals looked on in the searing midday heat.

“It’s possible the missing guy was blown to pieces,” said another local, Mohammed Astal.

Later, Gaza’s emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the body was found, raising the toll in the attack to nine.

AFP

IDF strikes 110 sites in Gaza

Since early this morning, the IDF hit 110 targets in the Gaza Strip, raising the number of airstrikes since Operation Protective Edge began to 860, the army says in a statement.

Some 120 rockets are fired from the coastal enclave toward Israel since midnight — 103 missiles fall in Israel, and the Iron Dome shoots down 21 projectiles.

Overall, there have been 87 interceptions, as 350 rockets pummel Israel.

The IDF’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) transfers humanitarian supplies to Gaza — namely, some 690 tons of liquefied petroleum gas; 513,000 liters of gasoline; 934,150 liters of diesel fuel; and 5,000 tons of basic food products including flour, wheat, rice, oil, sugar, meat and dairy products, it says.

IDF ‘preparing to intensify the action’

Sami Turgeman, the IDF’s Southern Command chief overseeing Operation Protective Edge, says the IDF is “preparing to intensify the action.”

“The enemy has more rockets; more of them and more of the terrorist infrastructure will be hit,” he says. With regard to a ground incursion, he says: “We are preparing all the capabilities, and will utilize them as needed.”

Speaking at a press conference, Turgeman says the IDF has “attacked hundreds of targets,” to the point that “the results Hamas finds when it comes out of hiding will surprise it.”

“When Hamas activists emerge from the tunnels in which they’ve been hiding, they’ll see the ruin they have brought upon themselves and upon Gaza,” he says.

“I see Hamas hiding from our attacks. But we are chasing its members, and finding them.”

Turgeman adds that he is certain that “in the coming days we will achieve security and quiet,” and dismisses fears that progress is not being made.

“I don’t consider that we are treading water; I see that we are utilizing power,” he says.

PM indicates Israel heading to escalation

At a security cabinet meeting this afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicates that the operation against Hamas will intensify.

The government is determined to put a stop to rocket fire once and for all. “How they’re going to do that, I don’t know,” says Channel 2′s Udi Segal. “And I’m not sure the ministers know either.”

Man badly hurt in fall en route to shelter

A 74-year-old man is in critical condition after tripping on the way to the bomb shelter in a town outside of Jerusalem.

He has been evacuated to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital with a head wound.

BBC reporter sparks infiltration scare

Hundreds of policemen are dispatched to a beach near Zikim in southern Israel — the site where Gaza terrorists were caught infiltrating from the sea on the past two nights — after residents report suspicious activity.

But it was just a BBC journalist taking a swim, Ynet reports.

Israel on verge of ground op, Abbas says

PA President Mahmoud Abbas says Israel is about to launch a ground offensive, after the measure is approved in a security cabinet meeting, Channel 2 reports.

Sirens in Beersheba, Mitzpe Ramon

The Code Red sirens are triggered in Beersheba and Mitzpe Ramon.

Large rocket barrage, injured in Beersheba

More than 20 rockets are fired toward Beersheba, Dimona, Arad, Ein Gedi, Kiryat Arba and Mitzpe Ramon. A number of people are reported injured in Beersheba, where a hit was recorded, likely on a house.

Light injuries in Beersheba missile attack

A rocket fell in Beersheba near a sports center, lightly injuring a number of people, Channel 2 reports.

Another projectile is said to strike a house in the city. The residents of the house barricaded themselves in their fortified room and were not harmed.

Sirens in central Israel

Sirens blare in the Dan region, including Bat Yam and Holon, and in the city of Rishon Lezion.

The Iron Dome intercepts at least one rocket.

‘God’ Twitter account pans IDF Gaza strikes

David Javerbaum, the comic behind the wildly popular @TheTweetofGod account, weighs in on Operation Protective Edge.

Photo of impact site in West Bank

Israel Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld shares a photo from the impact site of a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip that exploded in the West Bank, a matter of yards from the homes of Palestinian Bedouins living near the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

– Ilan Ben Zion

Several injured by mortar fire in Eshkol

Several people are said to be injured by mortar fire in the Eshkol region.

Reports indicate that one of the wounded is in critical condition.

The injured were airlifted to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba for treatment.

Minister says Israel prepared for any scenario

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, upon exiting a security cabinet meeting, tells Channel 2 the Israeli government is ready for any military option.

Erdan is mum on decisions made in the closed-door meeting, but stresses that the various options raised are “not simple” and that “there is no magic solution.”

Israel is killing the terrorists, they are cowering in the tunnels, we are destroying their houses, he says.

We probably won’t be able to “erase Gaza,” he says, even if we want to.

Rockets intercepted over Ashdod; house hit

A heavy barrage of over 20 rockets is fired at the coastal city of Ashdod.

Iron Dome interceptors down nine of missiles, Channel 2 reports.

A house in Ashdod is hit by a rocket, sustaining serious damage.

Initial, unconfirmed reports say there may be casualties.

Several cars are ablaze in the city, the report says.

 

Man seriously injured in Ashdod strike

One man was critically wounded from the rocket fire in the southern city of Ashdod, Channel 2 reports.

He was hurt when his car sustains a direct hit, the report says.

Other people were injured in the attack, Magen David Adom director Eli Bean says, quoting medics in the field.

Channel 2 posts pictures of the scene, including the burning car:

1

PM: Israel faces ‘difficult, complex’ battle

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that “up until now, the campaign is progressing as planned, but we anticipate further stages,” and says “a difficult, complex battle ahead of us,” but does not elaborate.

“Until now, we hit Hamas and the terrorists hard, and as long as the operation continues, we will deepen our strikes,” he says, following a few hour-long security cabinet meeting.

The prime minister thanks the IDF, Shin Bet, and all branches of the security forces for “making every effort to avoid harming civilians, and if innocent people are harmed it is because Hamas deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians,” he says.

Victims in Eshkol moderately, lightly hurt

The two people injured in a mortar attack in the Eshkol region are moderately and lightly injured, respectively, the Soroka Medical Center says.

Earlier, one of the wounded was said to be in serious condition.

The IDF confirms that they are soldiers:

Rescue forces dispel report of critical injury in Ashdod

Fire Department Spokesman Eli Cohen tells Channel 2, that despite media reports to the contrary, no one has been wounded in a rocket barrage in Ashdod that struck a car and a house in the city.

Three are a lot of people suffering from shock, many panicked elderly residents, he says, but no injuries so far.

Soldiers said to prepare for ground op

The IDF is massing forces on the Gaza Strip border in preparation for a ground offensive, a senior IDF official says.

Nearly 900 targets have been hit so far, including hundreds of launching pads in Gaza. Many mid-level and low-level Hamas and jihad operatives have been targeted, while senior leaders go underground, the official says.

Many targets have been avoided due to collateral damage, he says, adding that Hamas has been launching rockets from both inside and around mosques more than in the past.

Elhanan Miller

Rocket hits open area in Sdot Negev

A missile from the Gaza Strip lands in an open area in Sdot Negev. No injuries or damage are reported.

Hamas says it’ll decide how, when war ends

The spokesman for Hamas’s military wing says how and when Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza ends is not in the hands of the enemy, Israel Radio’s Gal Berger reports.

The Hamas leadership is prepared for an escalation that will last weeks, and the organization has only used a fraction of its arsenal, he says.

IDF reportedly targets Islamic Jihad leader

The IDF is said to strike the Gaza home of senior Islamic Jihad operative Baha Abuel Atta.

It remains unclear if there are casualties in the attack.

Senators introduce resolution supporting Israel

A bipartisan resolution in support of Israel’s right to self-defense is introduced in the US Senate by a group of four bipartisan senators.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduce the resolution expressing support for the State of Israel as it defends itself against “unprovoked attacks” from the Hamas terrorist organization.

The resolution reaffirms the United States’ support for Israel’s right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel, condemns the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel, calls on Hamas to immediately cease all rocket and other attacks against Israel, and calls on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.

– Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Liberman ‘satisfied’ with responses to op

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem to discuss the international reactions to Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, as well as Israel’s diplomatic efforts to garner global support for the offensive.

Liberman is said to be satisfied with the global response to Israel’s efforts to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, and instructs the foreign ministry to focus its efforts on strengthening ties with government officials and diplomats belonging to Security Council member states.

He also calls on the Foreign Ministry to seek the help of diaspora Jewish communities and supporters of Israel in bolstering Israel’s diplomatic efforts.

A statement from Liberman’s office says that in recent days, the foreign minister held talks with foreign ministers from around the world. He tells his counterparts that no country would be willing to abide a situation in which its citizens are forced to endure a barrage of rockets daily.

“Israel is no different, and we will do everything we can to put an end to this situation,” the statement quotes Liberman as saying.

Police fear possible terrorist infiltration near Eilat

Police say they fear a terrorist infiltration from Egypt’s Sinai region into Israel’s southern-most city of Eilat.

A large police and military presence is on the scene combing the area near the port, a police spokesperson said. Beaches have been cleared of civilians and hotels in the area have been instructed to keep all guests inside, while security at hotel entrances has been increased.

The road from the Eilat Princess Hotel in the city in the direction of the Taba crossing with Egypt is blocked off, police say.

US blames Hamas for current round of violence

The US State Department put the blame for the most recent round of violence squarely on Hamas and its rocket attacks on Israeli cities.

“I would remind [who] is at fault here, and that is Hamas and the indiscriminate attacks that they have launched against Israel,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

“While the Israelis have taken steps to try to prevent civilian casualties by warning – providing warning in advance, that is not what, of course, Hamas is doing, and they have continued their indiscriminate attacks against – including civilian areas in Israel,” she said during a press briefing.

Psaki added that “no country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.”

She said that the US was “reaching out to countries in the region including Qatar, including Egypt” to try to mediate a ceasefire.

“Any country in the region that can play a role in bringing an end to the rocket fire from Hamas we’re certainly going to be engaged with,” said Psaki, noting the difference in relationships between the previous Egyptian government of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and the current one of Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.

Obama speaks to Netanyahu, offers US mediation

US President Barack Obama on Thursday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he was worried fierce fighting with Hamas in Gaza could escalate, and offered US help to broker a ceasefire.

“The president expressed concern about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm,” the White House said in a statement.

“The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

The 2012 deal, brokered by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Egypt, ended eight days of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in a previous showdown.

The White House statement said that Obama told Netanyahu that he understood Israel had a right to defend itself and that he condemned rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups launched from Gaza.

Obama expressed sympathy for the deaths of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank that triggered new tensions between the Jewish state and Palestinians and praised Israel for swiftly making arrests in the case of a Palestinian youth apparently killed in reprisal for the incident.

Obama also expressed concern over the case of a Palestinian-American teenager allegedly beaten in police custody.

The two leaders also discussed the effort to conclude a deal on curtailing Iran’s nuclear program by an approaching July 20 deadline. Netanyahu has previously expressed deep skepticism of the US approach toward Iran.

AFP contributed to this report.

Fears of Eilat terrorist infiltration a false alarm, police say

Police say earlier reports of a possible terrorist infiltration from Egypt’s Sinai region into Eilat were a false alarm and no such threat is posed at this time.

A large police and military presence was on the scene earlier combing the area near the port, a police spokesperson said. Beaches were cleared of civilians and hotels in the area were instructed to keep all guests inside, while security at hotel entrances were increased.

The road from the Eilat Princess Hotel in the city in the direction of the Taba crossing with Egypt was blocked off.

As Day 3 gives way to Day 4

It’s two in the morning here in Jerusalem, where we had our second taste of rocket fire a few hours ago and where most sensible people are in bed.

We’re going to close this liveblog now, and our colleague Ricky Ben-David will take over in a few minutes with a new liveblog as Operation Protective Edge goes into Day 4.

Stay safe, wherever you are.