The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Thursday, the tenth day of Operation Protective Edge. At nightfall, Israel launched a major ground offensive on Hamas in Gaza, after a day of ceasefire efforts in Cairo. Hamas, which failed with a pre-dawn terror attack from a tunnel near a border kibbutz, and fired rockets into Israel throughout the day, vowed that Israel would pay dearly for sending in its troops. (Friday’s liveblog is here.) Remember, you can also follow @TOIAlerts on Twitter — we’re live-tweeting all the updates there as well.

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Wednesday summary- 132 launches, 33 intercepts

We’re now entering the 10th day of Operation Protective Edge, and Hamas-Israel hostilities show no sign of slowing, much less ending.

Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip launched 132 rockets at Israel on Wednesday, including 82 from the northern part of the coastal territory, according to the IDF.

More than 82 rockets struck Israel over the course of the day, and the Iron Dome intercepted around 33 more.

Over 200 people have been killed in Gaza, including 50 children, according to Israel’s Channel 10.

Rockets shot out of Gaza on July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Rockets shot out of Gaza on July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yossi Aloni/FLASH90)

Turkish media: Hamas agrees to 5-hour truce

According to a Turkish report, Hamas is willing to hold its fire during Thursday’s UN-backed humanitarian ceasefire from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., says Ynet.

Israel has already agreed to the truce.

UN calls on Hamas to abide by truce

The UN appreciates Israel’s willingness to abide by a humanitarian ceasefire Thursday, and calls on Hamas to follow suit, says a spokesperson for Robert Serry, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“I can now confirm that Mr. Serry received confirmation from the Government of Israel that a humanitarian pause will commence today, 17 July, at 10:00 a.m., for the duration of 5 hours, ending at 03:00 p.m. Mr. Serry appreciates this Israeli decision and repeats his call on Hamas and other factions to respect the humanitarian pause from their side, in the interest of the people of Gaza,” says Serry’s spokesperson in a statement released early Thursday morning.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

‘Israel has a right to defend itself’ — Obama

US President Barack Obama reiterates that Israel has a right to defend itself: “As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people. There’s no country on earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets. And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.”

Speaking to reporters, Obama adds that he supports the Egyptian ceasefire plan.

Turning to civilian deaths in Gaza, Obama says that his heart breaks for those caught in the crossfire, including the four children killed on the beach Wednesday.

Obama does not blame Israel for the deaths.

US President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on July 14, 2014. Obama said he hopes Egypt's ceasefire plan can restore calm in Gaza (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP)

US President Barack Obama speaks as he hosts an Iftar dinner in the State Dinning Room at the White House in Washington on July 14, 2014. Obama said he hopes Egypt’s ceasefire plan can restore calm in Gaza (Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP)

Sirens in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council

Details to come.

Sirens in Jerusalem hills

Details to follow.

Sirens in Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Kiryat Gat

Gaza rocket fire picks up early Thursday morning, with sirens heard in Kiryat Malachi, Be’er Tuvia, Kiryat Gat, as well as Ashkelon and the hills near Jerusalem.

Hamas agrees to 5-hour ceasefire

Hamas on Thursday agreed to join a temporary Gaza ceasefire requested by the United Nations on humanitarian grounds.

“The group agrees to a ceasefire for five hours,” starting from 10:00 am (0700 GMT) Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zukhri said in a statement.

Earlier the Israeli military said it had accepted a UN request to halt its attacks on the Gaza Strip in what a senior United Nations official called a “humanitarian pause.

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

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

“Between 10:00 and 15:00 (0700-1200 GMT), the Israel Defense Forces will cease operational activity within the Gaza Strip and hold its fire,” an army statement said.

Abu Zukhri said the same.

“The Palestinian factions agreed to accept the offer from the United Nations for a cooling-down on the ground for five hours starting from 10 in the morning,” he told AFP.

“It is in the interest of all the citizens of Gaza, in order to give them a chance to go to the hospital, get health care or get food,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, told Israel’s Channel Two television on Wednesday evening.


Iron Dome intercepts 2

Iron Dome batteries intercept 2 rockets, one over Kiryat Gat and the other over Kiryat Malachi.

Despite Hamas agreeing to a humanitarian ceasefire, rocket fire from Gaza has picked up early Thursday morning.

Paris bans pro-Palestinian protests

(AP) — French authorities are forbidding pro-Palestinian protests in some cities after violence marred a recent march against the violence in Gaza, as Jewish-Muslim tensions in France have reached their highest level in years.

Moderates on both sides called Wednesday for calm, and for a halt to fighting in the Mideast. France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish populations, and Israeli-Palestinian unrest often translates into anger between the communities.

Screenshot from a video uploaded to YouTube showing what appears to be pro-Israel demonstrators clashing with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris on July 13, 2014.

Screenshot from a video uploaded to YouTube showing what appears to be pro-Israel demonstrators clashing with pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Paris on July 13, 2014.

After several thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched peacefully Sunday through Paris, clashes broke out among small groups, including some who attacked synagogues, Jewish stores and neighborhoods.

Militants from the Jewish Defense League were also involved in violence against pro-Palestinian demonstrators, according to Roger Cukierman, head of France’s leading Jewish organization, CRIF.

Speaking Wednesday to the Associated Press, he denounced the league’s violent methods and lamented that its actions Sunday — including provoking pro-Palestinian protesters — could further inflame anger.

A march was planned for Paris on Saturday. A police official says it would be banned because of “the serious risk of disruption of public order that such a protest could engender, in a context of heightened tension.” The official, who wasn’t authorized to be publicly named, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Authorities also ban protests in Nice and Lille.

NY Times Gaza infographic, through July 16

The New York Times presents its readers with a graphic showing the numbers of strikes and death tolls for both sides.

Canada’s Conservatives post video supporting Israel

Though support for Israel in Europe and North America has been strong over the course of Operation Protective Edge, Canada’s government, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has been a leading voice defending Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks.

Canada’s ruling Conservative Party posts a video to YouTube, “Through fire and water,” reaffirming that support. The two-and-a-half-minute clip shows pictures of Canadian leaders in Israel and troops around the world, interspliced with speeches by Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses the Knesset, Monday, January 20, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addresses the Knesset, Monday, January 20, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash 90)

The video’s title comes from Harper’s January speech to the Knesset, in which he proclaimed, “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”

Quiet night in Israel

Apart from a series of rockets in the wee hours of the morning Thursday, it has been a quiet night in Israel. The relative calm could be a result of the 5-hour humanitarian ceasefire scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday.

IDF releases graphic of aid delivered to Gaza

The IDF spokesperson’s office tries to focus attention on the supplies Israel is sending through the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Gaza Strip. It tweeted out an infographic Thursday morning with some of the statistics, including 3 tons of medical supplies and 65 trucks of food and general supplies.

Indictments this morning for Abu Khdeir’s killers

Indictments will be filed Thursday morning in the Jerusalem District Court for the three men suspected of burning Shuafat teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir alive, Reshet Bet reports.

Though the names of the suspects are still under gag order, it has been released one of the suspects is 29 years old, and the other two are 17-year-old minors.

They have admitted to the crime to police, and reenacted it at the scene.

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2 in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2 in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

IDF attacks Islamic Jihad base

Israel targets a base belonging to Islamic Jihad in the southern Gaza Strip, Ynet reports.

Sirens in Beersheba

Iron Dome intercepts 4 rockets

The Iron Dome shoots down four missiles over Beersheba.

Israeli, Hamas delegations land in Cairo

The Israeli and Hamas teams arrived in Egypt last night for indirect ceasefire negotiations, Egyptian media report.

The teams are reportedly staying in the same hotel, working on the proposal in different rooms, with Egyptian representatives conveying both sides’ objections and proposed revisions.

The Israeli team comprises of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associate Yitzhak Molcho, and security official Amos Gilad.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also in attendance.

Major discrepancies between both sides’ demands have been reported.

IDF thwarts major cross border attack

The IDF thwarts a large scale infiltration attempt along the Gaza border, as 13 armed terrorists emerge from a tunnel on the Israeli side of the border at dawn.

An IDF spokesperson describes the attack as similar to a series of other thwarted attacks over the past 10 days of warfare, including two infiltration attempts from the sea near Kibbutz Zikim, an offensive tunnel near Kerem Shalom, and a drone attack earlier this week.

The IDF action that stops the attack before it is sprung is “obviously a huge success,” says Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.

The terrorists, he says, emerge from the tunnel early Thursday some 250 meters inside Israel. Lying flat on the ground, in an open area two kilometers from Kibbutz Sufa in the Eshkol region, the 13 armed men are spotted by what Lerner terms “different sensors” at approximately 4:30 a.m.

Realizing that they’ve been discovered, the terrorists attempt to run back underground but are struck by IAF aircraft. Lerner says some are hit but he cannot state how many.

— Mitch Ginsburg 

IDF confirms no terrorists remain in Sufa area

The IDF says residents in the Kibbutz Sufa area south of the Gaza Strip can begin to leave their homes.

The IDF ordered all residents indoors for the past few hours as it battled a large Hamas infiltration into Israel, with 13 terrorists emerging from a tunnel near the small community at around 4:30 a.m.

Soldiers saw the infiltration in time and opened massive fire against the Hamas force. After hours of searches, the army says none of the attackers remain in Israeli territory. Some were hit by IDF fire, the army says, while some fled back through the tunnel, which has been bombed as well.

Residents of the area are urged to follow the IDF’s instructions as the immediate threat winds down.

Abu Khdeir murder suspect: We only planned to beat him

One of the two minors arrested for the kidnapping-murder of East Jerusalem teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir says the three perpetrators of the murder had only intended to beat the Palestinian youth, not to kill him.

Once they had Abu Khdeir in their hands, he says, the third suspect in the murder, a 30-year-old family member of the two minors, urged them to murder the bound and beaten youth.

Sirens sound in Ashkelon, followed by explosions

Sirens sound in Ashkelon, and residents report hearing two loud explosions in the skies. It is not immediately clear whether rockets land in the southern city or the explosions mark Iron Dome interceptions.

Sirens sound throughout central Israel

Sirens are sounding in cities throughout central Israel, just an hour before the start of a UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire.

The sirens are sounding in Emek Hefer, Petah Tikva, Raanana, Kfar Saba and Even Yehuda.

Australia blasts Hamas

Australia “strongly condemns” Hamas’s decision to reject an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal and lauds Jerusalem for accepting it.

“Hamas claims to represent Gaza, yet it has jeopardized the welfare of its own people by rejecting the proposal for a ceasefire,” the government in Canberra says in a statement. “The Israeli Government demonstrated leadership by accepting the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire proposal.”

However, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop acknowledges Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s support for the ceasefire and his call for all Palestinian factions to accept it, which serves the interest of the Palestinian people.

“Australia continues to call on all parties to exercise restraint and to restore the ceasefire agreement of November 2012,” the statement continues. “Australia remains of the view that a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and the Palestinians living in peace and security within internationally-recognized borders, remains the only durable basis for peace.”

That earlier ceasefire has been replaced by a new UN-initiated proposal for a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire set to begin Thursday at 10 a.m. local time. Both Israel and Hamas have said they plan to abide by the new ceasefire.

— Raphael Ahren

Heavy rocket fire on Tel Aviv

Heavy rocket fire targets Tel Aviv and other nearby cities. At least two rockets are intercepted by Iron Dome over Tel Aviv while sirens continue to sound in the area.

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

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

IAF strikes tunnels in Khan Yunis

IDF jets bomb tunnels in Khan Yunis, sending plumes of smoke into the air over the southern Gazan city.

The strikes follow a massive infiltration attempt of 13 Hamas fighters into Israel earlier Thursday. IDF forces spotted and intercepted the infiltrating force.

Two arrested in E. J’lem rock-throwing

Israel Police reports a handful of incidents overnight in which Palestinian youth in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiya threw stones at police. Two are arrested in the incidents, police say.

One rocket hits, another downed over Petah Tikvah

One rocket is downed over Petah Tikvah amid an extended rocket barrage on central Israeli cities, the IDF says.

Another rocket hits the city, with no word yet on injuries or damage.

Army counts 1,377 rockets since start of fighting

The IDF says 1,377 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli cities and towns since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8 — or one rocket every 10 minutes on average.

Haredi website welcomes ‘miracle’ in Kibbutz Sufa

The Haredi news website Kikar Hashabat has its own take (Hebrew link) on the IDF’s remarkable early-morning interception of a massive Hamas infiltration into Israel Thursday.

“Just a few hours before the start of a humanitarian ceasefire, the Hamas organization tried to carry out a major attack from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa on the Gaza periphery — but by the Grace of Heaven [the attack] failed,” the website reports in otherwise terse, newsy prose.

The IDF’s interception of the attempted terror attack “is a miracle in the chain of miracles” Israel has experienced since the start of fighting, the website explains to its readers.

No humanitarian ceasefire, just a ‘window,’ IDF says

The so-called “humanitarian ceasefire” brokered by the UN and set to begin at 10 a.m. local time “is not a humanitarian ceasefire,” says IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz. “The correct concept is a humanitarian window requested by the United Nations, [to help] the population trapped in Gaza under a regime that uses it as hostages.”

“We call on Hamas to allow Gaza [to have this window]. If we have to attack [to prevent rocket fire during the window], we won’t hesitate to do so,” Almoz says.

Army says ‘we knew Sufa attack was coming’

The army says it knew about the Thursday morning infiltration by 13 Hamas fighters into Israel before it happened.

“We knew this would come. We knew specifically about this tunnel. We knew Hamas would try [to launch a terror attack] in any way it can,” IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz tells Channel 2.

“This attack was meant to be a killing spree in one of the villages nearby,” Almoz says. The volley of rockets that hit central Israel in the last hour, just ahead of a humanitarian ceasefire beginning at 10 a.m., “was meant as an envelope for this attack,” he adds.

The IDF has foiled multiple such surprise attacks in recent days, including two attempted infiltrations near Kibbutz Zikim by Hamas frogmen.

Israel’s Southern Command had been preparing for such attacks for a while, Almoz explains. “[Southern Command chief] Maj. Gen. [Sami] Turgeman has spent days and nights preparing for this, and the forces were on very high alert. We are working to make every morning turn out like this. We assume Hamas has more tunnels and plans more attacks.”

IDF soldiers seen near armored personnel carriers (APCs) by the southern Israeli border with Gaza, on the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

IDF soldiers seen near armored personnel carriers (APCs) by the southern Israeli border with Gaza, on the eighth day of Operation Protective Edge, July 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

So far, Hamas has only delivered operational failures, Almoz says.

It is not clear how the Hamas fighters fared in the fighting. “We don’t know that 13 terrorists are dead,” Almoz says in response to an anchor’s question, “but that 13 fled. We’re not sure how many are hurt or killed. We know Hamas is under massive pressure; this failure only increases the larger failure.”

He lists the IDF units involved in the successful interception of the Hamas attack: the anti-insurgency Egoz battalion, the elite Maglan unit, the 401st Armored Brigade and reserve units called up in recent days.

“Hamas was surprised again,” Almoz concludes.

Humanitarian ceasefire goes into effect

A five-hour humanitarian ceasefire begins.

It follows a volley of rockets on central Israel and an attempted infiltration early Thursday by 13 Hamas fighters into a Jewish village south of the Gaza Strip. There are no hurt or injured Israelis in either attack.

The IDF says the ceasefire, or “humanitarian window,” as the IDF calls it, will last as long as Hamas refrains from rocket fire.

Egyptian daily publishes Hamas demands

The Egyptian newspaper Al Youm A Sabe reports on Hamas’s five demands (Arabic link) for a permanent ceasefire.

  1. Opening all the passages to the Gaza Strip.
  2. Opening of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt within 24 hours, and with international guarantees that it will not be closed.
  3. The opening of naval access to Gaza.
  4. Allowing Gaza’s residents to pray without restrictions at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
  5. Release of the prisoners who were originally released in the Shalit deal and were rearrested in recent weeks in the West Bank.

According to the paper, the negotiations over the ceasefire are stuck. Israel refuses to release the prisoners or allow Gazans access to the mosque in Jerusalem.

— Avi Issacharoff

‘We trust the IDF,’ say Kibbutz Sufa residents

“Our residents are very strong, connected to this place and trust the security forces,” says Eyal Brandeis, spokesman of Kibbutz Sufa, a small community south of the Gaza Strip that was the site of the largest attempted Hamas infiltration to date on Thursday morning.

“The army told residents around 4:30 [a.m.] to stay in their homes and not come out,” Brandeis relates. “Those who live on the Gaza border know what this instruction means. We’re so close that we hear the war from our porches.”

Sufa residents are not frightened by the close call, Brandeis says.

“These people are connected to the land of Israel. This is our home, we fight for it every day, with all the problems of living in the periphery in terms of infrastructure and other problems. Now we’re going back to our daily lives. Everyone is going to work and continuing our regular lives.”

Australian envoy hopes truce will end conflict

Hamas fighters carried RPGs

Photos of the supplies carried by the Hamas infiltrators this morning show they carried shoulder-mounted RPG rockets.

Ceasefire sends Gazans outdoors, to the bank

Israel Radio reporter Gal Berger says Gazans are reporting increased traffic in Gaza’s streets for the first time in days as the five-hour humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas goes into effect.

There are lines of hundreds of people outside banks, which are opened for the first time in 10 days, he reports. Municipal officials are using the opportunity to repair electricity and water infrastructure damaged in the fighting.

Moments before ceasefire, IDF hits house in Rafah

Israeli tank fire hits a house in southern Gaza on Thursday, killing three people, minutes before a five-hour truce went into effect, medics say.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says four other people are seriously wounded in the attack on the house in Rafah.


IDF publishes footage of morning Hamas attack

The video shows just how exposed Hamas fighters were in the attempted infiltration near Kibbutz Sufa south of the Gaza Strip — perhaps suggesting how desperate the organization is to pull off at least one “quality” terror attack.

Hamas claims success in morning infiltration

In keeping with its practice in recent days, Hamas is telling Gazans about military successes that never took place.

This morning’s attempted infiltration was headed off by the IDF, leading to the 13 Hamas fighters involved in the operation to attempt to flee back through the tunnel moments before the tunnel was bombed by Israel’s air force.

But according to reports quoting Gaza radio stations, Hamas is claiming the operation was a success and Hamas fighters managed to kill Israelis.

Hamas made similar false claims of success after its frogmen failed to get off the beach near Zikim in two separate attempted raids on the kibbutz before being killed by the IDF, and after the army shot down a Hamas drone over Ashdod.

Both sides uphold ceasefire in its first hour

An hour into the UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire, both sides are upholding it so far. There are no reports of rocket fire on Israel or IDF strikes on Gaza.

Timing of Hamas infiltration ‘not random’

A former commander of the Gaza division and the army’s operations branch, Maj. Gen. (res.) Israel Ziv, says in a conference call with journalists that the timing of this morning’s attempted attack “is not random.”

Ziv says that the 13-man squad of terrorists that emerged from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa, some 250 yards inside Israel on Gaza’s southern border, is an expression of “how cynical Hamas can be,” since the attack, directed against civilians, was launched several hours before the onset of a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

He notes that the central challenge in combating this form of cross-border infiltration is in detecting the tunnel and its many branches. The army, he says, often lacks “the visual of the tunnel itself.”

— Mitch Ginsburg

EU ‘concerned about Gaza humanitarian situation’

The European Union says that Israel has a right to protect itself against missiles from Gaza but calls on the army to act “proportionately” and to avoid civilian casualties.

The European Council, the body comprising the member states’ heads of state and government, “condemns the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians,” it says in a statement. “Israel has the right to protect its population from this kind of attacks. In doing so, it must act proportionately and ensure the protection of civilians at all times.”

The council “deeply deplores the loss of innocent lives and the high number of wounded civilians in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli military operations and is deeply concerned about the rapid and dramatic deterioration of the humanitarian situation,” the statement continues. “The European Council calls on both sides to deescalate the situation, to end the violence, to end the suffering of the civilian populations notably by allowing access to humanitarian assistance, and return to calm.”

The European leaders welcome ongoing efforts to broker a ceasefire and calls on Hamas to agree to such a ceasefire.

“Israelis and Palestinians need to make the strategic choice of peace in order to allow their future generations to live lives freed from past conflicts and to enjoy the stability, security and prosperity which they are currently being denied,” the statement reads.

Hamas takes responsibility for morning infiltration

Hamas takes responsibility for the attempted infiltration into Israel on Thursday morning.

Thirteen fighters emerged from a tunnel from Gaza carrying assault rifles and RPG rockets, but were driven back into the tunnel when they were spotted by the IDF.

Hamas also says in recent minutes that all the fighters returned home safely. The IDF says it wounded a number but wouldn’t say how many.

The IDF bombed the tunnel entrance only seconds after the fighters fled into it.

Abbas to meet Egypt’s Sissi over Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi on Thursday amid intensifying efforts to end the exchange of Hamas rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes that have led to over 200 deaths in Gaza since the start of fighting on July 8.

The meeting, announced by Egypt’s presidency, comes as Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza, agreed to briefly halt hostilities Thursday on humanitarian grounds.

Cairo has once again become a diplomatic hub to end the fighting in Gaza after Egypt initially proposed a ceasefire that was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas, which said the proposal did not address the Gaza group’s demands for a ceasefire.

Abbas on Wednesday in Cairo met Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq, who insisted on changes to the Egyptian truce plan including guarantees on opening border crossings to the besieged Gaza Strip.

— AFP and Times of Israel staff

Bill Clinton warns Israel is ‘isolating itself’

Former US president Bill Clinton is warning Israel about “isolating itself from world opinion” due to the lack of a “viable” peace process with the Palestinians.

More than 220 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have died during 10 days of Israeli bombing and shelling in Gaza in retaliation for over 1,300 rocket attacks on Israeli population centers by Hamas fighters.

“Over the long run it is not good for Israel to keep isolating itself from world opinion because of the absence of a viable peace process,” Clinton tells the Indian NDTV news channel on Wednesday.

“In the short to medium term, Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas,” he adds.

Hamas has a “strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own (Palestinian) civilians so the rest of the world will condemn them [Israel],” while Israel couldn’t “look like fools” by not responding to the heavy missile attacks.

Clinton, who pushed hard while president for a comprehensive peace deal at a Camp David summit in 2000, urges Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume serious talks.

“I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu could and should make a comprehensive peace agreement with the Palestinians,” he says, adding that he believes 60 percent of Israelis would support him.

The objective of all should be “a peace process that gets Israel security recognition and peace and that gets the Palestinians their state,” he says.

— AFP and Times of Israel staff

US teen beaten by police returns to Florida

The Palestinian-American teenager who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities returns home to Florida, saying he will never think of freedom in the same way again.

Tariq Abu Khdeir, 15, and his mother fly back to Tampa on a flight arriving late Wednesday from New York and are greeted by about 50 cheering supporters waving American and Palestinian flags. The Abu Khdeirs had flown out of Israel earlier in the day.

“I am only 15 but I will never think of freedom the same as I did two months ago,” Tariq says upon arrival at Tampa International Airport. “No child, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, deserves to die.”

Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian-American teen who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities earlier this month, is greeted by family, including his grandmother Huda Abu Khdeir, after he arrived at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday night, July 16, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Jason Behnken)

Tariq Abu Khdeir, the Palestinian-American teen who relatives allege was beaten by Israeli authorities earlier this month, is greeted by family, including his grandmother Huda Abu Khdeir, after he arrived at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday night, July 16, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/The Tampa Tribune, Jason Behnken)

The teenager says the thoughts and prayers of the supporters had helped him, adding “I got through these past two weeks because I knew you were all thinking of me.”

Now, he says, he just wants time with friends and to relax. “It feels so good to be back in Tampa. Can I even put it in words? I can’t wait to go back to play with my friends and go fishing,” he says.

— AP

Siren sounds in Eshkol area

In an apparent violation of the five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that began just two hours ago at 10 a.m., sirens sound in villages in the Tzochar area of the Eshkol region, a few miles from Gaza.

It is not immediately clear if a rocket was launched at the area, or if Hamas is behind the possible rocket launch.

Pics of Gazans making most of ceasefire

As hundreds of Gazans line up outside banks and Gaza’s roads begin to fill with traffic, images emerge of Gazans trying to make the most of the brief respite in the fighting.

3 mortars fall in northern Eshkol area

Three mortar shells fall in the northern Eshkol area on the Gaza periphery. The fire is a violation of a humanitarian ceasefire announced Thursday morning, but it is not clear that it was carried out by Hamas, the only Gazan terror group that agreed to the ceasefire.

IDF blames Hamas for mortar fire on Eshkol

The IDF blames Hamas for mortar fire on the Eshkol Regional Council in recent minutes.

The fire marks a violation of the five-hour humanitarian ceasefire agreed to by both sides. Israel has vowed to return fire if the organization resumes shooting during the truce, but there are no immediate reports of IDF reprisals.

Egypt says Gaza ceasefire bid alive

Egypt’s foreign minister says its proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas is gaining momentum, calling it the only viable way to stop an “intolerable humanitarian situation” in Gaza.

“The plan has been widely endorsed by the Arab League, it has been endorsed by the European Union… and it continues to gain momentum in terms of recognition,” Sameh Shukri said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The plan, which includes easing access to Gaza, was accepted by Israel this week but rejected by Hamas, which said it had never been consulted, a claim Shukri denied.

More than 230 Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed in 10 days of cross-border fighting as Israel has sought to end Hamas rocket fire on Israeli population centers.

— AP and Times of Israel staff

PA may take over Gaza crossings, says Herzog

Opposition chairman and Labor leader MK Isaac Herzog says the Palestinian Authority may take over the Gaza Strip’s crossings into Israel and Egypt, and in the process begin the Strip’s return into PA hands.

“In the current circumstances, there’s a possibility for a diplomatic process that will see the Palestinian Authority taking over the crossings [into Gaza], taking civil control, and thus beginning a natural dismantling process [of the Hamas regime in the Strip],” Herzog tells Army Radio.

The current five-hour humanitarian ceasefire “is an opportunity to reach a general calm in the region,” he adds.

Abbas meet with Egypt’s Sissi begins in Cairo

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is meeting now with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo to discuss developments in Gaza.

Egypt is playing a key role in efforts to broker a ceasefire after 10 days of Hamas rocket fire on Israeli population centers and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes that have killed over 200 Palestinians.

One arrested in Temple Mount altercation

On the tenth day of Operation Protective Edge, tensions are high on the Temple Mount.

A handful of Muslim worshipers at the site begin shouting at Jewish tourists, and the two groups are separated by police. One Palestinian youth is arrested in the incident.

Some 35 Palestinians have been arrested in the past week throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem in incidents of public disorder, including throwing rocks and firebombs and burning tires in protests, police report.

Hamas executes 4 for collaboration

Four Palestinians have been executed by Hamas as “collaborators” since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8, Palestinian media is reporting.

Hamas says the four gave information about Gaza terror groups to Israel’s security services.

According to reports, Hamas has arrested another 13 Palestinians on similar suspicions.

Agents of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, are said to be searching for additional suspected collaborators.

BBC reports ceasefire to begin tomorrow

The BBC reports that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas may begin as soon as 6 a.m. tomorrow.

It is not clear what support the ceasefire has. Israel already agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire proposal in the past week, but Hamas rejected it. The sides have been discussing a ceasefire in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Nor is it clear whether such a ceasefire would last very long. Today’s five-hour humanitarian ceasefire saw Hamas launch at least three mortar shells at the Eshkol Regional Council.

Text of BBC ceasefire report

It’s a sparse report, saying little more than the straightforward claim that a ceasefire has been “reached.”

A comprehensive ceasefire agreement has been reached between Israel and Gaza, an Israeli official has told the BBC.

The ceasefire is due to take effect on Friday at 06:00 local time.

Earlier, Palestinian militants fired three mortars from Gaza at Israel during a brief humanitarian ceasefire, Israeli security forces say.

Some 227 Palestinians have died in Israeli air strikes since the current crisis began on 8 July. Militant rockets have killed one Israeli.

Israel launched its military operation in Gaza nine days ago with the stated objective of halting Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel.

However, the United Nations says most of those killed in Gaza have been civilians.

Israel accuses Hamas of hiding its military infrastructure within the civilian population.

Israel reportedly confirms Friday ceasefire

AFP reporter Jonah Mandel is saying an Israeli official has confirmed that a ceasefire is set to begin at 6 am Friday, and that Hamas has already agreed to the truce.

There are no other confirmations from Israel or the Palestinians. The report from Egypt also does not clarify the conditions or duration of the ceasefire.

Israeli official denies ceasefire agreement

Channel 2 reports that a “senior Israeli official” has denied reports from Egypt that suggest a ceasefire has been reached between Israel and Hamas and is slated to begin on Friday at 6 a.m.

The reports are confusing and contradictory, and no reports offer any details about the conditions of any alleged ceasefire.

IDF soldier lightly wounded in Gaza roadside bomb

An IDF soldier was lightly hurt from a roadside explosion in Kerem Shalom near the Gaza Strip, the army says. No further details are known.

The attack is the latest in a series of failed attempts by Hamas to achieve an operational success in the ongoing fighting with Israel.

The IDF’s Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai warns that if Hamas resumes fire after the 3 p.m. conclusion of the humanitarian ceasefire, Israel will respond with “very great force.”

Hamas denies ceasefire report

A Hamas official is reportedly denying the report from Egypt that a ceasefire has been reached between Israel and the Gazan group.

An Israeli official has already denied that a ceasefire has been achieved, while other officials — none are named — told AFP and BBC it had been achieved.

Palestinian media claims IDF breaks ceasefire

Palestinian media sources claim IDF forces are violating the humanitarian ceasefire underway until 3 p.m. They claim IDF forces are firing toward open areas east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The claim follows three mortar shells that fell on the Eshkol Regional Council just two hours into the five-hour truce, which the IDF has blamed on Hamas.

Knesset hosts children from rocket-battered south

The Knesset welcomes hundreds of kids from southern towns on a special visit to the parliament today in an effort to take them out of the range of the most intense rocket fire.

“I hope the quiet returns soon,” Knesset Director General Ronen Plot tells the children.

Sources say no ceasefire yet, but talks progressing

There is no ceasefire agreement yet, Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian sources are telling The Times of Israel. But the sources agree that significant progress has been made in the ceasefire negotiations.

The Israeli security cabinet and the Hamas leadership will each hold a meeting on the progress of the talks tonight.

The current proposal is based on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s suggestion that a ceasefire be declared first, and then discussions will begin on the opening of the Rafah passage with Egypt, which would be manned by Palestinian Authority forces.

— Avi Issacharoff

At end of ceasefire, siren sounds in Ashkelon

Sirens are sounding at the Ashkelon Industrial Zone at the very minute that the humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ends on Thursday afternoon.

Israeli officials have warned that resumed rocket fire would lead to Israel responding with “very great force,” suggesting that Israel would not itself break the ceasefire.

That seems to be irrelevant with the resumption of rocket fire.

Israel rejects an extension of the humanitarian truce from its side.

Siren sounds in Zikim

A siren is sounding in Zikim, on the seafront near the Gaza border as rocket fire from Gaza continues after the end of the humanitarian ceasefire at 3 p.m. local time.

There is no work yet of damage or injuries from the rocket fire, and no reports of retaliatory strikes by the IDF on Gaza.

Post-ceasefire, a look at Gaza’s fleeting calm

Gaza residents crowd banks, vegetable markets and shops, taking advantage of a brief ceasefire that offered the first respite from 10 days of fierce fighting between Hamas and Israel, a truce that ended at 3 p.m. today.

The truce is briefly thrown into doubt when Hamas fires three mortar shells toward Israel after the truce takes effect at 10 a.m., but it appears to be an isolated incident and Israel does not respond.

Palestinians gather to withdraw money from ATM machines in Gaza City, Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Palestinians gather to withdraw money from ATM machines in Gaza City, Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Gaza City, a virtual ghost town for the past 10 days, returns to apparent normalcy within minutes of the start of the truce. Streets are jammed, motorists honk horns and Hamas police direct traffic at busy intersections.

Crowds of hundreds form outside banks, with people jostling and shouting to get to ATM machines. In an outdoor market, shoppers fill plastic bags with fruit, vegetables and freshly slaughtered chickens.

A Palestinian municipality worker sweeps the streets from glass, as a United Nations vehicle drives past a damaged money exchange post, following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Thursday, July 17, 2014.  (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian municipality worker sweeps the streets from glass, as a United Nations vehicle drives past a damaged money exchange post, following an overnight Israeli missile strike in Gaza City, Thursday, July 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

The rush to restock signals that Gaza residents don’t expect a quick end to the fighting. Egypt renews its own ceasefire efforts after its initial attempt collapsed earlier in the week, but the demands of Israel and Hamas remain far apart.

“The situation is likely to get worse because there is no clear way out of it,” says Moussa Amran, 43, a money changer in central Gaza City.

— AP

Two rockets land in Eshkol region

Two rockets land in Eshkol Regional Council, according to preliminary reports.

Siren sounds in Beersheba

No injuries or damage in Beersheba rocket fire

Three rockets are shot down over Beersheba throughout the day. No one is hurt and no damage is reported from the rocket fire, including the latest volley only moments ago.

‘Hamas nixed truce so it could take hostages first,’ IDF says

IDF sources believe Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire offer on Tuesday because it did not want the fighting to end before it had a chance to carry out the massive terror attack planned for Thursday morning.

According to the sources quoted by Army Radio, the operation Thursday, which saw 13 Hamas fighters infiltrate into Israel near Kibbutz Sufa, was intended to kidnap Israeli civilians or soldiers. The Hamas fighters were equipped with equipment to aid in such an abduction.

Hamas believes that any ceasefire negotiation would be conducted much more in its favor if it had Israeli hostages in its possession, the IDF says.

Siren sounds in Sderot

Sirens are sounding in Sderot.

Rocket fire from Gaza continues in the wake of the end of the humanitarian ceasefire earlier today. Rockets have been fired at Beersheba, Ashkelon, the Eshkol Regional Council and other areas. Multiple rockets have been shot down over Beersheba today by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Hamas’s time has run out, vows Bennett

On a visit to Ashkelon, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says “Hamas’s time has run out.”

“In recent days, Israeli residents are subject to a concerted and ongoing attack by Hamas, whose purpose is to hurt as many Jews as possible in as many ways as possible, through rockets in the air, infiltrations by sea, terror on land and explosive tunnels underground,” the chairman of Jewish Home says.

“Hamas is not only cruel, but cowardly. While IDF soldiers fight for the children of Israel, Hamas terrorists fight at the expense of Palestinian children. In light of Hamas’s continuing attacks, Hamas’s time has run out.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, seen in the Knesset, June 09, 2014. (photo credit: FLASH90)

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, seen in the Knesset, June 09, 2014. (photo credit: FLASH90)

Bennett reiterates his call for Israel to increase the force of its strikes on Hamas.

“Now is the time to turn from an Iron Dome defense to an iron fist offense,” he says. “Tens of thousands of IDF soldiers, active duty and reserve, have been stationed all along the Gaza periphery and have been on high alert for many long days now. Israel’s residents are united, the government is united across the political spectrum behind the prime minister of Israel. With god’s help, we will win.”

It is not clear if Bennett is expressing a hope, or a statement of policy. The cabinet has been anything but united in recent days over what to do in Gaza. Is Bennett’s comment a sign that Israel’s leadership is coming to a decision to up the military campaign?

UNRWA confirms rockets discovered in its school

Twenty rockets have been hidden in a Gazan school operated under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, officials from the organization confirm.

UNRWA officials in Israel are summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, where they apologize to Israel for the incident, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says.

UNRWA, which is responsible for the “welfare of Palestine refugees,” is known in Israel as exceedingly critical of Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem has not officially commented on the discovery of the rockets.

UNRWA is expected to issue an official statement, but so far the organization’s official Twitter feed only contains tweets critical of Israel, such as those lambasting the government for inflicting “severe trauma” on the children of Gaza.

— Raphael Ahren

Ban Ki-moon says short truce can lead to longer one

A little less than an hour after a short humanitarian truce expires, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon releases a statement calling for the five-hour ceasefire to serve as the basis for a more permanent end to the fighting.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Montreux, Switzerland, in January (photo credit: AP/Gary Cameron)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Montreux, Switzerland, in January (photo credit: AP/Gary Cameron)

“The pause shows that a cessation of hostilities is possible if all the parties demonstrate the necessary will and put the interests of civilians, who have borne the brunt of this escalation, first,” reads a statement released by his spokesman. “Encouraged by discussions in Cairo, the Secretary-General hopes today’s humanitarian pause can lead to a more durable calm and expresses once again his support for international efforts, led by Egypt, to arrive at a sustainable ceasefire.”

Rocket hits near Beersheba

Sirens are reported in Ashkelon, Netiv Haasarah, Yad Mordechai, Sderot and surrounding areas after a rocket fired from Gaza hits near the southern city of Beersheba.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Major highways around Beersheba closed

Israel Police has closed a number of major roads in southern Israel near the southern city of Beersheba. Route 25 east of Beersheba, Route 241 north of Ofakim and Route 40 north of Mashabim Junction are closed because of “the situation,” the police say in a tweet.

According to Daniel Nisman, a security analyst on Twitter, there is an ongoing security situation near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, near the border with the Gaza Strip.

Israel renews airstrikes after truce elapses

Israel has struck dozens of targets across the northern Gaza Strip since the end of the truce at 3 pm, including in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaiya, east of town.

One incoming rocket was intercepted just over Channel 2 reporters filming the airstrikes on Gaza from just outside the Palestinian territory as sirens sounded in communities nearby.

According to Channel 2, 10 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip since the end of the humanitarian truce at 3 p.m.

UNRWA condemns the arms in its school

The UN’s Palestinian refugee organization issues a condemnation of the groups responsible for placing weapons in one of the schools it operates.

“This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” UNRWA says in a statement. “This incident, which is the first of its kind in Gaza, endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA’s vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza.”

UNRWA notes that it has a strict no-weapons policy and that it has procedures to maintain neutrality and inspect its installations for arms, and it vows to “uphold and further reinforce its procedures.”

“Immediately after discovery, the Agency informed the relevant parties and successfully took all necessary measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA has launched a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

Sirens in Nirim, Ein Hashlosha, Kerem Shalom, Eshkol region

Siren in Ashkelon

Muhammed Abu Khdeir recognized as terror victim

East Jerusalem teenager Muhammed Abu Khdeir, who was abducted and killed by Jewish extremists on July 2, will be recognized as a victim of terrorist activity, officials at the Ministry of Defense say. The ministry came to the decision after police determined that the murder had been carried out on nationalistic grounds, most probably as a revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teens three weeks earlier.

Earlier Thursday, the Jerusalem District Court indicted three suspects in the killing of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir.

The state prosecution asserted that, hours after the three Israeli teens were laid to rest, the three strangled and beat the East Jerusalem teenager, and while he was unconscious, burned him to death in the Jerusalem forest.

The indictment also charged two of the defendants with the attempted kidnapping of a seven-year-old Palestinian boy in Beit Hanina the night before the murder, an attempt to burn Palestinian cars, and arson against a Palestinian store in the West Bank village of Hizme in June.

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2 in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2 in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

The indictment said that the three went on “a human hunt,” during which they “cruelly kidnapped and murdered the minor Muhammed Abu Khdeir simply for being an Arab.”

The indicted include a 29-year-old resident of Adam, in the West Bank, and two 16-year-olds — one from Jerusalem, the other from Beit Shemesh. According to the indictment, the adult and one of the minors have a history of mental illness and are presently on medication.

The name of the 29-year-old suspect is expected to be made public later today.

Road to Erez crossing shut, police commandos deployed

Highway 4 from Yad Mordechai junction to the Erez crossing with Gaza is closed, police say.

Ynet reports large police reinforcements deployed to the area north of the Gaza Strip, including its counterterrorism unit.

8 of 13 terrorists killed in airstrike on tunnel

Eight of the 13 terrorists who attempted to infiltrate Israeli territory earlier on Thursday through a tunnel were killed in the Israeli airstrike, Channel 2 reports, citing the IDF.

Roads near Gaza Strip closed

Police say Routes 232 and 234, near the town of Re’im adjacent to the Gaza Strip, are now closed to civilian traffic.

Sirens in Eshkol region

Two rockets intercepted over Ashkelon

Israelis near Gaza border told to stay indoors

Residents of communities near the border with the Gaza Strip have been instructed to remain in their homes amid reports of a “security situation” in southern Israel and police closure of roads in the vicinity.

Sirens in Eshkol region, Netiv Ha’asarah

Turkish PM says Israel trying ‘genocide’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Israel is attempting “genocide” in Gaza, AFP reports.

“This is not the first time we have been confronted by such situations,” Erdogan says at a meeting of Islamic scholars in Istanbul to mark the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“Since (the creation of the state of Israel in) 1948 we have been witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every day and every month,” he says. “But above all we are witnessing this attempt at systematic genocide every Ramadan.”

While he is at it Erdogan also slams the United Nations for not advancing world peace.

“What is the UN doing? Why has it been founded? For world peace? Does it contribute to the world peace? No. They are serving whatever their secret agenda is.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu adds his two cents by saying Israeli counterpart Avigdor Liberman is not to be taken seriously.

During an televised interview Davutoğlu rejects Liberman’s claim, reported by Haaretz, that Turkey and Qatar had worked to “sabotage” an Egyptian ceasefire proposal

“I have never taken the Israeli foreign minister [Liberman] seriously,” Davutoğlu says according to the Turkish Hurriyet daily. “How can I take seriously someone who talks about cleansing Palestinians from invaded areas?”

Siren in Ashkelon area, Nirim, Ein Hashlosha

Foreign Ministry calls on UN to condemn arms in UNRWA school

The Israeli Foreign Ministry responds to the discovery of a weapons cache in an UNRWA school by calling on the international community to condemn it as a violation of international law.

“Yet again, Gaza terrorists abuse UN facilities to carry out their violent activities. Hamas and other terror groups are determined to put civilians in harm’s way and will respect nothing in their violent frenzy,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel.

“We expect the UN and the international community to condemn and to act strongly against this brazen violation of international humanitarian law, which endangers children and UN humanitarian activities.”

Raphael Ahren

Police give all clear, open roads

Police have opened roads in southern Israel that were previously closed due to security concerns and have given the all clear.

Rocket hits home near Ashkelon

A rocket fired from Gaza strikes a house in a town outside Ashkelon, causing damage to the property but inflicting no injuries. Police are on site.

IDF hacks Gaza TV, instructs Gazans to flee

A Reuters correspondent in Gaza says that the IDF has hacked the al-Aqsa TV broadcast and is transmitting a message instructing residents of the southern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes.

Rockets fired at Sdot Negev, Netivot

At least forty rockets have been fired at southern Israel since the end of the five-hour truce at 3 p.m. Three rockets have been intercepted by Iron Dome.

Sirens continue to go off throughout the region around the Gaza Strip.

Sirens in greater Tel Aviv area

Sirens in towns along coastal plain

2 rockets intercepted near Tel Aviv

Israeli airstrike kills 4, including 3 kids

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports that an Israeli airstrike in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City killed four, including three children.

A doctor in the Gaza Strip reports on Twitter that the airstrike occurred near the Shifa Hospital.

Sirens in Ashdod and surrounding towns

Sirens in Ashkelon area

One injured in rocket strike near Ashkelon

One person is reported lightly injured in a rocket attack near Ashkelon. Multiple interceptions are reported over Ashdod.

UEFA bans soccer games in Israel during fighting

UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations, is barring Israeli soccer teams from playing European matches at home while the fighting between Israel and Hamas continues.

The decision by UEFA’s emergency panel will affect Israeli teams playing in the Champions League and Europa League.

Citing the “current security situation,” UEFA says Israeli clubs must propose alternative venues in another country for home legs “until further notice.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv had been due to host a qualifying game in the Champions League and Hapoel Tel Aviv and Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Europa League this month.

— AP

British deputy PM says Israeli actions ‘disproportionate’

Britain’s deputy prime minister speaks out against Israel’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying the IDF’s actions are “deliberately disproportionate.”

According to a report in the Guardian, Nick Clegg says the current operation in Gaza “is amounting now to a disproportionate form of collective punishment. It is leading to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is just unacceptable.”

Sirens in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Nes Ziona, Rehovot

Soldier injured by Gaza mortar fire

The IDF reports that a soldier was lightly injured by a mortar fired from Gaza. The spokesperson gives no indication of when or where the incident took place, and is likely referring to a person reported wounded by a mortar earlier today.

Medics say airstrike kills three kids in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed three children on Thursday, medics said, after a humanitarian lull in a 10-day conflict that has killed 234 Palestinians.

The strike hit the Sabra neighborhood in the center of Gaza, killing three children from the same family, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP.

Their deaths were the first to follow the end of a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire requested by the UN.


Malaysian jet diverts attention in Israeli media

Media attention in Israel and abroad is starting to shift to Ukraine for the first time in days after reports are flooding in that a Malaysian Airlines commercial jet was shot down over Ukraine.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 went down with 295 passengers aboard.

Sirens in Ashdod, Kiryat Gat

Massive barrage intercepted over south

Channel 2 reports 20 rockets launched in the past several minutes, 15 of which were intercepted over southern Israel. The remainder fell in open areas.

Iron Dome intercepts 12 over Ashdod

A massive barrage of 12 rockets fired minutes ago at the southern towns of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Rehovot was intercepted by Iron Dome over the city of Ashdod. One other rocket impacted in an open area, Ynet reports.

Live rocket fragment falls on Gedera

A fragment of a rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome system fell on the town of Gedera, the police say. Sappers are on site to disable the ordnance.

Rocket explodes next to house in Netivot

A rocket explodes next to a house in the town of Netivot, causing damage to the building. No injuries are reported. At least two rockets are intercepted over the town in the same barrage, Channel 2 reports.

3 Gazan kids killed playing on roof — neighbor

More details about the three young children killed in Gaza have emerged, AFP reports.

The three, brothers Jihad and Wissam and their cousin Fulla, were playing on a roof when an Israeli strike hit and killed them, according to Gazan health officials.

All three were from the Shuheiber family, in Gaza City’s Sabra district.

After being cooped up at home for days on end, neighbors said the children were taking advantage of the relative calm that followed a brief truce between Israel and Hamas.

“They were playing on the roof,” said neighbor Raed al-Kurdi, 33, his white vest stained with blood.

“We were sitting on our roof next to our neighbor’s one and we found all of a sudden a rocket coming from above and it hit their roof,” he added.


Activity points to possible ground campaign

As rockets continue to target Ashkelon and Ashdod, Channel 2 news reports that military activity near the Gaza border points to a possible imminent ground invasion.

The Israeli cabinet is set to meet on Friday morning to discuss the situation and ways forward, the news channel reports.

Rocket hits house in Nitzan, sirens in Ashdod, Ashkelon

A rocket strikes a house in the town of Nitzan, north of the coastal city of Ashkelon. No injuries are reported, but the extent of the damage to the building is not yet clear.

Sirens are again sounding in Ashkelon, Ashdod and the surrounding areas.

Diplomacy bogged by web of regional rivalries

Intensive diplomatic efforts are continuing to bring the sides close to a ceasefire. After a flurry of reports, quickly denied, earlier Thursday indicating the sides had reached an agreement, Channel 2 news reports the sides are still far from coming together, partially hampered by a web of regional rivalries.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in Cairo for talks, has been mediating between Egypt and Hamas, since the Gazan terror group refuses to speak to Cairo. In the meantime, Israel refuses to speak to Hamas, making the diplomatic channel more like a game of telephone.

Channel 2 also says Abbas wants Israel to free the final, fourth group of security prisoners — who were supposed to be freed at the end of March as part of the US-brokered peace talks — as part of a ceasefire deal. This group includes Israeli Arabs, whom Israel refused to free at the time, as it sought and failed to get a commitment from Abbas that the peace talks would continue past April.

Meanwhile, Israel is making clear to US Secretary of State John Kerry that his mediation efforts are not needed. An unnamed source tells the news outlet that Israel thinks Kerry may have undermined Egyptian peace efforts by speaking about Hamas’s preferred Turkey-Qatar diplomatic channel.

Stalemate with Hamas not enough, ex-intel chief says

Ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin says Israel and Hamas are currently “in a strategic tie” and that’s not good enough.

Israel’s defensive performance is “phenomenal,” he tells Channel 2 — thwarting tunnel attacks, sea infiltrations, and rockets. But it is not hurting Hamas significantly.

Military operations to counter the Hamas tunnels “should have begun days ago,” he says.

IDF downs Hamas drone

The IDF once again downs a drone over southern Israel. According to a Channel 2 report, an Israeli Patriot missile battery downed Hamas’s unmanned aircraft.

Drone flew into Israeli airspace from the sea

The Hamas drone downed by Israel entered Israeli airspace from over the Mediterranean Sea, near the city of Ashkelon.

The drone was the second to be intercepted by the IDF since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.

Over 100 attend Breaking the Silence rally

Breaking the Silence, a dovish IDF veteran NGO, holds a rally at the Habima Theater Square in downtown Tel Aviv “to call for an end to violence and occupation in Gaza together.” At least 150 people are at the event, in which veterans are reading testimonies of their experiences in previous IDF operations in the Gaza Strip.

A counter-protest of right-wing activists broke out alongside the Breaking the Silence rally.

Cabinet to discuss expansion of Gaza op

The Israeli cabinet will convene tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. to discuss the possible expansion of the IDF’s operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

3 dead in Gaza as IDF shells eastern Strip

Palestinian media reports three people dead, including one child, following an Israeli airstrike in the eastern Gaza Strip.

Israeli tanks, planes, artillery and ships are shelling targets in the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reports.

A 155mm artillery tank, positioned near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, fires a projectile towards targets in the Palestinian enclave, on July 17, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Menahem Kahana)

A 155mm artillery tank, positioned near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, fires a projectile toward targets in the Palestinian enclave, on July 17, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/Menahem Kahana)

3 rockets downed over Ashkelon, total stands at 28

At least three rockets were just intercepted over the city of Ashkelon by the Iron Dome system. The total for Thursday now stands at 28, the majority of which occurred after the truce expired at 3 p.m.

US urges Israel to ‘redouble efforts’ to avoid casualties

Washington steps up its critique of Israel’s airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday, with State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki casting doubt as to whether Israel was really taking all steps possible to avoid civilian casualties.

After two separate incidents of Gazan children being killed were reported in as many days, Psaki says that the State Department is “increasingly concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides” and that the US was “asking for a redoubling of efforts moving forward to prevent civilian casualties given the events of the past couple days.”

Psaki tells reporters that Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the issue in a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the past 24 hours. “We believe there is more that can be done” to protect civilians, Psaki says.

Expanding on her reaction to Wednesday’s killing of four Gazan children playing by the city’s fishing pier, Psaki describes the US as “heartbroken” by reports of children’s deaths, and that – regarding the specific incident Wednesday– “the reports were horrifying, the photos were horrifying and the video was horrifying.”

Psaki says State Department officials, including Kerry “were heartened to see the statement by President Shimon Peres in which he spoke to the deaths of these children” but underscores the fact that they did not consider Peres’s statement to be a condemnation of the children’s deaths.

— Rebecca Shimoni Stoil

Power out in Gaza as IDF bombs Strip

The Washington Post’s correspondent in Gaza reports that the power is out in the Gaza Strip and the IDF is bombarding the territory with artillery fire.

According to Channel 10, the IDF is carrying out operations across the entire territory from land, air and sea.

Man hit by truck while running for shelter dies

An unconfirmed report circulating in Israeli media says that a 40-year-old Israeli man was killed after being struck by a truck while running for shelter near Ashkelon.

Palestinian media reports say three people were injured in a strike on a motorcycle in the southern city of Khan Yunis, as heavy shelling of Gaza continues.

Sirens in Ashdod, Ashkelon

Sirens in greater Tel Aviv area

Sirens in Rishon Lezion, Ramat Gan

Rocket hits building in Kiryat Gat; 7 intercepted

A rocket strikes a building in Kiryat Gat, causing damage to the structure. Multiple civilians are suffering from shock.

Seven interceptions were scored over the greater Tel Aviv area.

Hamas also claims it struck an IDF tank near the border of the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s withering bombardment of the Strip.

Israelis living near Gaza Strip told to remain indoors

Residents of Israeli communities located near the Gaza Strip have been instructed to remain indoors, Israeli media report. The news comes as IDF tanks, artillery, ships and planes are pounding targets inside the Palestinian territory and power is out on the east side of the Strip.

Islamic Jihad: Israeli ground troops entering Gaza

A TV outlet controled by the Islamic Jihad terror group in Gaza reports there are Israeli ground troops inside the Strip.

There is no independent confirmation of the accuracy of the report.

The claim comes after about an hour of heavy Israeli shelling across Gaza.

Hamas claims rocket fire at Tel Aviv

Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades claims responsibility for firing 3 M-75 rockets and 10 Grad rockets at Tel Aviv.

Prime minister orders ground troops into Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon order IDF ground troops into the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’s terror tunnels.

‘Hamas could have saved dozens of Palestinians’

Sameh Shoukri, Egypt’s foreign minister says dozens of Palestinians’ deaths could have been averted if Hamas would have accepted a truce with Israel earlier this week.

“Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian proposal, it could have saved the lives of at least 40 Palestinians,” Sameh Shoukri says, according to news agency MENA.

IDF ordered to prepare for expanded ground op

After ordering ground troops into Gaza, the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement that Netanyahu and Ya’alon have instructed the IDF to be prepared for an expansion of ground operations as part of its attack on Hamas terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

“Through terror tunnels such as these, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israeli territory early this morning with the aim of carrying out mass terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens,” the Prime Minister’s Office says.

The green light for ground ops in the Gaza Strip was given by the cabinet after Israel agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire proposal which Hamas rejected and afterward launched rockets at Israel, the PMO says. It also pointed at Hamas’s abrogation of the five-hour humanitarian truce earlier on Thursday.

According to the IDF, the expansion of Operation Protective Edge “will include close coordination between IDF units including infantry, armored corps, engineer corps, artillery, and intelligence combined with aerial and naval support” as well as support from the Shin Bet and intelligence agencies.

The PMO says it will continue with Operation Protective Edge until it reaches its objective — restoring quiet for the residents of Southern Israel for an extended period of time while “inflicting a significant blow” to Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups.

Sirens in Golan Heights

‘Land operation needed to take out tunnels’

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Shlomo Turgeman recommended to the prime minister and defense minister that they give the go ahead for the ground offensive, Channel 10 reports.

Israeli media has been speculating that a land operation would be necessary to take out Gaza’s large network of tunnels, which are used to smuggle arms and carry out attacks against Israel.

Earlier Thursday, Israeli forces managed to thwart a terror attack when they bombed a group of 13 Hamas commandos who emerged armed from a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa.

Israeli forces have discovered and attempted to blow up a number of tunnels over the past several years, including some that reach dozens of meters underground.

Military sources say it is impossible to neutralize the tunnels via air attacks.

Rockets explode on Syrian side of Golan Heights

Rockets fired at Israeli-controlled Golan Heights fall on Syrian side of the border near town of Majdal Shams. Channel 10 reports IDF saying it was a deliberate launch.

IDF asks cabinet for more reservists

The IDF asks the cabinet to call up more reservists, Channel 10 reports.

Meanwhile, air raid sirens sound in Sderot and a rocket is intercepted overhead.

Reporters told to evacuate hotels near Gaza coast

Journalists working in the Gaza Strip have been instructed by Israel to evacuate away from the coastline, where they have been staying while covering the conflict.

Hamas says Israel will pay dearly for ground invasion

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum says that the IDF ground invasion of the Gaza Strip “is a dangerous action and the Occupation will pay a dear price for it. Hamas is prepared for this operation.”

— Avi Issacharoff 

Ground op aims to ‘break strategic tie’ with Hamas, ex-intel chief says

Former Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin says the ground offensive is necessary to “break the strategic tie” between Israel and Hamas.

He tells Army Radio there are two key goals: To destroy Hamas tunnels all along the Gaza border and to hurt the Hamas military wing, which has not been much harmed thus far.

Only if the Hamas military wing is badly damaged, says Yadlin, will it seek a ceasefire.

A picture released by the Israeli Defense Forces shows weapons found inside a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa in the Israeli Gaza border on July 17, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson's office/Flash90)

A picture released by the Israeli Defense Forces shows weapons found inside a tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa in the Israeli Gaza border on July 17, 2014 (photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s office/Flash90)

Hamas says it’ll fight on ground with people of Gaza

Speaking to Al-Jazeera from a Gaza emergency room, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum tells the people of Gaza that Hamas will remain on the ground fighting with the people.

“We are the stronger in our will, even as we stand alone,” he says, describing Hamas’s ostensible successful operations against Israel.

— Elhanan Miller 

IDF strikes rocket warehouse at Gaza hospital

Channel 2 reports that the Israeli Air Force struck a rocket warehouse at the Wafa Hospital in Gaza City, and that the Israeli Navy is shelling Gaza’s harbor as well.

IDF spokesman: Large numbers of troops operating against Gaza targets

IDF spokesperson Maj. Gen. Moti Almoz says IDF hit thousands of targets in first stage of Operation Protective Edge and will continue in its mission during the second phase.

“Large numbers of ground troops are heading to their objectives in the Gaza Strip,” he says, about an hour after troops first entered the Strip.

The IDF operation will expand as necessary, and the troops are highly motivated, he adds.

He calls on Gaza residents to evacuate homes near where IDF troops are operating.

The IDF’s Twitter feed adds that Israel will continue to hit Hamas hard in the forthcoming operation.

15 Palestinians injured in Israeli strike

Palestinian media reports 15 members of the Kafarneh family were injured in an Israeli artillery strike on Beit Hanoun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip.

— Elhanan Miller

Egypt pans Hamas, Qatar, Turkey for ceasefire failure

Egypt launches an unprecedented assault on Hamas, blaming the Islamist group, Qatar and Turkey for acting to scuttle Cairo’s ceasefire proposal. Egyptian Foreign Minister Samah Shukri says the Egyptian proposal sought to safeguard the rights of the Palestinian people.

Egypt even claims that Hamas could have saved the lives of hundreds of Palestinians had it accepted the Egyptian proposal.

Avi Issacharoff

Erdan says cabinet unanimously approved ground op

Minister Gilad Erdan says the decision to launch the ground offensive was approved in principle “several days ago” by unanimous vote of the security cabinet. He says the Hamas tunnels dug under the Israeli border are “a strategic threat” that Israel could not abide.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to US Secretary of State John Kerry on the phone, but no details of the conversation have been released.

Tzipi says decision to okay ground op not taken lightly

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni says she gave her approval to the ground operation in the Gaza Strip, but did so with a heavy heart.

I didn’t take the decision [to approve the ground offensive] lightly. But I took it with no doubts,” she says.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. (photo credit: Flash90)

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. (photo credit: Flash90)

IDF to call up 18,000 reservists overnight

The IDF says it will call up 18,000 reserve soldiers overnight to bolster its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Swedish FM urges Hamas to accept ceasefire

Hamas “must now urgently agree to a mutual ceasefire,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says on his Twitter feed.

Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza “will only bring further suffering,” he adds.

Ground offensive gathers pace on Day 11 of conflict with Hamas

The major Israeli ground offensive is now gathering pace, as Operation Protective Edge enters its 11th day.

We’re going to switch to a new liveblog now, to take us through Friday, here.