This live blog is now closed. We’re live blogging developments as Operation Pillar of Defense movies into its eighth day here.

Reports of a ceasefire proved inaccurate Tuesday night, as Hillary Clinton arrived in Israel. Two more Israelis were killed on a day of heavy rocket fire as far north as Rishon Lezion, with Jerusalem also targeted. Late into Tuesday night, Israel was hitting Hamas and other terror targets throughout Gaza. The Times of Israel live-blogged developments through Tuesday afternoon and evening.

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Preamble: Jerusalemites scramble for cover as a siren rings out through the city and surrounding area, followed by a rocket falling somewhere near Bethlehem south of the capital. Earlier in the day, the south of country was pummeled by over 60 rockets, including several that hit homes. One soldier was moderately injured by a mortar in the Eshkol region.

Israel is still weighing whether to expand the operation into a ground war but officials said they would give diplomacy at least 24 hours to work, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN head Ban Ki-moon head to the region. In the meantime, the IDF continued to hit targets in the Gaza Strip, and the head of Hamas’ armed wing warned Israel against a ground operation.

 

Hamas says the missile fired at Jerusalem was a M75 Iranian-made missile assembled in Gaza, according to Al Jazeera.

Three rockets land in the Eshkol region, with at least one hitting a building, reports say.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague reiterates support for Israel’s operation in Gaza, saying Hamas is to blame for the current violence. He also calls on Israel to obey international law and avoid civilian casualties, and warns against a ground operation as it would prolong the conflict unnecessarily and erode international support for Israel.

Speaking in the British parliament in London, Hague also slams Israel’s policy of illegal settlements, saying that it threatens the two-state solution.Hague says the UK is against the Palestinian Authority’s plan to ask the UN for the status of a non-member state, saying such a step “risks paralyzing” negotiations and “could have serious consequences for the PA.”

“There is no military solution to the conflict in Gaza, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hague says, emphasizing that a two-state solution is needed, and “time is running out.”

The IDF is initiating an increased tempo of strikes in Gaza, especially at the location of the recent rocket launch toward the Jerusalem area, according to news reports. Walla reports 30 locations are targeted.

Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon moves its emergency room to its fortified basement after shrapnel from a rocket that was intercepted by Iron Dome lands near the hospital’s maternity ward.

Israeli official tells Israel Radio that the United States and Egypt will announce the signing of a ceasefire Tuesday night. German mediation reportedly helped reach the truce, the final wording of which is still being worked out.

Two rockets, not one, were fired at Jerusalem from Gaza an hour ago. They landed outside the city, near Bethlehem, just moments before United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was set to arrive there.

The staff at Israel’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory posts a picture on Facebook showing “what happens when there’s a siren during production of Toffee Crunch, and we have to run to the protected area.”

The factory is located in Be’er Tuvia, near Kiryat Malachi, one of the southern towns being hit by rockets. Some 2 million dollars was invested in the facility, which used to be a soup factory and logistics center for another food manufacturer.

There was no word as to how much ice cream was lost during the rocket attack.

(photo credit: courtesy, Ben and Jerry's Israel)

Morsi makes statement that “Israeli aggression” is coming to end and positive developments are on the way, adding to indications that a ceasefire is approaching as early as Tuesday night.

A man is critically wounded from a rocket fired at the Eshkol region. He is being treated by medical personnel. Another rocket hits a building in the Eshkol region, slightly injuring five people.

Residents of Bethlehem erupted with glee when they heard the boom caused by the rockets that were fired at Jerusalem from Gaza, Channel 2 reports. The rockets fell in a Palestinian-controlled area south of Israel’s capital, near the Etzion Bloc.

A Jewish Federation of North America delegation visits southern Israel Tuesday, the seventh day of Pillar of Defense, and gets a taste of life under fire. Members duck on the side of the road and run for cover as sirens wail throughout the day.

The two-day Emergency Solidarity Mission, comprising 12 lay and professional leaders, is spearheaded by the chair of the Board of Trustees of JFNA, Michael Siegal.

Jewish Federation of North America leaders, lay and professional, dive for cover as they tour the south (photo credit: Ron Luba)

“The ongoing crisis being faced by the people of Israel, particularly those in the south, will not be fought by the Jewish State alone,” Siegal said upon arrival in Jerusalem. “We are here to express our firm solidarity and to say that as always, when Israel is in need, we are here.”

The federation announced Friday that it will commit up to 5 million  dollars to the Israel Terror Relief Fund, which will be used for trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and transporting children out of harm’s way.

“We knew we had to come to experience firsthand what is happening on the ground so that we can best respond to whatever the needs might be,” says Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of JFNA.

Rockets fired from Gaza explode near Ashdod and Sderot. Two missiles hit the port city of Ashdod. Channel 10 reports one person lightly injured. One makes a direct hit on a corner store. Several residents are treated for shock.

The rockets fired at Sderot explode in open areas, causing no damage or injuries.

Five Palestinians were killed in an IAF airstrike in Gaza City moments earlier, Ynet cites local sources saying.

Six Palestinians accused of spying for Israel are shot in the street in Gaza City, according to Sky News correspondent Tim Marshall, which would bring the number of executions by Hamas of Israeli collaborators during Pillar of Defense to seven. BBC correspondents also tweet confirmation of the incident:

@Skytwitius

Tim Marshall

6 Palestinians accused of being Israeli spies killed in the street in Gaza City. Sky correspondent.

@WyreDavies

Wyre Davies

Local journalists in #Gaza said they saw six people executed in the street – accused of “collaborating” with #Israel

@pdanahar

Paul Danahar

Local journalists say they saw Hamas execute six people in the last half hour in #Gaza for being #Israeli informers

In what could portend either an imminent ground operation or — what is more probable — an Israeli move to heavier, less accurate shelling, the IDF has spread leaflets over the northern Gaza Strip, urging civilians to make their way toward Gaza City in the center of the territory for safety, Channel 2 is reporting.

Five soldiers are lightly injured after a rocket fired from Gaza explodes near their position in the Eshkol border region, the IDF spokesperson reports.

Here is a picture of a badly damaged bus in Beersheba, aired by Channel 2. The passengers reportedly managed to get out and take shelter before the bus was hit.

A Beersheba bus that was damaged by rocket fire from Gaza, Tuesday (photo credit: Channel 2 screen capture)

The two cars targeted in an IAF airstrike in Gaza City in the past hour were reportedly transporting munitions, the IDF spokesperson says. Witnesses report secondary explosions, Ynet says. Six Palestinians are reportedly killed in the blast.

Contrary to earlier reports, the IDF is saying only one rocket was fired at Jerusalem on Tuesday. The rocket fell south of the city, in a Palestinian-controlled area, and did not cause any injuries.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh says “Gaza won’t be broken by its confrontation with Israel.” In a meeting with the ministers of the Arab League in the Strip, Haniyeh accuses Israel of carrying out “massacres” against Palestinian families.

He adds that he welcomes “the efforts of the Arab and Islamic world” to broker a ceasefire.

Islamic Jihad is announcing that a ceasefire with Israel will go into effect in three hours, Channel 2′s veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari reports. There is no other confirmation yet.

A soldier is lightly injured amid clashes with Palestinian protesters near the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, where a rocket fired from Gaza landed earlier in the afternoon.

Six rockets explode in open areas in the Eshkol border region, causing no damage or injuries, according to Ynet.

Apparently, the Egyptian intelligence chief has called a press conference about Gaza for this evening. Channel 2 News analyst Ehud Ya’ari says that he wouldn’t be addressing the press merely to announce that ceasefire talks had failed. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad is saying a truce will go into effect at around 7 p.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s “hand is extended in peace to any of our neighbors who are willing to make peace with us, while our other hand is holding a sword to confront those who want to remove us from this land.”

Netanyahu, who spoke at a memorial for Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, at Kibbutz Sde Boker in the central Negev, asserted that the IDF had destroyed “thousands of rockets and missiles that were pointed at Israeli citizens, including most of the long-range rockets.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Jerusalem, November 20, 2012 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

 

Rocket attack in Ashkelon seriously injures Israeli civilian, according to Channel 2. The man reportedly stands next to his car in a parking lot when the rocket hits. Emergency response vehicles are at the scene.

Two others are slightly injured after a second rocket strikes another neighborhood in the coastal city.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with visiting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Netanyahu says no country would accept rocket attacks on its populace, notes that Israel would only be a partner to a long-term solution to the problem that can be put in place via diplomatic means. Otherwise, Israel “will act.”

Ban says further escalation puts the entire region at risk and calls on everyone to work to restore calm.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon address the press in Jerusalem, Tuesday (photo credit: Channel 2 screen capture)

 

Netanyahu thanks Ban for coming and says: “I know you will continue to lend your moral authority to solving the conflict.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UhNU_Y4QLM

“We share your concern,” Netanyahu tells Ban, referring to the secretary general’s desire to minimize damage and death on both sides. He says the IDF is trying to minimize casualties and is employing “surgical strikes” against terrorists and terror infrastructure in Gaza. ”Destructive weapons of any kind, in schools, in mosques, are double war crimes,” adds Netanyahu.

Israel is interested in a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, Netnayahu says, but Israel will do “whatever is necessary to protect its civilians.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday. (photo credit: UN Spokesperson via Twitter)

Ban says the escalation is “a tragedy for both peoples.” He says he visited Sderot and witnessed residents living under terror and fear. “I strongly condemn this,” he says. “The Palestinian militants must stop firing rockets immediately… and Israel must exercise maximum restraint.”

He decries the “excessive use of force against the law” and calls on both sides to lay down their arms immediately and work toward a two-state solution.

“It pains me to come here again under such conditions,” says Ban, who last visited Israel in 2009. “We have no time to lose… we must seek peace and stability.”

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip scores a direct hit on a six-story apartment building in Rishon Lezion, a heavily populated city just south of Tel Aviv.

Magen David Adom reports one woman is slightly injured. The building sustained heavy damage.

A ceasefire that will reportedly take effect at midnight will be announced by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo in a matter of hours, Egyptian officials tell the BCC. A Hamas official confirms the report to the BBC as well. Channel 2 is reporting that he announcement will be made at 9 p.m.

According to BBC correspondent Paul Danahar, BBC sources in Cairo say the ceasefire has been agreed to in principle, but will not be made official until Morsi announces it.

An Israeli airstrike on a car in Gaza City kills two journalists, Maan News reports. A BBC reporter in Gaza says according to local media reports the men were al-Aqsa TV journalists.

Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades tweets that the two were identified as al-Aqsa TV employees Mahmoud Al-Komi and Husam Salama.

@AlqassamBrigade

Alqassam Brigades

The Al Aqsa TV professionals reported killed in an Israeli air strike on their media car were identified as Mahmoud Al-Komi and Husam Salama

Senior Hamas official says no ceasefire deal with Israel yet but agreement is close, AP reports.

Rishon Lezion Mayor Dov Tzur arrives on the scene of a rocket strike on a 6-story apartment building, where one woman was lightly injured, and says “there is no doubt that a miracle happened here.”

A building in Rishon that sustained heavy damage from a rocket attack on Tuesday (photo credit: Channel 10 screen capture)

The building suffered a direct hit, but none of the family is injured.

“The situation is under control and we are working to help the residents,” Tzur says. “There is no doubt that it doesn’t look pleasant.”

Channel 10 reports that the structural integrity of the building may be at risk.

Hamas’s Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades claims responsibility for the rocket attack, saying it fired a Fajr-5 missile at Rishon Lezion.

@AlqassamBrigade

Alqassam Brigades

#ِIsraeli building hit by Fajer 5 missile launched by Al Qassam Brigades.#Gaza #GazaUnderAttack #Hamas #ShaleStones http://t.co/naXQGWVa

One rocket explodes in an open area in Beersheba, causing no damage or injuries. Iron Dome intercepts another over the city, according to Channel 2.

An IDF soldier, Cpl. Yosef Partok, was killed this morning in a rocket attack from Gaza on a kibbutz in the Eshkol region, the army has announced. Thus the number of Israeli dead since the launch of Operation Pillar of Defense rises to four.

Yosef Partok (photo credit: Channel 10 screen capture)

Partok, 18, belonged to an infantry unit that arrived earlier in the week to back up forces along the Gaza border. He was killed when the kibbutz was hit by a salvo of three rockets.

According to the website Kikar Hashabbat, Partok was raised in an ultra-Orthodox family in the settlement of Emmanuel in the West Bank.

Iron Dome intercepts three rockets over Beersheba; five explode in open areas.

Iron Dome fires several missiles at incoming rockets over Ashdod as multiple waves of rockets are fired at the port city.

Additional rockets are reported inbound at the border town of Netivot.

At least 150 rockets have been fired at Israel thus far today, according to Channel 10.

Popular Resistance Committees claim rocket killed IDF soldier Yosef Partok, according to Reuters correspondent Noah Browning:

@sheikhNB

Noah Browning

breaking: #Gaza rocket fire kills Israeli soldier on border jst now, acknowledgd by IDF, claimed by Popular Resistance Committees v @

Former Palestinian Authority presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti, a cousin of the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, visits the Gaza Strip with a delegation from his political party, the Palestinian National Initiative, according to Maan News.

An Israeli woman was moderately wounded in a stoning attack on a vehicle south of Jerusalem near the Palestinian village of Hussan.

The attack comes amid an upsurge in clashes between IDF troops and Palestinians in the West Bank over the army’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

“At the moment we are continuing to respond with force to the crimes of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum tells al-Jazeera.

“We need rockets to fall on Israeli cities until the final minute,” he said. Regarding the ceasefire talks, he opined: “[Israel] didn’t forward its final answer to senior Egyptian officials, and the resistance will continue.”

A Bedouin man, 33, dies, and another man is seriously injured, after a Grad rocket explodes near Beersheba. The two were rushed to Soroka Medical Center, according to Channel 2 News. The slain man was a construction worker for the Ministry of Defense.

“Some of the extremely harsh rhetoric coming from Turkey, we do not consider helpful at all and of course we don’t agree with some of these very difficult statements that have been coming (from) there, and we have made those views clears to the Turks,” says US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland about Istanbul’s comments on Israel.

Turkey and Iran on Tuesday accused Israel of “ethnic genocide” and “war crimes” in Gaza.

Israeli media are reporting that the Israeli civilian killed today was hit in the same attack that killed IDF soldier Yosef Partok in the Eshkol region.

Apparently, the rocket that struck Rishon Lezion and demolished an apartment on the top floor of a six-story building was an Iranian Fajr-5 with a warhead containing almost 100 kilograms of explosives.

Rescue services were reportedly checking the building’s structural integrity to ensure that it wouldn’t collapse.

It was the first time that Gaza terrorists have hit the city of 250,000, which is located southeast of Tel Aviv, since Operation Pillar of Defesne broke out last Wednesday.

An apartment building in Rishon Lezion that was his by a rocket from Gaza on Tuesday evening (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Egyptian intelligence sources report that an Israeli negotiations team has rejected a draft ceasefire, and that a press conference — ostensibly announcing the truce — that was initially scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. has been put off indefinitely, Channel 2′s Ehud Yaari reports.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has landed in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to help broker a ceasefire between Jerusalem and Hamas.

In a press conference with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says “Egypt is a leader in the region and I was encouraged that Egyptian authorities are using their contacts on all sides to seek an immediate ceasefire.”

Ban condemns rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as “unacceptable, irresponsible and reckless,” and says loss of civilian life in Gaza is “unacceptable under any circumstances.

“Our paramount and immediate concern is for the safety and well-being of all civilians in Israel and in Gaza,” he adds.

Peres calls on world leaders to “insist that Hamas stop the fire and… make clear that terror is unacceptable.”

The IDF blows up four tunnels with pipelines used for smuggling gasoline between Gaza and Egypt, possibly creating an energy shortage for Gazans, according to YNet News. Residents report an extremely loud boom.

BBC Middle East Bureau Chief Paul Danahar also says there has been heavy Israeli military buildup in the Strip:

@pdanahar

Paul Danahar

There really is an awful lot of artillery fire coming into #Gaza at moment from #Israel Sometimes more than 10 rounds in one burst of fire

Israeli jets have also blown up a big Hamas government building, according to Channel 2 News. Danahar says it was used by the group’s legislative council.

Approximately 2,500 pro-Israel demonstrators have gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in Paris in support of Israel and Operation Pillar of Defense, AFP reports.

The protest is organized by CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewry. During the demonstration, the CRIF president read a letter to the Israeli ambassador to France and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he calls the Gaza Strip a “bastion of terror.”

A video has surfaced on YouTube showing the Fajr-5 missile fired from Gaza earlier this evening hitting the apartment building in Rishon Lezion and causing severe damage to the top floors. The family was unharmed, and four people were lightly injured in the attack, according to Israeli TV.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in Jerusalem. Clinton claims that “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock-solid and unwavering.”

She also says “it is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.”

She praises Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi for his “personal” role in trying to resolve the crisis.

Clinton hails the Iron Dome missile defense system as a symbol of US-Israeli cooperation and America’s commitment to Israel’s security, but adds that it is “no substitute for security and a just and lasting peace.”

Clinton says that the US is pushing for a “the goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Netanyahu says that Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Gaza, but is still prepared to take “whatever action” necessary to protect Israeli citizens from rocket attacks.

During his press conference with Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu says Israel is in a fight to save lives and is doing all it can to avoid harming civilians. He says no country would accept repeated attacks on its citizens.

Israel would take whatever steps necessary to protect its citizens, Netanyahu asserted, thanking Clinton for the assistance of the United States.

Channel 10′s analysts are reporting that Israel is attacking terror targets in Gaza — from the north of the strip to the south — with unprecedented intensity. The attack in Rishon Lezion earlier this evening — the first successful strike on Israel’s fourth-largest town, in which it was remarkable that nobody was killed by a 90 kg. rocket that smashed through three stories of an apartment bloc — is being cited as the reason for the escalated Israeli air and sea attacks.

Smuggling tunnels are being hit; homes of terror chiefs — dozens of targets.