Live blog: Operation Pillar of Defense, Day 4, Part 1

Gaza rockets hit building and three houses in the south, injuring seven

5th Iron Dome battery deploys near Tel Aviv; Tunisian FM calls for united Arab front against Israeli ‘aggression’; IAF strikes 186 terror sites overnight; Netanyahu and Obama talk de-escalation as Cabinet approves call up of 75,000 reservists

Screenshot of a building in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod that suffered a direct hit from a Gaza rocket on Saturday (photo credit: courtesy Channel 2 News)
Screenshot of a building in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod that suffered a direct hit from a Gaza rocket on Saturday (photo credit: courtesy Channel 2 News)

The Israeli Defense Forces continued their crippling air campaign against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, with 186 terror targets struck overnight, as the rain of rockets showed no sign of abating. The IDF Spokesperson reported at least 119 rockets fired from Gaza struck Israel on Friday, including two that exploded outside Jerusalem and another two near Tel Aviv. Iron Dome missile batteries intercepted some 82 rockets. As Palestinian casualties mount and the Israeli government signals a possible ground invasion, neither Jerusalem nor Hamas expressed willingness to back down. The Times of Israel live-blogged every development here. Click here for our live blog covering events later Saturday, and here for Part 1 and Part 2 of Friday’s liveblog coverage.

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Channel 10 News reports that Hamas deputy political bureau chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said Saturday morning that while there were talks taking place to reach a ceasefire between his organization and Israel, he saw little chances of a truce agreement being reached any time soon.

The report also quotes a second Hamas official, Ahmed Yosef, saying that any ceasefire would have to include a lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

According to Israeli Cabinet ministers, Egypt is attempting to broker a two-stage ceasefire agreement. To begin with the sides would have to commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities. The second phase would require both parties to commit to a series of yet to be defined obligations.

AFP reports multiple IAF strikes on Hamas cabinet headquarters in Gaza City, with eyewitnesses reporting massive damage to the building.

Maan reports five injuries as a result of IDF attack on Hamas headquarters in Gaza City.

Ismail Haniyeh speaks to a crowd in Gaza, August 19 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90)

Hamas spokesman says attack doesn’t weaken the organization and will not break the spirit of the government. He adds that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh will respond to the attack shortly.

Al Arabiya reports that an IAF strike has targeted the house of Hamas leader Ibrahim Salah in Gaza City.

Gaza City resident reports via Twitter that IAF strikes targeted homes of Hamas leaders Abu Saed Karmoot and Ibrahim Salah in Jabalia, next to Gaza City.

Multiple injuries reported.

Reuters uploads images of Hamas cabinet headquarters in Gaza City being hit by what reports say are multiple IAF airstrikes. The building is ablaze and multiple injuries are reported.

Hamas cabinet headquarters in Gaza City after being struck Saturday morning by the IAF. (photo credit: image capture from Reuters video)

Hamas cabinet headquarters in Gaza City hit by an IAF airstrike on Saturday morning. (photo credit: image capture from Reuters video)

Hamas cabinet headquarters in Gaza City hit by an IAF airstrike on Saturday morning. (photo credit: image capture from Reuters video)

Air raid sirens sound in the Ashkelon area. No reports of explosions at this time.

Air raid sirens are going off in the Gaza-adjacent town of Sderot. Walla reports several rockets inbound at the border town, but it is currently unclear how many rockets have hit. Channel 2 reports one rocket exploding in open area outside town.

No injuries or damage are reported.

The IDF Spokesperson reports that a “mortar fired by Gaza terrorists damaged electricity cable in southern Israel. As a result, power is out in areas of northern Gaza Strip.”

The Israeli Air Force strikes 186 terror sites in the Gaza Strip overnight, including Hamas cabinet headquarters and numerous rocket launching sites, reports Ynet.

Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, the IDF has conducted some 830 strikes in Gaza.

Medical sources in the Gaza Strip reportedly say that 27 Palestinians were injured, two critically, in two IAF airstrikes outside Gaza City that targeted the homes of two Hamas leaders earlier this morning.

BBC correspondent in Gaza Jon Donnison cites sources reporting three killed and at least 30 injured in those strikes. He says he is checking the veracity of death reports.


Ynet reports that two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in open areas near Sha’ar Hanegev and Sderot. Two more hit outside the coastal city of Ashkelon. No damage or injuries are reported.

Israelis who live some 40 kilometers or more from Gaza, including residents of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are advised by Homefront Command to go on with their daily lives this Saturday, but to make sure they have a safe space set up and accessible in case of any further attacks.

Israelis with no public shelter near them are advised to enter the innermost room in their home upon hearing sirens — the room with the fewest windows and exterior walls.

People living above the second floor of a building are advised to move down to the second-floor stairwell, which is the most protected part of any building, according to officials.

After the sirens abate, residents are advised to stay in their safe spaces for 10 minutes.

Israelis take cover in a staircase as a sirens sound on Friday (photo credit: Gidon Markowicz/Flash90)

Palestinians fire a salvo of seven rockets at Beersheba. Iron Dome shoots down two of them; the other five land in open areas, reports Channel 2 News.

Also, five rockets land in the Eshkol region. The rockets appear to have all landed in open areas, and there are no initial reports of injuries or damage.

Israel’s Channel 2 reports that two Hamas commanders were assassinated in IAF airstrikes. It cites reports that the IAF carried out a targeted assassination on a motorcycle-riding senior Hamas operative in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis.

IDF conducts 19 strikes on terror targets, including smuggling tunnels, in the Gaza Strip over the last hour.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Chairman Ilan Biran tells Channel 10 that his company will have the fifth Iron Dome battery ready for deployment on Saturday night or Sunday.

Channel 10 reports that 20,000 IDF reservists have already been called up, less than 12 hours after the cabinet approved the increase of reserves mobilization to 75,000 troops.

Hamas prime minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh tweets the following after the IAF strikes the terror organization’s headquarters:

“They think this will make us weaker. But the opposite is true. It only strengthens us and makes us more determined to liberate our land and deter the Zionist robber until victory.” (Translation by Times of Israel staff)

Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, right, and Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, left, wave to the crowd as they meet in Gaza City on Friday (photo credit: AP/Adel Hana)

Air raid sirens are sounding in Ashdod and Gan Yavne. Residents are being advised to take shelter. No reports on damage or injuries.

Earlier this hour, in a 15-minute timespan, a total of 14 rockets were fired at communities in the south, including seven at the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, one at Beersheba, five at the Eshkol region and another at the Merhavim Regional Council. (Ynet)

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hits the yard of a house in the Beer Tuvia Regional Council. At least one person being treated for shock.

Palestinian sources report that the IDF just struck targets in the Gazan city of Deir al-Balah and in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. According to reports, there are injuries in both locations.

The IAF strikes the house of Ahmad Randouj, commander of Hamas forces in northern Gaza and the deputy of Ahmed Jabari, who was killed Wednesday by an Israeli strike on his vehicle.

The house was used as an operations center. Randouj was not in the house when it was hit, according to Channel 2 News.

In the past few hours, Israel has struck 20 terror tunnels, used to smuggle  weapons, near Rafah. Some 120 rocket launching sites were fired upon by the IAF this morning.

Red alert sirens wail in Ashdod. Iron Dome downs one rocket fired from Gaza at the southern Israeli city.

IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz is currently conducting a security assessment with his top staff.

Hamas reporting three military leaders killed this morning. Palestinian sources say that 32 people have died and some 300 have been injured in the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday.

Red alert sirens sounding in the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council.

Third red alert siren sounds this morning in Sderot. A big explosion is heard.

About a half hour ago, three rockets fell in open areas near the city.

President Shimon Peres visits Israeli children in a shelter in the southern city of Sderot on Wednesday (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Reports of 12 senior Tunisian officials, including several ministers, arriving in the Gaza Strip today.

Yesterday, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil traveled to Gaza to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. Kandil promised his visit would be the first of many missions to the Strip.

Israel agreed to a short ceasefire during Kandil’s visit, but the quiet was cut short by rocket fire from Gaza, which was answered by Israeli strikes.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to arrive in Cairo today to confer with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi about Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

Yesterday, Erdogan said Israel was harming innocent civilians because of the upcoming Knesset elections in January.

Red alert sirens sound in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon. No initial reports of explosions.

Red alert sirens sounding in Beersheba. One explosion heard in the area.

The streets of Beersheba are virtually empty, according to residents.

650 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, only 26 of which landed in urban areas. IDF reports that 210 rockets were shot down by Iron Dome.

Also, reports of 79 failed launches from Gaza, according to Channel 2 News, meaning that the rockets backfired or landed in the Strip.

Dror Schor, the mayor of the Beer Tuvia Regional Council — where a house suffered severe damage this morning from a rocket which landed in its yard — tells Channel 2 News that the residents of the damaged house were home during the attack. The residents were not injured, but one woman was treated for shock.

Schor advises residents to heed the advice of the Homefront Command and to enter safe rooms or shelters as soon as they hear sirens. “This saves lives,” according to the mayor.

Reports of direct hit on a house in southern Israel.

Three people lightly injured and being treated by Magen David Adom  crews.

Fifth Iron Dome battery has been deployed, according to the IDF.

The battery will be operational shortly in central Israel, in the Gush Dan region which includes Tel Aviv, where millions of Israelis live.

The IDF spokesperson says Iron Dome has hit 90% of its targets in the sky since Wednesday.

Tel Aviv (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90/File)

Red alert sirens wail in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.

Palestinian sources reporting 39 dead since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday and some 350 injured in the Gaza Strip.

Tunisian officials, including ministers, have arrived in Gaza and are visiting the site of the Hamas cabinet headquarters, which was destroyed in an Israeli strike this morning.

IDF reports three Israeli soldiers in southern Israel were injured by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip.

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, post video online warning of suicide attacks on Israeli civilian targets such as bus stations and cafes.

A rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon was shot down minutes ago by Iron Dome. The IDF also launched an immediate counterattack on the launching crew that fired the rocket, achieving a direct hit.

Iron Dome system in action as it intercepts rockets fired from Gaza (photo credit: Flash90/File)

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak speaks with US counterpart, Leon Panetta, about Pillar of Defense. Barak tells him Israel is preparing for a Gaza ground incursion. Meanwhile, back-channel negotiations for a ceasefire, through Britain and the United States and via Egypt, are ongoing, Channel 10 News commentators confirm.

Red alert sirens sound in Beersheba, Ashkelon and the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

Explosions heard in Sderot — not clear if it’s rocket fire or Iron Dome fire.

Demonstrations against Israel’s military operation in Gaza have sprung up in various cities — in Cairo, Washington, D.C., New York, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Seoul — as well as across Europe. Click here to read the full article.

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, issued a statement late Friday calling for children in Israel and Gaza to be protected.

“UNICEF is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Gaza and Israel and its impact on children,” according to the statement. “In the past two days, six Palestinian children age 10 months to 15 years have been reported killed in airstrikes on Gaza, and 60 injured. Another Palestinian child was reported killed by a rocket which fell short. Gaza is under closure making it difficult for civilians to flee.”

Protests against Israel’s military operation in Gaza expected to take place Saturday in Hebron and Ramallah in the West Bank.

A fourth, consecutive siren blaring in Ashkelon — the fourth in the span of a few minutes. Streets are empty; residents are asked to stay within one minute of safe rooms. No injuries or damage reported yet.

The foreign minister of Tunisia, Rafik Abdessalem, visiting the Gaza Strip right now, says “Israel must understand that there have been several changes in the Arab world. That which [Israel] was able to do previously is no longer allowed today.”

He added, “We call for a united Arab stance. Arab foreign ministers plan to meet today, under the framework of the Arab League, and we call for the implementation of a united and comprehensive Arab stance against the aggression.”

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem (photo credit: Foreign Ministry of Tunisia)

Gaza terrorists fire four rockets at the Eshkol region, which borders the Strip. One rocket directly hits a house, causing serious damage but no injuries.

IDF releases video of the fifth Iron Dome battery, which has been deployed in the greater Tel Aviv area:

Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for firing four of Saturday’s rockets at Beersheba and Ashkelon.

IDF releases video of this morning’s airstrike on Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip. The building serves as the official office of the terror organization’s chief, Ismail Haniyeh, who serves as prime minister in Gaza.

Protests and candle-light vigils planned for Amsterdam, London, and other European cities Saturday.

IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai says Hamas field operatives are taking cover in hospitals and mosques in light of Israeli airstrikes, according to Channel 2 News.

Tal Russo, head of the IDF’s Southern Command, has declared the area bordering the Gaza Strip to be a closed-military zone. People should not enter, unless they have permits or live in communities within the proximity.

Red alert sirens wail in Ashkelon.

The city’s mayor Benny Vaknin says Iron Dome has been 100 percent successful in shooting down multiple rockets fired toward Ashkelon on Saturday.

Vaknin warns residents to stay indoors. He says he saw several people outside earlier, with their children, who wanted to watch Iron Dome make its interceptions.

Prime Minister of Malaysia Mohd Najib Razak condemns Israeli operation in Gaza during ASEAN Conference in Cambodia.

Hamas Political Bureau chief Khaled Mashaal meeting now with Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed Raafat Shehata in Cairo.

Shehata was instrumental in negotiating the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.

The meeting between Mashaal and Shehata may be a sign of efforts to begin a diplomatic push toward a ceasefire, reports Channel 2 News.

David Buskila, the mayor of Sderot, tells Channel 2 News that it’s been quiet for the past hour or two. “Please stay inside your homes,” Buskila said, addressing the town’s residents, “and don’t play around with the Home Front Command’s directions [to be in the vicinity of a safe-room].”

“We are optimistic,” added Buskila. “We hope that the IDF continues and achieves its objectives.” He also thanked MK Amir Peretz (Labor), a former defense minister, for helping raise awareness about Sderot’s suffering.

Beersheba has been quiet for over an hour as well.

At least three rockets exploded in Ashdod. One rocket hit the front of a four-story apartment building; there were no physical injuries from the blast but people were treated for shock.Another projectile hit a truck, causing it to light on fire. The third also reportedly landed near a residential area.

There were no reported injuries in Ashdod. Two sirens were heard after the rockets were launched.

Barzilai Medical Center reports that it is treating 56 people for injuries. Among the injured, 13 are suffering from shock, 42 people are being treated for contusions to their bodies, and another person was indirectly injured by shock waves from a rocket.

Patients wait in the hallway of the Barzilai Medical Center (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Siren blasted in Beersheba. No explosion was heard; the rocket most likely landed in an open area, Channel 2 News reports.

Rocket struck a home in Eshkol region; no injuries were reported.

Sirens wailing in Ashdod and in the Beer Tuvia Regional Council, where a rocket landed in the yard of a house earlier today.

Iron Dome intercepts four of six rockets fired at Beersheba minutes ago. The other two fell in open areas. No injuries reported.

Iron Dome has made 230 successful interceptions since Operation Pillar of Defense began on Wednesday.

The Iron Dome battery that was deployed to central Israel on Saturday (photo credit: Alon Besson/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

Update from the Ashdod rocket attack: Seven people were lightly injured when a rocket struck a four-story apartment building in Ashdod. The victims were rushed to the hospital. Seven others were treated for shock.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that if the IDF launches a ground incursion into Gaza that it must be prepared to go all out.

“We are ready for a wide-scale ground operation, if necessary, but it should be noted that the IDF enters Gaza, it cannot be stopped in the middle; it needs to go all the way.” Click here for the full article.

Islamic Jihad obtained the names, places of work, cell phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of 5,000 IDF soldiers, Channel 2 News reported Saturday.

The soldiers received threats from Islamic Jihad members — part of the terror group’s psychological warfare campaign — threatening them if they cross over into Gaza as part of a ground incursion.


Five rockets land in open areas in Beersheba.

Sky News in Arabic is reporting that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will convene a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari ruler Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal later this afternoon to discuss a possible ceasefire.

 Palestinian Hamas supporters in the streets of Gaza City hold up Egyptian flags and the poster of Mohammed Morsi as they celebrate his victory in the Egyptian elections, in June (photo credit: WIssam Nassar/Flash90)

Senior Egyptian intelligence officials met with Mashaal in a closed meeting earlier today.

Channel 2 News analyst Ehud Yaari said that Egypt sent Hamas leaders Ahmad Jabari and Ismail Haniyeh messages just days before the start of Pillar of Defense warning them that Egypt was categorically against an escalation of violence in Gaza. Yaari added that Egypt has been working nonstop to try to secure a ceasefire.


Palestinians in Gaza fire four rockets at the southern Israeli town of Netivot, all of which are intercepted by Iron Dome, reports Channel 2 News.

Red alert siren sounds in Ashkelon.

Gaza terrorists fire five rockets at Ashdod, three of which are intercepted by Iron Dome. The other two land in open areas.

This is the third successful interception of rocket fire at Ashdod on Saturday. Earlier, a rocket fired at the city hit a residential building, causing serious damage.

A total of three houses suffered direct hits from rockets. Two of the homes are located in the Eshkol region.

In addition, a rocket landed in the yard of a home in the Beer Tuvia Regional Council. The residents were home when it fell; one person was treated for shock.

Also, an apartment building was struck by a projectile.

The armed wing of Hamas is prepared to carry out suicide missions in case the IDF launches a ground operation in Gaza, according to a statement published on one of the websites run by the group.

“Suicide bombers are standing by for the ground invasion,” the statement said. “Once the first tank enters Gaza, these units will be activated.”

Sirens blare in Ashkelon.

Moments ago in the port city of Ashdod, Defense Ministry Spokesman Josh Hantman was preparing a scheduled video interview with the BBC when air raid sirens went off. He tells The Times of Israel that he was “running for his life” with the reporters to take cover before the rockets hit.

BBC reports heavy IDF troop buildup near Gaza border.

Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for the long-range rockets launched at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem over the past two days.

Mass rally beginning in the predominantly Arab town of Nazareth in northern Israel. Activists waving Palestinians flags tell Channel 2 News they are “against Israel’s military operation in Gaza.”

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