The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Thursday, the 17th day of Operation Protective Edge. Late on Wednesday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had rejected a ceasefire unless the blockade of Gaza is lifted, and the Israeli cabinet met to discuss expanding the ground op against Hamas’s rockets, tunnels, and infrastructure. After a day and a half of chaos for passengers at Ben-Gurion airport and around the world, US officials lifted a ban Thursday morning on flights to Tel Aviv.
IDF-Hamas fighting in Gaza remained intensive, Hamas was still trying to carry out attacks in Israel through tunnels — a major tunnel found Wednesday contained maps and weaponry for an imminent attack — and rockets were still being fired. (Friday’s liveblog is here.)
You can also follow @TOIAlerts on Twitter — we’re live-tweeting all the updates there as well.
Start of Day 17; 98 rockets fired at Israel Wednesday
Operation Protective Edge has entered its 17th day.
According to an IDF statement, 98 rockets were fired at Israel Wednesday, out of which 70 struck inside the country, while Iron Dome intercepted 25.
Army figures show a total of 2270 rockets launched toward Israel in the conflict. Iron Dome destroyed 448.
IDF ground forces arrest 150 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, including one dressed in an IDF uniform.
No sign of a ceasefire
Day 18 of Operation Protective Edge begins with Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) having followed Tzipi Livni’s lead from last Friday and declared that Israel might retake the Gaza Strip in order to completely root out the Hamas terrorist threat there, destroy its infrastructure and prevent kidnapping attempts.
“We won’t stand aside and watch Israeli citizens being hurt and tunnels being dug to kibbutzim, to children’s houses or dining rooms,” he told Channel 2 late Wednesday.
Earlier, Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking in Qatar, said Hamas insists on the blockade of Gaza being lifted for a ceasefire — something the Egyptian ceasefire proposal does not provide. He also claims the hundreds of rockets — over 2,200 now — fired by Hamas into towns and cities all over Israel, as well as the five attempted attacks through cross-border tunnels, are not aimed at civilian targets.
“Our fatalities are civilians. Israel’s fatalities are soldiers,” he says.
Channel 2′s Ehud Ya’ari snorted that the speech was designed to sound like a victory speech, but didn’t quite come across that way.
ToI reporter stranded in Istanbul
The mass exodus of foreign airlines from Israel finds The Times of Israel’s Melanie Lidman stranded in Istanbul.
Lidman reports: “I’m in a nondescript hotel room somewhere near the Istanbul airport, miles from downtown, feeling adrift and helpless. I love travel, and I love layovers in interesting cities like Istanbul when I have time to take the train downtown and poke around and eat some local food. But I did that on the way to Lagos. And there’s a time for the exciting newness of travel and there’s a time to be back with the people who know you and love you.
“I know it won’t help Israel or the situation or the funerals or the heartbreak at all if I’m back in the country. But it would help me.”
Horovitz on the ‘terrible cost of thwarting Hamas’
Earlier Wednesday, ToI’s editor David Horovitz posted a long op-ed on the mood of Israel — which he described as “a mixture of anguish at the toll of IDF dead, anger at aspects of the international response, and confidence in the troops and (atypically) the political leadership.”
He also noted: “Israelis don’t doubt that the army can prevail in Gaza — to degrade Hamas’s capacity to harm us in the near term, maybe even the medium term. If the ground offensive proceeds for another week or two — the government and the generals say, and most Israelis believe — Hamas’s fighting force, its tunnels, its rocket capabilities will be devastated. At a terrible cost. And with nothing to prevent Hamas’s prompt revival.”
Border Policeman hurt in Jerusalem
Rioters in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan in Jerusalem throw Molotov cocktails and rocks at Border Policemen. One policeman is lightly injured in the hand.
The police force uses riot control measures to disperse the crowd.
Four Islamic Jihad commanders targeted
The IDF lists four Palestinian Islamic Jihad commanders it has targeted in recent days —
- Acram Salah Mahmmar Sh’ar, who the army says was in charge of PIJ’s activity around Khan Yunis.
- Mahmoud Awwad Ali Ziada, described by the IDF as a “prominent PIJ terrorist and head of PIJ activity in the northern Gaza Strip.”
- Shaben Haled Sha’aben Dahduh- The head of PIJ activity in the Gaza City region.
- Sa’yeed Mahamed Nasser Au Mamer, who runs PIJ activity in Rafah
Li Mat, 19, to be buried Thursday at Har Herzl
IDF paratrooper Staff Sergeant Li Mat, from Eilat, will be buried Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Har Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
Mat, 19, was killed Wednesday morning with two other paratroopers when they entered a booby-trapped house in the Gaza Strip.
Druze rally for IDF, Alian
As demonstrations take place across the country Wednesday in support of IDF soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip, residents of the Druze town of Daliat al-Carmel near Haifa take to the streets to show their appreciation for Israeli forces.
The demonstration was organized by the Druze Zionist Council, and included Israeli flag, signs, and donation stations for soldiers, NRG reports. Participants also expressed support for Col. Ghassan Alian, the commander of the Golani Brigade who returned to the front after being wounded. Alian hails from the Druze community.
Other demonstrations took place in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, Carmiel, and Kiryat Shmona.
Pro-Palestinian fans attack Israeli soccer players
Players from the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa were attacked in Bischofshofen, Austria Wednesday during a friendly against Lille when pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the field.
They had been taunting and cursing at the Maccabi players the entire match, then ran onto the field with five minutes left. They scuffled with some players, but no one was injured.
The game was abandoned after the incident.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have turned ugly, even violent, across Europe since the start of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Ban says he is ‘alarmed’ that rockets are missing
The UN secretary-general on Wednesday said he is “alarmed” to hear that rockets found placed in a UN-run school in Gaza “have gone missing,” and he demanded a full review of such incidents.
A statement by the spokesman for Ban Ki-moon expressed the UN chief’s “outrage and regret” at the placement of weapons at a site run by the global organization.
“Those responsible are turning schools into potential military targets, and endangering the lives of innocent children,” UN staff and anyone seeking shelter, the statement said.
The statement demanded that militant groups stop such actions and be held accountable for endangering civilians.
It gave no details on the number or kind of rockets or the location of the school, which is run by the UN refugee agency for Palestinians, UNRWA.
A week ago, UNRWA said that during a routine check it discovered about 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant Gaza schools and called on militants to respect the “sanctity and integrity” of UN property. It said the incident was “the first of its kind in Gaza.”
But Tuesday, UNRWA confirmed that it had found a second major cache of rockets hidden in one of the organization’s schools.
The UN statement said Ban has asked for the immediate development of a plan to safely handle any weapons found on UN premises, and he told the UN Mine Action Service to immediately send people to deal with the situation of the missing rockets.
“The United Nations is taking concerted action to increase its vigilance in preventing such episodes from happening again,” the statement said.
The statement gave no details on how the rockets went missing. The UN did not immediately return a request for further comment.
UNRWA tweeted Monday that more than 83,000 people were now taking refuge in its schools in Gaza, and “numbers are growing.”
Hamas official says there is progress in negotiations
A senior Hamas official says on Wednesday there had been progress in negotiations to end the Gaza conflict but the Islamist militants needed detailed guarantees that Israel would ease its blockade of the enclave.
Talks to end the 16-day conflict have intensified with US Secretary of State John Kerry shuttling between Jerusalem and Cairo in a bid to forge a truce.
Hamas, which sparked the conflict by firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, had rejected an Egyptian proposal that called for a ceasefire first and then negotiations.
The Hamas official acknowledged that the militants realized that getting Israel to end the eight-year siege in tandem with a ceasefire was unrealistic.
“There needs to be an agreement on the principles, the schedule (for ending the blockade) and the mechanism,” the official says.
Hamas’s chief Khaled Meshaal on Wednesday again insisted on a ceasefire only after an end to the siege, in force since militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier in 2006.
The official, who works closely with Meshaal, says however that they understood that the blockade would be eased only after the ceasefire, but they required a schedule in place first.
The conflict has killed 659 Palestinians, 34 Israelis and a Thai worker in Israel. Jerusalem had earlier accepted the Egyptian ceasefire offer.
The Hamas official said he hoped the negotiations would bear fruit “in a few days.”
“The atmosphere in the talks is positive,” he told AFP in a telephone interview.
Hamas says flight bans are ‘great victory’
Hamas hails the suspension of Tel Aviv flights by many world airlines as a “great victory.”
“The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says as traffic to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport slows to a trickle after a rocket hit close to the airport on Tuesday.
Heavy IDF fire in northern Gaza Strip, beach
Palestinians report intense IDF fire in the northern Gaza neighborhoods of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanun, NRG reports.
Navy ships pound targets along the coast.
Medical sources in the Strip say 18 Palestinians were killed overnight as a result of IDF operations.
Gaza family of six killed, says spokesman
A family of six, including two young children, was killed Thursday in an Israeli air strike in the south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian emergency services say.
“Six members of the Al-Aftal family, including a five-year-old girl and a boy of three, were killed,” says emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, bringing the number killed Thursday to 18.
Senators say ceasefire must end tunnel, rocket threat
In a letter to President Barack Obama, three senators — Republican Lindsey Graham and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ben Cardin — say any cease-fire should create a situation in which Israelis no longer face the threat of brazen terrorist attacks.
The three lawmakers set a high bar for Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Israel trying to negotiate a cease-fire. Obama administration officials have said Hamas must be denied the ability to fire rockets on Israelis.
“The threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats,” the senators write. “Any effort to broker a cease-fire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks.”
Gaza church refuge for Muslims
Muslim families driven from their homes by the fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas are observing Ramadan in Gaza City’s Greek Orthodox church.
St. Porphyrios Church has thrown its doors open to hundreds of displaced Palestinians, some of the more than 140,000 who have fled their homes, according to the UN.
Entire families are sleeping on thin sheets on the hard church floors, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. During the day the adults try to keep the dozens of children occupied, taking their minds off the conflict. In the evening, the families break their fast with simple plates of rice, provided by church aid agencies.
Many come from Gaza’s Shejaiya area, the scene of heavy bombardment. The church itself has not escaped unscathed — missiles fired into a nearby cemetery sent debris flying into the churchyard.
State Dept. calls Sen. Cruz FAA comments ‘ridiculous’
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf rejects Sen. Ted Cruz’s suggestions that President Obama used an FAA ban on Tel Aviv flights as an economic boycott on Israel as “ridiculous and offensive.”
“The facts suggest that President Obama has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party conservative favorite, said in a statement in which he posed five questions about the agency’s actions, including whether it was politically motivated.
Cruz said later Wednesday he would block Senate confirmation on all State Department nominees until his questions were answered.
Harf says, “There’s no place for these kinds of political stunts in confirming nominees for critical national security positions.”
Kerry leaves, still far from ceasefire
US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves Israel without any breakthrough on a ceasefire.
Earlier Wednesday, he met UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem, where they said they had pooled their efforts in the hope of boosting the quest for a truce.
“We have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done,” Kerry said as he met the UN chief for the second time this week.
“We are now joining our forces in strength to make a ceasefire as soon as possible,” Ban said, warning there was no time to lose as concern mounted over the rising civilian body count.
The US diplomat offered a similar message to the Palestinians as he met president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“We have in the last 24 hours made some progress in moving toward that goal,” he said before heading to Tel Aviv for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The men met for about two hours but made no statements after their talks. Kerry then left for Cairo and Netanyahu opened a meeting of his security cabinet.
UN aid says ceasefire vital
The UN humanitarian chief says a ceasefire to stop the violence in Gaza is vital because of the deteriorating situation.
Valerie Amos says in an interview in Tokyo on Thursday that the top priority is protecting civilians caught up in the violence. She calls it a “terrible, terrible situation.”
Amos is in Tokyo for a UN-organized meeting on finding better ways to deliver humanitarian aid to conflict and disaster zones in Asia.
Footage of IDF troops on the ground
The IDF releases a video of ground troops operating in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
FAA weighing cancellation of flight ban
CBS news reports that the FAA is considering cancelling its temporary ban on American flights to and from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. No final decision has been made.
The FAA ruling led to widespread flight suspensions from international carriers, and Israeli leaders fear it will result in significant economic damage for Israel.
German astronaut tweets war from space
Alexander Gerst, an German astronaut at the International Space Station, snapped a photo of Gaza and Israel as the ISS passed over the region.
“My saddest photo yet,” he tweets. “From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israel”
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) July 23, 2014
How the army breaks the worst news of all
Times of Israel military reporter Mitch Ginsburg gives us the inside story on one of the IDF’s most difficult jobs- the Casualty and Wounded Soldiers Department officers whose task it is to knock on the door and inform families that they have lost a loved one in the army.
“The moment – the moment before you knock – when you hear from the other side talk, laughter, television, the crying of children, the tumult of life; that moment is the scariest moment I’ve experienced in my life,’” says one of the informers.
Read the whole story here.
US lifts ban on flights to Tel Aviv
The US national aviation authority lifts a ban on American flights to Israel, but warns of a “very fluid situation” amid intense fighting with Palestinians in nearby Gaza.
“The FAA has lifted its restrictions on US airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport by canceling a Notice to Airmen it renewed earlier today,” the Federal Administration Agency says in a statement.
IDF kills operative at tunnel entrance
The Israel Air Force kills a Palestinian operative who emerged from a tunnel in the northern Gaza Strip overnight, the army says in a statement.
In a separate incident, a Palestinian opened fire on troops “in one of Hamas’s command and control facilities,” it says. “The soldiers responded, killing the terrorist.”
The IDF says it found weapons on the site.
Overall, the army targets 35 sites in the Gaza Strip overnight.
Ban ended after security assessment, FAA says
The FAA says in a statement that it is ending the ban on flights to Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport after reviewing the security situation with US government officials, but indicates it can still reinstate the measure.
“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the agency writes. “The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary.”
The ban was put in place on Tuesday following a rocket strike near a house in the town of Yehud, which abuts the airport, the FAA says.
Iran’s Khamenei goes on anti-Israel Twitter tirade
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei publishes a string of 14 tweets last night decrying Operation Protective Edge, calling for the elimination of the “infanticidal and criminal” Jewish state, saying that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza, and denouncing the “wicked” Britain and US for backing Israel.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 23, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 23, 2014
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) July 23, 2014
Transportation Minister hails end of US flight ban
Transportation Minister Israel Katz says the FAA reevaluation “proves once again that Israel’s airspace is safe. Those who tried to impose a blockade on Israel failed.”
“I hope the European carriers will announce they are resuming activity as soon as possible,” he adds.
Netanyahu to meet with British FM, convene cabinet
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet with the British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond at 11:00 am in the Knesset to discuss ways to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
At 3:00 pm, the cabinet will convene.
— Raphael Ahren
Gaza death toll climbs to 718
The Palestinian death toll in the Gaza Strip rises to 718, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports, citing the Gaza Health Ministry.
Some 4,563 Gazans are wounded, it reports.
Bloomberg lectures CNN reporter for ‘ridiculous’ allegation
Former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg lashes out at CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer, when asked if the US flight ban may have been adopted for political reasons.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Why would you think that? It’s an outrage to accuse one of our agencies––by asking the question, you’re implying our government does things for political reasons, and maybe everyone once in a while they do it, but it’s your job to prove it,” Bloomberg says. “Just the allegation against our government, I personally take as an offense.”
Limited ceasefire by weekend, Egyptian official says
A limited humanitarian ceasefire may be implemented by the weekend, an Egyptian official tells Reuters.
The move would coincide with the Eid al-Fitr festival, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan.
However, US officials dispute the claim.
“It would not be accurate to say that we expect a ceasefire by the weekend,” an unnamed US official says. “We are continuing to work on it, but it is not set at this point.”
Delta may not resume flights to Tel Aviv
Delta Air Lines, which diverted a jumbo jet away from Tel Aviv before Tuesday’s ban by the FAA, will not necessarily resume flights to Israel even if US authorities declare the area safe, the airline’s CEO says before the FAA lifted the ban.
CEO Richard Anderson says Delta would of course obey FAA orders but would continue to make its own decisions about safety.
“We appreciate the advice and consent and the intelligence we get, but we have a duty and an obligation above and beyond that to independently make the right decisions for our employees and passengers,” Anderson says on a conference call with reporters. “Even if they lift” the prohibition on flying in and out of Ben-Gurion Airport, “we still may not go in depending on what the facts and circumstances are.”
German pro-Israeli politicians decry flight suspensions
As the FAA lifts the ban on flights to Israel, several other airlines continue with the temporary suspension of all of their Israel routes.
In Germany, pro-Israel politicians are criticizing Lufthansa and Air Berlin for not operating their flights to Israel.
MP Gitta Connemann, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU party, says that concerns over safety are understandable in light of the Malaysian flight MH17 that crashed over Eastern Ukraine but that Israel has a functioning missile defense system and that it is safe to fly there. The current ban is a “capitulation of the West in front of terrorism.”
— Raphael Ahren
150 Palestinian operatives arrested in Gaza
The IDF arrests 150 Palestinians — most of them said to be involved in terrorist activity — in the Gaza Strip overnight.
The army has uncovered 31 tunnels in and around the coastal enclave to date, and has fully demolished 9 of them.
Canada criticizes UNHRC for ignoring Hamas’s crimes
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird strongly castigates the UN Human Rights Council for failing to condemn Hamas.
“Canada is frustrated and deeply disappointed that the UNHRC decided to completely ignore the abhorrent terrorist acts of Hamas,” he says in a statement. “This resolution turns a blind eye to the facts on the ground and that one party is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people, and that is the international terrorist group Hamas.
“Hamas continues to indiscriminately fire rockets into Israeli communities, striking fear in millions of Israelis. Like every other sovereign state of the United Nations, Israel has every right, and the fundamental duty, to protect its citizens.
“There must be no moral equivalence between an international terrorist organization and a liberal democratic state, and today’s decision undermines this body’s credibility.
“Failure to condemn the reprehensible actions of Hamas has only emboldened its brutality and encouraged these terrorists to continue their inexcusable actions.”
Thailand urges Israel to relocate workers
Thailand urges Israel to relocate 4,000 Thai nationals working near the Gaza strip after one of its citizens is killed.
Israeli police say a farm laborer, Narakorn Kittiyongkul, died on Wednesday when a projectile fired from Gaza struck the greenhouse where he was working in the southern part of the country.
The Thai Foreign Ministry says its embassy in Tel Aviv had advised its citizens to stop working in the area near Gaza.
“The Thai Embassy has contacted the Israeli Foreign Ministry and employers to ask them to relocate 4,000 Thai workers in agriculture estates near the Gaza strip immediately and unconditionally to safe areas 10 to 20 kilometers (6-12 miles) away,” ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee tells reporters in Bangkok.
“But we will not evacuate our workers from Israel yet,” he adds.
Thousands of overseas workers, many from Southeast Asia, work on Israeli farms and in factories.
Dentists told not to use laughing gas until op ends
Dentists in central and southern Israel are instructed not to use laughing gas on their patients during Operation Protective Edge, as it could impair patients’ (particularly children) ability to run for shelter should the sirens sound, Haaretz reports.
The directive, issued by Clalit Smile, is compulsory for its dentists from Rishon Lezion and southward. For dentists elsewhere, it is advised not to use the laughing gas, but remains up to each individual practitioner to decide.
No ceasefire until tunnels demolished, minister says
Science Minister Yaakov Peri says there will be no ceasefire agreement until the tunnels are destroyed, though a temporary humanitarian truce is possible.
“I don’t see a ceasefire happening in the next 2-3 days, in which Israel would pull out of the Gaza Strip,” he tells the Walla news website.
Peri, a former head of the Shin Bet security service, adds that when the IDF launched its ground offensive on July 17, it estimated that it would take between four and five days to fully eliminate the tunnel threat, but after recognizing the complexities involved in demolishing the sites, he says two more days will not suffice to rid Israel of the terror threat — “and I’m not sure two more weeks will either.”
With regard to a humanitarian ceasefire, Peri says that a temporary truce could be reached — between 6 hours and 5 days — but stressed that no permanent arrangement would be set in place until the tunnels are destroyed.
No full ceasefire will be implemented until the tunnels are gone, he says. “We must destroy the tunnels, those we know about and had intelligence about, which is the majority, and several that were discovered on the ground. This is no small job. We don’t have intelligence on everything, it’s not a science, but I want to say honestly that we assess that we will reach most of the tunnels. I hope we reach 100%, but it’s not for sure.”
However, he adds that Israel is not surprised by the sophistication and number of tunnels.
“We had information on ‘the underground city in Gaza’ with a similar number of tunnels as the amount found,” Peri says.
Israel’s long-term goal is to see the disarmament of Gaza from its rocket stockpile and tunnels, he says.
“The US and Egypt support this, and they will be the ones negotiating,” he says.
Israeli border towns empty as residents seek safer ground
With deadly fighting raging next door in the Gaza Strip, southern Israeli towns along the border turn into mini army bases as most residents seek safety in central and northern Israel.
Those left behind say they are long inured to near-daily salvos of rocket fire from Gaza but newly discovered tunnels that have been dug by Islamic militants nearby have them spooked.
“It’s changed our viewpoint entirely. The rockets we somehow got used to. This is something else. They are under our homes,” says Ofra Benudiz, a 52-year-old mother of four in Nir Am, a kibbutz near Sderot. “Our greatest fear is that they will infiltrate.”
Most of Nir Am’s 350 residents had already been relocated to safer areas, as happened in two previous wars with Hamas in Gaza, kibbutz spokesman Ofer Liberman said. Those remaining were shocked as Israeli troops entered the agricultural community in full combat gear fearing that gunmen had sneaked inside.
Soldiers have taken over communal areas, ready to act in case of emergency. The sunflower and avocado fields have become staging grounds for troops going in and out of Gaza, with jeeps and tanks kicking up sandstorms as the smoke from the Gaza bombings wafts close by.
The army often orders residents to stay in their homes, mortar shells and rockets have been raining down and sounds of outgoing Israeli artillery fire makes it almost impossible to sleep at night, residents say.
“This is no place for children now. They don’t need these traumas,” said Liberman, 53, who has four daughters of his own.
Liberman said residents felt fortunate that the military was around in such large numbers to protect them when Monday’s infiltration took place.
After years of living under the threat of rocket fire, he and others in the border area were among the most vociferous advocates for a strong Israeli military move against Gaza terrorists. Despite the current discomfort, he said he hoped the military would finish the job.
“My realistic hope is that this will give us 10 years of quiet, because I know it won’t give us 40 and I’m tired of it only giving us two,” he said, as he fielded phone calls from volunteer organizations offering to host families and deliver goods. “Finally the state of Israel has put this at the top of its priorities.”
The local regional council covering about a dozen communities says more than 50 percent of its 8,000 residents are now elsewhere, with the numbers as high as 80 percent in those that straddle the border with Gaza. Those with families have mostly left and only the elderly and essential members like security officials and those caring for the dairy farms and livestock have stayed.
Most Palestinian detainees surrendered to IDF
Many of the 150 Palestinians arrested in Rafah overnight– most of them Hamas operatives, according to the IDF — surrendered to the IDF in an unprecedented move.
The majority of the detainees came out with their hands in the air and did not resist arrest by soldiers of the Givati brigade.
The detainees were transferred to a detention facility in southern Israel and will be interrogated by Israeli security forces.
Hamas is like the Nazis, Liberman says
Hamas’s goal is similar to the Nazis’ – the extermination of the Jewish people – and therefore it must meet the same fate, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman says.
During a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Jerusalem, Liberman says just like the UK bombed Germany in World War II, so must Israel attack Hamas now. Therefore, Jerusalem expects “a special understanding” from the British, the foreign minister says.
“We learned from [wartime prime minister Winston] Churchill that even if the price is blood, sweat and tears, a nation seeking life needs to fight with determination for its freedom,” Liberman tells Hammond. “So we cannot allow Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and cities in southern Israel to be threatened by missile fire. It’s our duty to fight resolutely to allow freedom and a normal life for the citizens of Israel.”
— Raphael Ahren
Slain soldier’s hometown establishes cemetery for his burial
First Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, who was killed in the Gaza Strip on July 20, will be laid to rest in a cemetery in his hometown of Kfar Azar founded especially for his burial.
Pomerantz’s family, wanting to bury their son close to home, fought with the municipality to allow him to be buried in Kfar Azar. Their request to establish a cemetery was approved by Minister of Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben Dahan.
“As soon as we received the family’s request, our office made every effort to approve it. We see in this a good deed to bring some comfort to the family that lost its loved one,” Ben Dahan says.
The time and date of the funeral has not yet been set.
Brazil summons Israeli ambassador over op
Brazil is calling in its ambassador in Tel Aviv for “consultations,” condemning the “disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip” during Operation Protective Edge.
“The Brazilian government considers escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine unacceptable,” the Foreign Ministry in Brasilia declares, calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Yesterday, Brazil voted in favor of a heavily one-sided resolution criticizing Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Council. Explaining its vote, the Brazilian envoy to the Geneva-based council quoted “the alarming number of casualties” inflicted by Israel on the Palestinians.
— Raphael Ahren
Sirens in Dan region, Sharon region
Iron Dome intercepts 4 rockets over central Israel
IDF soldiers lightly injured in Gaza
Several IDF soldiers are lightly injured during clashes in Shejaiya and Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, the Ynet news website reports.
At least one terrorist has been killed.
Hamas executes 9 alleged collaborators
Hamas has executed a total of nine alleged “collaborators with Israel,” Army Radio reports.
Several of them were said to have given Israel information on Hamas activities in Shejaiya.
Netanyahu compares Israel to UK in WWII
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond of another instance where a country is “rocketed with these projectiles of death” and that is Britain in World War II.
It’s “more difficult for us to fight this criminality because as I’ve told you the terrorists are firing rockets from mosques and schools and hospitals.”
The prime minister decries the use of human shields as “extraordinarily cynical” and “grotesque.”
He says the UN Human Rights Council decision to condemn Israel and launch a war crimes probe is a “travesty of justice,” and says it won’t stop the country from doing what’s necessary “to protect our people” against rocket attacks and the “vast network” of terror tunnels.
Netanyahu thanks Britain for its support — and British Airways for continuing to fly to Tel Aviv — and says its “moral focus and moral clarity will be needed in the days ahead.”
Hamas responsible for fire, British FM says
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the “current cycle of violence has been triggered by Hamas.”
He says Israel has the right to defend itself, but emphasizes that “we want to see a ceasefire quickly agreed,” and says Britain is concerned about the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties.
Britain was “grateful that you agreed” to the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire, he says.
As he speaks, sirens sound in Tel Aviv and the Sharon region.
Sirens in Tel Aviv
Rocket sirens sound in Tel Aviv again, for the second time in 15 minutes.
IDF has made gains in Gaza, PM says
Netanyahu says the IDF has been overwhelmingly successful, but there is no 100% success rate in destroying the tunnels.
We will do everything we can to defend the citizens of Israel, he says.
Iron Dome downs 2 rockets over Tel Aviv
Hamas takes responsibility for the barrage of rockets, and says it was aiming at the Ben Gurion Airport.
75 Palestinians released from IDF custody
Some 75 of the 150 Palestinians arrested overnight in the Gaza Strip are released.
Seventy are set to be interrogated by the Shin Bet.
Russian airlines resume flights to Tel Aviv
Russia’s second-largest airline Transaero says it is resuming flights to Israel, two days after suspending traffic along with other major airlines over security concerns.
“As of today, Transaero will operate all services between Russia and Israel according to schedule,” the company says in statement.
Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, said late Wednesday it was resuming flights to Israel.
7 Palestinians killed near Khan Yunis
Seven Palestinians were killed in a series of strikes Thursday in a flashpoint area near Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, the emergency services said.
The attacks took place in Khuzaa on the Israeli border, and the neighboring district of Abasan, which has been the scene of intensive fighting since Tuesday, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
5 rockets downed in past hour, IDF says
In an official statement, the IDF says the Iron Dome intercepts five missiles over Tel Aviv in the past hour.
Rocket fragments fall on Arlozorov and Dizengoff street in the city, police say.
Hundreds of travelers stuck on planes at Ovda
Hundreds of passengers are stuck on their planes for hours at the southern Ovda airport — which opened to international flights in response to rocket fears — after shuttles failed to arrive to bring them to the terminal, Ynet reports.
“They told us it’s a military base and we can’t go on foot” to the terminal, a passenger tells the news website.
A passenger says there are six other planes also stuck on the runway, and the wait has since exceeded two and a half hours.
It remains unclear whether the shuttles have since arrived.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz opened the Ovda airport yesterday as foreign carriers expressed concern about rocket fire near the Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel. The Ovda airport is located some 60 kilometers north of Eilat.
Heavy fighting at border in central Gaza
Heavy fighting is reported along the border in central Gaza, according to Gaza police spokesman Ayman Batniji.
Israeli troops fire tank shells that reached parts of the Bureij and Maghazi refugee camps. There are no immediate reports of injuries.
Clashes also erupt between Palestinian fighters and Israeli troops in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, and the sound of explosions was audible across the town, Batniji says.
Israeli naval vessels meanwhile fired more than 100 shells along the coast of Gaza City and northern Gaza, the spokesman says. Rescue teams were prevented from operating in the area because of the heavy fire, he adds.
Kerry speaks to Qatari, Turkish FMs
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as he pressed for a Gaza ceasefire.
Kerry — who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict — speaks by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a US official says.
The top US diplomat was hoping Qatar and Turkey would use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan, which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official says.
Foreign Ministry needles Brazil
Following Brazil’s summoning of the Israeli ambassador to explain Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli Foreign Ministry lashes out at the Brazilian government.
Brazil is operating with “a double standard, and has become part of the problem rather than trying to contribute to the solution.”
“This behavior explains why Brazil, which is an economic and cultural giant, remains irrelevant in the political arena,” it says.
Alitalia announces it will resume flights to Israel
Morton Williams Supermarkets to boycott Turkey
Morton Williams Supermarkets announces it will stop buying Turkish products in a mark of solidarity with Israel, CBS New York reports.
“Israel is the one true democracy in the Middle East trying to survive against hostile neighbors seeking its destruction,” CEO Morton Sloan says. “Turkey, by siding with those who would destroy Israel, deserves our condemnation. We will lift our own boycott of Turkish products when Erdogan changes his anti-Semitic course.”
Morton Williams Supermarkets has 11 branches in New York City and New Jersey.
Turkey says it is working on truce with US, Qatar, Egypt
The Turkish foreign minister says he is working with US, Qatar, and Egypt leaders to draft a ceasefire agreement, and remains in contact with Palestinian leaders at all times.
He adds that the leaders are also discussing humanitarian aid.
“The US, Turkey, Qatar and Egypt have been working for the last five days to ensure an immediate ceasefire,” Ahmet Davutoglu tells Turkish broadcaster Ahaber, according to Reuters.
‘Nowhere for civilians to find shelter in Gaza’
UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos expresses deep concern Thursday about the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, warning that it was “almost impossible” for Palestinians to shelter from Israeli airstrikes.
“The reality in Gaza is, it doesn’t matter how hard Israel tries to minimize harm, this is an extremely overcrowded stretch of land,” Amos tells BBC radio.
“Forty-four percent of that land has been declared a no-go zone by the Israeli army so there aren’t that many places for people to go.”
She describes “people crowded into a sliver of land, almost impossible for them to move.”
“The trauma that they are experiencing is terrible, and one child killed every hour in the past two days — each and every one of us should sit up and take notice of this,” says Amos.
Egypt foils suicide bombing near Kerem Shalom
The Egyptian army foils a terror attack on Israel, killing a suicide bomber en route to the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reports.
The bomber carried an explosive device and was wearing an explosive belt, it reports, citing Egyptian military sources.
The Egyptian army also kills two operatives in a car filled with Grad missiles — intended to be fired at Israel — in north Sinai.
France pledges €11 million in Gaza aid
President Francois Hollande Thursday announces a €11 million ($14.8 million) aid package for Gaza after meeting French nongovernmental organizations working in the area.
The NGOs “highlighted the gravity of the situation, the scale of the humanitarian needs of the civilian population and the difficulty of humanitarian workers in getting to the victims,” Hollande’s office says.
Hamas is not about to fold; like Israel, it’s sure it’s winning
The Times of Israel’s Avi Issacharoff analyzes the next stages of the campaign:
Wednesday’s speech by the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, in Qatar, did not constitute good news. One way or another Mashaal made clear that the fighting is likely to continue for a considerable time. The stance he presented, which is accepted by all wings of Hamas — military and political, in Gaza and overseas — is that there will be no ceasefire without the full lifting of the blockade on the Strip
This reality isn’t easy for Israel to deal with. Among a fair proportion of Israel’s political and security leadership, the hope, even the assumption, has been that Hamas is about to halt its fire, surrender, or moderate its demands. This does not reflect the reality. Hamas is adamant that it will continue to fight until Egypt and Israel accept its demands, in part because the Gaza public insists upon it. Given the very heavy price paid by Gaza, residents insist on real change and not a return to the status quo.
Mashaal set out a notably tough negotiating position, but the simple fact is that Hamas has not been sufficiently damaged and does not feel its future is existentially threatened, and therefore is not seeking compromise, much less surrender. Its military and political command echelons are unharmed, its gunmen are killing IDF soldiers, and its rocket capabilities have been slightly weakened but not destroyed.
Therefore the Israeli public needs to internalize that this operation may continue for a long while yet. The army will continue its activities in the coming days, until the last of the tunnels is dealt with. The question is what will happen the day after that.
Click here to read the full analysis.
Israeli press presents diverse coverage of day 16
There’s enough going on in Protective Edge that each paper finds a different aspect of the operation to focus on in Thursday’s papers (except that, sadly, all three have the pictures of the five soldiers killed since Tuesday night).
Yedioth Ahronoth uses its front page to answer those who ask “What’s the goal of all this?” with the headline “The goal: A temporary ceasefire without leaving Gaza.”
Haaretz’s main story focuses on the world’s reaction to Operation Protective Edge. “UN rights council to form commission to investigate Israel for war crimes in Gaza; Kerry leaves for Cairo without a breakthrough,” reads the lengthy headline.
Israel Hayom decides to dedicate its first pages to boosting the morale of the Israeli home front. “Israel the beautiful,” the front page headline declares, and its first two pages are dedicated to the funeral of Max Steinberg, the lone soldier from Los Angeles who was killed in Gaza.
Click here to read the full Hebrew media review.
— Yossi Nachemi
Europe aviation agency to lift flight warning
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announces it is set to remove its recommendation that European carriers avoid flying to Ben Gurion Airport.
EASA to lift recommendation to avoid Tel Aviv Ben Gourion International Airport after contact with Israeli authorities
— EASA (@EASA) July 24, 2014
Iron Dome intercepts several rockets over Kiryat Gat
Over 50 Gazans killed today — Palestinian medics
Local medics report more than 50 people are killed in Gaza Thursday, mostly in the south, hiking the overall Palestinian death toll to 746 since July 8.
B’nai B’rith Europe group on solidarity trip
A six-member group from B’nai B’rith Europe is visiting on a solidarity mission.
The group was briefed by government officials on the ongoing conflict with Hamas, learned first hand about the realities faced by Israelis in the most heavily shelled areas, and conveyed a message of unity with the people of Israel.
It visited Ashkelon, Sderot, areas in the Merhavim and Hof Ashkelon regional councils, and an Iron Dome battery.
B’nai B’rith Europe – an affiliate of B’nai B’rith International – is represented in 29 countries throughout Europe.
Cabinet to vote on aid for home front
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the cabinet this afternoon to vote on a series of financial measures to assist residents affected by Operation Protective Edge.
The plan, presented by Netanyahu in conjunction with Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, recommends paying an advance to employers toward the compensation of reserve duty, as well as to soldiers in the reserves who are independent contractors, students, and unemployed.
The proposal will also cover special costs incurred to local authorities due to the campaign. It will push forward the construction of 500 new shelters, found a new blood bank for the Magen David Adom, provide compensation to businesses hurt by the ongoing campaign, and boost the tourism, health, and welfare sectors in the south.
Ground op, airstrikes to continue — Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is speaking at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. He says IDF soldiers are continuing to carry out operations in the Gaza Strip “at full force,” by land and air.
He says that in the 17 days since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Israel has managed to do “deep and significant” damage to the terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip — “terrorists, rockets, headquarters, manufacturing facilities, and other targets.”
The prime minister says that on land, the soldiers’ objective is to “locate and neutralize” terror tunnels dug to “reach Israeli territory and carry out deadly large-scale attacks on Israeli civilians.”
He says that the government has also been working to overturn the ban on flights to Israel, adding that these efforts “bore fruit.”
The prime minister thanks Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, and Israeli soldiers and reservists for “taking part in this important struggle to defend our country.”
He extends his condolences to the families of the fallen, praising the home front for its solidarity with the soldiers in Gaza.
“Our strength is in our unity,” Netanyahu says.
‘Flight crisis almost behind us’
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz says: “The flight crisis is almost behind us.”
He says American and European airlines are gradually resuming flights, and that “the skies are open.”
“I’m very sorry about what the Americans did. But in retrospect, they’ve now made clear, after the most careful checks… that Ben-Gurion is safe and secure,” he says.
Europe aviation body calls for ‘urgent’ security debate
Europe’s aviation body calls for an “urgent” debate on airspace security guidelines after the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine and the suspension of flights to Tel Aviv.
Airlines need independent risk assessments of their flight plans, rather than relying on governments and air traffic control alone to decide on danger zones, the Association of European Airlines (AEA) says.
“The downing of Malaysian Airlines’ flight MH17, which was flying in approved international airspace, triggers questions about how risk assessments are made,” AEA chief Athar Husain Khan says in a statement.
“Together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and our member airlines, we ask for an international debate about airspace security guidance,” he says.
Pakistan says end blockade, release prisoners
Pakistan calls for an immediate end to the blockade on Gaza to allow humanitarian relief to reach Palestinians in the coastal enclave as the death toll in the besieged territory rises to more than 740.
The appeal comes a day after Pakistan voted, along with other UN Human Rights Council members, to launch a probe into Israel’s offensive in the territory, with rights chief Navi Pillay saying its military actions could amount to war crimes.
“The blockade of Gaza must be ended in order to allow access of any humanitarian assistance,” Pakistan’s most senior foreign office bureaucrat, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, tells a press briefing.
“And that is why even in the UN Security Council and later in UN Human Rights Council we called for humanitarian pauses,” Chaudhry explains.
“It is important that the blockade of Gaza is ended, its borders opened and the Palestinian prisoners released,” Chaudhry says.
Some airlines resume flights
After American carriers resume their flights to and from Israel, Britain’s easyJet, Italy’s Alitalia and Germany’s Air Berlin follow suit.
Lufthansa and affiliated companies have yet to resume service to Israel.
Israeli fire on Gaza school causes casualties — UN
An unspecified number of people seeking shelter in a UN school in the northern Gaza Strip are wounded by an Israeli tank shell, a UN official tells AFP.
“At 14:50 [Gaza time], a shell landed in or near” an UNRWA school being used as a shelter, the official says.
“People in the shelter were hurt,” he says, with a spokesman for Gaza’s emergency services reporting deaths at the scene.
2 rockets shot down over Ashkelon
Two rockets are shot down over the southern city of Ashkelon, one of them near the city’s Barzilai Medical Center.
Baby said among 9 dead in UN school
At least nine people, including a baby, are killed when an Israeli tank shell hits a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip, an AFP correspondent says.
A UN official confirms “multiple dead and injured” at the school in Beit Hanun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area.
Europe lifts warning on Tel Aviv flights
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) lifts its recommendation for airlines to stop flights to Tel Aviv due to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
It says it has revised the decision it adopted yesterday “on the basis of information provided by the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel and following coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Palestinians report at least 17 dead in UN school
At least 17 people died and 200 were injured in an Israeli attack on a UN school in Beit Hanoun, Palestinian sources report.
“Many more are feared killed among the hundreds who had taken shelter there with Israeli coordination,” the Ma’an news agency reports.
Israel knew school sheltered civilians — UN
Israel knew the UN school in Beit Hanoun was serving as a shelter for civilians as Israel’s Operation Defense Edge in the Gaza Strip continued, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness says.
“Precise co-ordinates of the UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun had been formally given to the Israeli army,” Gunness tweets as reports emerge of large numbers of casualties from Israeli shelling of the school.
“Over the course of the day UNRWA tried 2 coordinate with the Israeli Army a window for civilians 2 leave & it was never granted,” Gunness adds after confirming “multiple dead and injured” in the attack on the building.
Confirm multiple dead and injured at designated UNRWA shelter in Beit Hanoun RT
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
IDF looking into UN school shelling — report
The IDF is investigating reports of high numbers of civilian casualties in an attack by an Israeli tank on a UN school that was being used as a shelter by Palestinians seeking safety from airstrikes, and from where gunfire may have emanated, Channel 2 reports, citing military sources.
Hamas may have reached turning point
Today may be the “turning point” in the fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip, Channel 2 reports, citing sources in the IDF.
The sources reportedly say that the tide of the fighting is turning, that a certain demoralization has set in among the Hamas fighters in the Strip, and that there has been a “major decline” in rocket attacks on Israel.
The military says 150 Hamas fighters have turned themselves in today, and that the organization’s best units were fighting in Shejaiya, where the IDF has focused many of its efforts to uncover terror tunnels.
However, the military is said to continue warning troops against relentless kidnapping attempts by Hamas. The soldiers are warned not to underestimate the terrorist organization, which will not surrender easily.
‘IDF needs more time to destroy tunnels’
The IDF is continuing its operation in the Gaza Strip, but needs more time to destroy the network of terror tunnels in the coastal enclave. However, it might not have the time to do so, as the window of international approval for the Israeli operation is closing, Channel 2 quotes military sources as saying.
Bennett urges FIFA to cancel Qatar World Cup
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett calls on FIFA to cancel the soccer World Cup planned for 2022 in Qatar.
“Qatar is one of the the greatest state sponsors of terrorism,” Bennett says. “The Hamas headquarters are based in Qatar, Qatar finances Hamas terror activity. Qatar is one of the main sources of unrest right now in the region … The world needs to decide if the World Cup is a cup of soccer or a cup of terror.”
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is taking place in Russia.
— Raphael Ahren
30 rockets fired at Israel today
30 rockets were fired at Israel today, 9 of which were shot down by Iron Dome, Channel 2 reports, citing military sources.
Israel-bound passengers still stranded in Turkey
Even as American and European aviation agencies review and lift their bans on flights to Israel, Tel Aviv-bound passengers continue to be stranded in Turkey, with Turkish Airlines refusing to pay for additional nights in Istanbul hotels for passengers stranded in the city after the airline canceled their flights.
Times of Israel reporter Melanie Lidman, who was stranded in Istanbul until she decided to travel on Ukrainian Airlines, which is still operating flights to Israel, says El Al has not operated 4 flights out of Istanbul, as it claims.
She says El Al agreed to pick passengers up from Greece, but that making their way there at the last minute was proving very costly.
— Melanie Lidman in Kiev contributed to this report
We aren’t fighting Palestinian people — Rivlin
As he is sworn in as Israel’s tenth president, Reuven Rivlin stresses in his induction speech this afternoon that Israel is fighting neither the Palestinian people nor the Muslim faith.
“We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam. We are fighting against terrorism,” he says.
“We are gathered here today with a very clear message to our enemies: You have not overcome us and you will not do so … While we use rockets to protect civilians, they use civilians to protect rockets. And so the eradication of that terrorism is not only a just act, it is a humanitarian act. Only the eradication of terrorism will put an end to the killing of innocents on both sides,” he continues.
82 Gazans reported dead in Israeli strikes today
82 Gazans have died in Israeli strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip today, bringing the total Palestinian death toll since the start of Operation Protective Edge to 777, according to Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
Al-Qudra adds that 5,000 Palestinians have been injured in the 17 days since the operation began.
Rockets fired near UNWRA school — IDF
Capt. Eytan Buchman of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says of this afternoon’s incident at the UNRWA facility, in which at least 15 people are reported killed, that the military is “confirming that there was serious combat in the area.”
Buchman says, “We can also confirm that terror rockets from the area were fired and landed in the neighborhood of the facility this afternoon.”
He adds, “We are carefully reviewing the matter.”
— Mitch Ginsburg
Kerry urges Hamas allies to press truce
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support terrorist organization Hamas, as he presses for a Gaza ceasefire.
Kerry — who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict — spoke by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a US official says.
The top US diplomat is hoping Qatar and Turkey will use their influence to encourage Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan, which the Islamist group has so far rejected, the official says.
Kerry also speaks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after meeting him for two hours last night.
Arab MKs boycott Rivlin induction
Arab MKs boycott the swearing-in ceremony of incoming President Reuven Rivlin in protest of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, Channel 2’s Amit Segal tweets.
Rivlin is currently being inducted in the Knesset plenum in Jerusalem.
Turkey slams attempts to boycott Jewish writer
Calls for a boycott of a prominent Turkish author of Jewish descent over Israel’s assault in Gaza are being denounced by politicians in Turkey as a “hate crime.”
Turkey has taken a lead in denouncing the Israeli campaign in Gaza — launched in a bid to stem rocket strikes launched from Gaza at Israel’s citizens — which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called a genocide. But the government insists that the criticism is against Israel’s policies, and is not in any way anti-Semitic.
Today, a social media campaign for a boycott of Israeli products sparks a storm of criticism after calls are heard to include works by acclaimed Turkish-Jewish novelist Mario Levi.
Culture Minister Omer Celik describes the “provocations” against Levi as a “hate crime,” while warning Turkish citizens against taking out their anger on the country’s 17,000-strong Jewish community.
“Provocations against Mario Levi, a brilliant author of Turkish (literature), are completely wrong. They are hate crimes,” he writes on Twitter.
Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, for his part, denounces the attacks against Levi as “an eclipse of reason.”
Footballer-turned-MP Hakan Sukur, meanwhile, tweets: “If people launch a campaign to boycott a writer like Mario Levi for his beliefs, this is a hate crime, to say the least.”
The Istanbul-born Levi, 57, has penned more than 10 novels, most notably the 1999 novel “Istanbul was a Fairy Tale.”
Levi himself has expressed his sorrow over the Palestinian victims of Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, as well as regret over the campaign against him.
“Words are not enough to tell how much the tragic war in Gaza and the death of innocent children is breaking my heart. I can’t believe I have experienced something like this in the country that I love to my bones,” Levi said.
Peres decries ‘murder tunnels,’ says Gaza a ‘tragedy’
As his seven-year term as Israel’s ninth president comes to a close, President Shimon Peres says he never imagined that he would finish out his last days in the position of urging international support for Israel even as it uncovers “hidden murder tunnels” and is hit by barrages of rockets aimed at civilians.
Blasting the UNHRC’s decision to investigate Israel on suspicion that it committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip, Peres says he never imaged Israel would “have to warn the world of the danger of the insanity of terrorism,” which is “trying to shed our blood” and is causing “rivers of blood” to run in Gaza.
“Never has such a small minority torn apart the fabric of entire nations and cruelly sent babies to shield its crimes,” he says. “Hamas has pushed the hundreds of thousands of civilians in Gaza into a field of fire and death. The terrorists have turned Gaza, which is over 3,000 years old, into a man-made tragedy. We willingly evacuated the Israeli presence from it and even assisted in its rehabilitation. Unfortunately, unfortunately for it, terrorist fanatics have taken over it, taken the resources that were allocated for its rehabilitation, and invested them in mechanisms of terror and murder.”
He adds that “Israel is not the enemy of the residents of Gaza.”
Slew of rockets hits Beersheba, border area
A slew of rockets hits Beersheba and areas close to the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
No casualties are reported.
Israeli airstrike kills 7, mostly kids, Gazans report
An Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip killed seven people today, most of them children, medics say.
The dead include three people from one family and three from another, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says.
The strike hit between the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, he adds, without giving further details.
Errant Israeli shell, Palestinian rocket may have hit school — Channel 2
An Israeli mortar shell may have hit the UNRWA school in which 15 Palestinians are said to have been killed today, Channel 2’s Ehud Ya’ari says, citing Israeli military sources. It was one of nine shells fired at a Hamas target — but went off course, “possibly” hitting the school instead.
Ya’ari adds, however, that a Palestinian rocket also hit the compound, and indicates that UNRWA officials have acknowledged this. Two hours ago, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness tweeted that Hamas rockets were falling in Beit Hanoun, where the school is located, earlier today.
Also being reported there were Hamas rockets falling in Beit Hanoun today RT
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) July 24, 2014
UN chief condemns attack on UN school in Gaza
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemns a deadly attack on a UN school in northern Gaza that reportedly killed many Palestinians who sought refuge there from Israeli shelling, as well as UN staff.
The UN chief again demands that Israel and Hamas abide by international humanitarian law during their conflict and respect “the sanctity of civilian life, the inviolability of UN premises” and protect humanitarian workers.
However, he says in a statement in Erbil, Iraq, that the “circumstances are still unclear.”
Ban adds that UN staff are attempting to arrange “a humanitarian pause in the hostilities so that civilians could be evacuated.”
“Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop — and to stop now,” Ban says.
200-500 gunmen said killed in Gaza so far
Channel 2’s Roni Daniel says that between 200 and 300 Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of Operation Protective Edge.
The channel’s Ehud Ya’ari puts the number at 500, citing “a very reliable source.”
Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said earlier today that a total of 777 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the 17 days since the operation began.
2 wounded by rocket fire in Eshkol region
One person was seriously injured and another lightly injured after a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hits the Eshkol region, in southern Israel.
The two are evacuated to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.
Hamas barred evacuation of UNRWA school — IDF
Hamas prevented civilians from evacuating the UNRWA school-turned-shelter where a reported 15-plus people were killed earlier today, according to the IDF Spokesperson. The school was reportedly hit by an errant IDF mortar shell and may have been hit by a Hamas rocket.
The IDF tweets that last night, it told the Red Cross to evacuate civilians from the Beit Hanoun shelter between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and both UNRWA and the Red Cross got the message.
The military says that this morning, Hamas fired at IDF troops from a populated area near the shelter, and also prevented the evacuation of civilians from the area.
It adds that earlier today, “several rockets launched from Gaza toward Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanoun.”
The assessment in the IDF is that “apparently” a mortar shell went off course and hit the courtyard, says Channel 2’s Roni Daniel. At the same time, a Hamas rocket may also have hit the courtyard. Hamas was targeting IDF troops in the area, he adds.
UN staff killed in attack on UN school — Ban
An attack on a UN-run school in Gaza this afternoon has claimed lives among the UN staff, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“Many have been killed — including women and children, as well as UN staff,” Ban says in a statement.
Abbas still hopes for truce, has ‘lot of demands’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he hopes a ceasefire can be agreed on in Gaza.
“So far, there is hope for a ceasefire,” Abbas says after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman.
“We have to wait… and insist that ending the fighting is the only solution to ease the Palestinian suffering and end the bloodshed. Everybody should work on that,” a palace statement quotes Abbas as saying.
Abbas says an Egyptian truce proposal that has been accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas “should be approved.”
“It has already been approved. A ceasefire will be reached in line with the Egyptian initiative before launching negotiations about certain demands,” he adds.
“We have a lot of demands, after that we will discuss what would happen in the future.”
New details emerge on Gaza APC ambush
New details emerge on the deadly Hamas ambush in Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood in which six Israeli soldiers were killed and another went missing. Citing military sources, Channel 2 reports that the armored personnel carrier (APC) that was hit by an anti-tank missile early Sunday morning was not the one that was stuck in one of the neighborhood’s narrow streets, but the one sent into the neighborhood to evacuate soldiers out of the first vehicle.
The battle in Shejaiya began on Saturday night. During the early hours Sunday, the 1970s-model APC got stuck — apparently, in a pre-planned Hamas ambush. A second APC was sent in to evacuate soldiers out of the stalled vehicle, but Hamas operatives opened fire on it. An anti-tank missile penetrated the APC and exploded, causing immense damage.
The army has released the names of the six confirmed dead soldiers: Sgt. Max Steinberg, 24, originally from Los Angeles; First Sgt. Shahar Tase, 20, from Pardesiya; First Sgt. Daniel Pomerantz, 20, from Kfar Azar; Sgt. Shon Mondshein, 19, from Tel Aviv; Sgt. Ben Yitzhak Oanounou, 19, from Ashdod; and First Sgt. Oren Simcha Noach, 22, from Hoshaya. A seventh soldier, Oron Shaul, is missing in action; Hamas claim they have kidnapped him.
46% of Israelis want Hamas toppled — poll
Forty-six percent of Israelis want Operation Protective Edge to go on until Hamas is removed from power in the Gaza Strip, a new poll by Channel 2 shows.
The results of the poll also reveal that 41 percent of Israelis say they would like the operation to go on only until all attack tunnels in Gaza are destroyed.
The same survey says 82% of Israelis give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a favorable rating for his handling of the crisis.
Lufthansa extends Israel flight ban by 24 hours
German flag carrier Lufthansa says it will continue to suspend flights to Tel Aviv for another 24 hours over security concerns amid the raging conflict in the Gaza Strip.
“We will resume flights as soon as the protection of the airport is assured in a tangible manner,” it says in a statement.
Earlier today, US airlines lifted their bans on flights to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, which were imposed two days ago after a rocket fell near the airport, with the European air safety agency following suit by lifting its own warning.
Condition of injured soldier becomes critical
The condition of one of the Israeli soldiers injured in Operation Protective Edge has taken a turn for the worse and become critical, Israel Radio reports.
The soldier is one of 41 IDF troops currently undergoing treatment at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center.
US urges civilian protection in Gaza
The United States urges greater effort to protect civilians in the Gaza Strip as it voices sadness over deaths at a UN school that served as a shelter.
“We are deeply saddened and concerned about the tragic incident,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says in Cairo, where Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to negotiate a ceasefire.
“We again urge all parties to redouble their efforts to protect civilians.”
Psaki also condemns the storage of weapons in UN facilities.
“We urge all parties to respect civilian life and comply with international humanitarian law,” she says.
Israelis post racy photos to boost IDF morale
Following on the heels of a Facebook page in which Israeli women have been posting racy photos of themselves in a bid to boost morale among IDF soldiers, a similar page pops up — this time, for Israeli men to post racy photos of themselves.
The original Facebook page, titled “Standing With the IDF – Maintaining a Protective Edge” (in a rough translation from the Hebrew), was created last night and has already gained nearly 7,000 likes.
It has featured racy photos of dozens Israeli women, with messages in support of IDF troops inscribed across their scantily clad bodies.
Now, “Standing With the IDF – Maintaining a Protective Edge – Men,” is allowing men to express their support for the ladies of the Israeli army — also on their own bodies.
Rockets rain on Eilat
Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit Eilat, Channel 10’s Alon Ben-David reports.
Viral campaign shows Israeli leaders killing Disney child heroes
A new protest campaign by an anonymous Middle East-based graphic designer shows Israeli leaders killing the child heroes of popular Disney films.
The images, which went viral today after they were posted on Facebook by the Hamas Al-Quds news network, show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and outgoing president Shimon Peres murdering Pinocchio, Alice and Peter Pan, respectively.
In the first image, Netanyahu, wielding a hammer, can be seen crouching above a beaten, bleeding Pinocchio, poised to strike. A Palestinian flag lies by the wooden boy’s broken hand. At the bottom of the poster, a caption reads, “He never became a real boy… save the innocence in Palestine.”
In the next image, Livni can be seen brandishing a large knife above Alice’s bleeding head, her other hand holding the girl in place. A Palestinian flag lies in a pool of blood by Alice’s hand. The caption underneath the image reads, “She could never dream again… save the innocence in Palestine.”
In the last image, Peres can be seen throttling a bruised, bound Peter Pan, a murderous glint in his eyes. “He was forced to grow up… save the innocence in Palestine,” reads the caption.
The campaign, by an artist known only by the name Saint Hoax, is titled “Once Upon A War” and can be viewed on the artist’s website. In the past, Saint Hoax, whose trademark is “combining pop art with tyrants,” has created graphics to protest other issues as well, from domestic violence to British immigration policies.
We gave Hamas rocket know-how, Iran boasts
Iran provided Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza, its parliament speaker says.
Tehran frequently boasts of the financial and material support it gives to Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but more rarely talks of its military assistance.
“Today, the fighters in Gaza have good capabilities and can meet their own needs for weapons,” speaker Ali Larijani tells the Arabic service of state television.
“But once upon a time, they needed the arms manufacture know-how and we gave it to them,” he says.
During the last major conflict in and around Gaza in November 2012, Larijani said Iran was “proud” to have provided “both financial and military support” to Hamas.
Yesterday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on the Palestinians to keep fighting Israel and to expand their “resistance” from Gaza to the West Bank.
Rocket shot down over Eilat
At least one rocket is shot down over the southern city of Eilat. Another rocket is said to fall in an open area in the city, causing no casualties, although several people are treated for shock by emergency rescue services.
400 protest Gaza op outside Madrid embassy
Several hundred protesters demand a halt to Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza during a demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in Madrid.
About 400 demonstrators, many of them waving Palestinian flags, chant “murderers” as police look on.
“Boycott Israel,” “Peace” and “How many more have to die?” are among the slogans displayed on signs wielded by demonstrators of all ages.
The protest is organized by a coalition of over 40 peace groups and left-wing trade unions, including Spain’s largest union, Comisiones Obreras.
Hamas says Gaza death toll nearing 800
The death toll from the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip has reached 798, Hamas health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra says.
The Hamas spokesman says 98 people died in the Strip today, at least 15 of them in an attack on a UN-run school in the northern town of Beit Hanun, where hundreds of civilians had sought refuge from the violence. The IDF is still trying to determine whether the errant projectile that hit the school was fired by Israel or Hamas.
Earlier today, Hamas rockets launched at Israel fell short and hit Beit Hanun instead. The Israeli army was conducting raids in the area, but had warned UNRWA in advance to evacuate the school, leading the IDF to suspect that Hamas had prevented the evacuation of the building.
Al-Qudra gives no immediate details on those killed in the attack, but an AFP correspondent reports that a mother and her one-year-old infant are among the dead brought into a nearby mortuary.
A later airstrike between the southern cities of Rafah and Khan Yunis killed seven people, the “majority of them children” from three different families, Qudra says.
He provides the names and ages of three of the children — Mahmud Abedin, 12, Nabeel al-Astal, 12, and Ashraf al-Najjar, 13 — but no further details.
Elsewhere, nighttime shelling near a hospital east of Gaza City results in the death of a sick child and 30 others wounded, and an air strike in Khan Yunis kills four people, Qudra says.
— AFP contributed
Pro-Israel rally in Milan draws 500
A pro-Israel rally in Milan, Italy, draws some 500 people, who come to show support for Israel in its struggle against Hamas.
The rally is held at the city’s Piazza San Babila.
“We sang, we danced, we voiced peace and a siren went off to demonstrate what it’s like to live in the line of fire,” one Israeli, Elinor Betesh, tells The Times of Israel. “Vogliamo la pace! We are proud to be Israeli!”
— Sarah Tuttle-Singer
No ceasefire while tunnels remain — Herzog
There can be no ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas terror tunnels remain, Labor Party head and opposition leader Isaac Herzog tells Channel 2.
“It is Israel that should dictate the terms of the ceasefire,” Herzog says.
He adds that Israel should erect a “diplomatic Iron Dome” by pursuing peace talks with the Palestinians.
IDF says it has uncovered 31 ‘terror tunnels’
The IDF posts a summary on the latest developments in Gaza:
Since the beginning of the ground phase of Operation Protective Edge, IDF soldiers have uncovered 31 tunnels used for terror, 11 of which were subsequently destroyed by IDF forces. Throughout the morning, the IDF has targeted approximately 90 terror activity sites in Gaza. Among them were concealed rocket launchers and surveillance posts.
In the early morning hours, IDF soldiers detained 2 militants who were identified emerging from an access shaft of a tunnel used for terror.
In a separate incident, soldiers identified a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt in the southern Gaza Strip. The soldiers fired at him, confirming the threat neutralized. Subsequently, the force located 2 tunnel access shafts adjacent to the scene.
Attached is a map specifying the locations of several of the tunnels uncovered by IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip during the course of Operation Protective Edge.
Later on, armored forces identified a squad of armed militants and fired at their direction, confirming a hit.
Police, Palestinians clash near Jerusalem
Fierce clashes are underway right now between police and thousands of Palestinians at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, as well as in several flash points in the capital.
There are reports that one Palestinian has been killed in the clashes.
2 Palestinians reported killed in clashes
Latest reports say 2 Palestinians have been killed in the violent protests at the Qalandiya checkpoint, with Palestinian accusations that police are using live fire on demonstrators.
Police are denying using live ammo, and are accusing the Palestinians of opening fire on Israeli security forces there.
Over 100 Palestinians are injured as well as several police.
Palestinians carry dummy rocket at protest near Jerusalem
Palestinians carry a dummy rocket at a violent protest in the West Bank near the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, attended by at least 10,000 according to reports.
צעירים פלסטינים נושאים דגם של רקטה בהפגנה הסוערת במחסום קלנדיה מצפון לירושלים. pic.twitter.com/DarlOB12Ev
— yoram cohen (@cohen_yoram) July 24, 2014
2 cops injured, 20 Palestinians arrested in Old City
Two police officers are injured and at least 20 Palestinians are under arrest following clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City.
Riots are also ongoing in the eastern part of the city including in Issawiya and Wadi Joz.
— Ilan Ben Zion
Qalandiya protest ‘largest since Second Intifada’
Israeli journalists report that the violent protest at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah is one of the largest seen in over a decade.
“Qalandiya, as not seen since the days of the [Second] Intifada,” writes Israel Radio’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent Gal Berger.
קלנדיה-כפי שלא נראתה מימי האינתיפאדה: אלפי פלס' צעדו לשם הערב למען עזה. דיווח: הרוג פלס' וקרוב למאה פצועים. דגם רקטה pic.twitter.com/hPypBxBmGh
— Gal Berger (@galberger) July 24, 2014
“The scenes seen tonight at the Qalandiya checkpoint remind [me] of the Intifada. Don’t remember in recent years thousands [of Palestinians] confronting the IDF. Tomorrow, a dramatic day in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” writes Channel 1’s West Bank reporter.
המראות שראיתי הערב במחסום קלנדיה מזכירים אינתיפאדה. לא זוכר בשנים האחרונות אלפים יוצאים לעימות עם צה"ל. מחר יום דרמטי בשטחים ובמזרח י-ם
— yoram cohen (@cohen_yoram) July 24, 2014
3 arrested for stone-throwing at Jewish home in East Jerusalem
Police arrest three Palestinian youths on suspicion of throwing stones at a home belonging to Jewish residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
There were no reports of injuries or damage.
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