The Times of Israel liveblogged events as they unfolded through Sunday, August 17, the 41st day of Operation Protective Edge. A five-day truce began amid rocket fire midnight Wednesday, but held through Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. An 11-point Egyptian ceasefire proposal, leaked to the press on Friday, was rejected by Hamas leaders Saturday. Negotiators headed back to Cairo Sunday for more talks. (Monday’s liveblog is here.)

You can also follow @TOIAlerts on Twitter — we’re live-tweeting all the updates there as well.

Day 41 of Operation Protective Edge

PREAMBLE: A five-day truce held through its third full day on Saturday, but prospects for a longer term arrangement appeared to dim.

An 11-point Egyptian ceasefire proposal was rejected by several Hamas leaders and spokesmen. Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal, speaking in Qatar, said Hamas insisted on a full lifting of the Gaza blockade and the opening of a seaport and airport. Israel’s position has been that easing of access to Gaza requires the disarming of Hamas, so that it cannot exploit any lifting of the blockade.

Talks in Cairo are meant to resume on Sunday. The truce is set to expire at midnight on Monday.

Over 10,000 turn out to Tel Aviv peace rally

Late Saturday, approximately 10,000 people turned out to a peace rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. They called for a political solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on told the crowd that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a failure and should resign. She also called for an end to the Gaza blockade.

Author David Grossman addressed the crowd, and said that Israelis “are losing our home to fanaticism and internal hatred.”

“Dangerous movements are coming to pass in Israel because of the despair, the anxiety, nationalism and racism erupting all at once,” he said. “Not one word of condemnation has been uttered by the prime minister. It will be very difficult to rein in the dark forces. I’m concerned that the leaders enjoyed seeing the Left held hostage, but this tide will turn against them when they appear too moderate. These processes and phenomena will unfortunately turn Israel into a radical, militant, xenophobic cult, isolated and ostracized.”

Israeli driver hurt in petrol bomb attack near Jerusalem

An Israeli man in his 40s was hospitalized with moderate injuries Saturday night, after his car was hit by a petrol bomb in the West Bank south of Jerusalem.

The IDF dispatched troops to the area — near the Palestinian village of Husan near the Betar Illit settlement.

The driver, whose car was also hit by stones, received treatment from Magen David Adom and was taken to Hadassah Hospital at Ein Kerem for further treatment.

The petrol bomb set the car ablaze, Channel 2 reported.

An MDA paramedic said the victim was stable, but had a wound to the head and second degree burns.

There were no immediate arrests.

Abbas calls on Hamas to accept truce deal

During a meeting in Qatar, Palestinian Authority representative Saeb Erekat reportedly delivers to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal a message from PA President Mahmoud Abbas, asking Mashaal to support the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

Erekat is quoted by Ynet as saying that the truce with Israel should be consolidated.

The message from Abbas states that Abbas himself will oversee a conference next month dealing with efforts to rebuild Gaza, the report says.

US strikes Islamic State targets in Iraq

The US military confirms it conducted nine airstrikes Saturday near Arbil and Iraq’s largest dam in an effort to help Kurdish forces retake it from violent extremists.

US Central Command says fighter jets and drones destroyed or damaged four armored personnel carriers, seven armed vehicles, two Humvees and an armored vehicle.

CENTCOM “conducted these strikes under authority to support humanitarian efforts in Iraq, as well as to protect US personnel and facilities,” it adds.

“All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.”

Kurdish forces attacked the Islamic State (IS) fighters who wrested the Mosul dam from them a week earlier, a general tells AFP.

“Kurdish peshmerga, with US air support, have seized control of the eastern side of the dam” complex, Major General Abdulrahman Korini tells AFP, saying several militants had been killed.

Buoyed by the air strikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, the peshmerga fighters have tried to claw back the ground they lost since the start of August.

The dam on the Tigris provides electricity to much of the region and is crucial to irrigation in vast farming areas in Nineveh province.

The recapture of Mosul dam would be one of the most significant achievements in a fightback that is also getting international material support.

The strikes took place just a day after IS militants carried out a “massacre” of dozens of villagers.


Watch Khaled Mashaal interview

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal was interviewed on Al Jazeera Saturday, and said, among other things, that the month-long conflict with Israel was “not a war of choice, not the choice of the Palestinian people, or the choice of Hamas.”

The full interview has been uploaded to YouTube here:

Deputy commander of Gaza region during op says Israel should have hit tunnels sooner

Israel should have acted sooner to target cross-border tunnels from Gaza, said a retired IDF major general who has been serving as the deputy commander of the southern region during Operation Protective Edge.

Yom-Tov Samia, who during his active duty served as commander of the southern region, told Channel 2’s Meet the Press Saturday that “The tunnels should have been taken care of before the operation.

“The political echelon should have enabled the IDF to take care of the tunnels on a regular basis, on the other side of the border as well, and initiate a preventative operation against the tunnels, regardless of rocket fire and the kidnapping and killing of the three youths.”

Read the full story here.

Israel could declare unilateral end to Gaza op, report says

Should talks in Cairo fail to produce a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, Israel will announce a unilateral cessation of its military operation in the Gaza Strip, based on the idea of “answering quiet for quiet,” Haaretz reports.

If that were to happen, says the report, which cites senior Israeli officials, world powers would likely try to push for a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the war in Gaza.

Israel’s delegation to the talks is expected in Cairo early Sunday, with less than two days left before a five-day truce with Hamas is set to run out.

Hamas, for its part, has threatened to pursue an extended “war of attrition” with Israel should the Jewish state refuse to meet its demands.

Pro-Palestinian protesters trash UK supermarket

Demonstrators in the UK calling for a Birmingham Tesco supermarket to stop selling Israeli goods threw produce on the floor and shouted at patrons and staff on Saturday.

One person was arrested for assaulting police officers.

“I was just in the Tesco in Hodge Hill, scanning my items and I heard chanting,” says one customer, according to the Telegraph. “Then a group of Asian men holding Palestinian flags came walking in and starting to push products over and getting aggressive with staff and shoppers.

“Police officers tried to stop them but I ran out.”

Qatar to donate $1,000 to each displaced Gazan

The gulf emirate Qatar will donate $1,000 to every Gazan homeowner whose house was completely destroyed in the recent fighting in the Strip, the Daily Star reports, quoting Palestinian officials.

Qatar is Hamas’s primary sponsor, and former President Shimon Peres has accused Qatar of being “the world’s largest funder of terror.”

The gulf state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction and infrastructure projects in Gaza, and is also home to the movement’s political leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, right, as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, center, looks on, after signing an agreement in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Feb 6, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, right, as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, center, looks on, after signing an agreement in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Feb 6, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Osama Faisal)

Cabinet to meet at 10

Netanyahu will convene his cabinet Sunday morning at 10 a.m. in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on June 15, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Pool/Abir Sultan)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting on June 15, 2014. (photo credit: AFP Photo/Pool/Abir Sultan)

‘Israel has not yet agreed to Egyptian proposal’

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan says Israel has not yet agreed to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, and that it contains problematic clauses, Reshet Bet reports.

Gilad Erdan on July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Gilad Erdan on July 8, 2013. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Minister says no truce agreement might be best option

“It is possible that the talks in Cairo will end without an arrangement, and if this is the situation, it will be preferable given the options on the table,” an unnamed minister tells Ynet.

Youths arrested overnight for anti-Arab crimes

Three youths were arrested near Jerusalem’s Zion Square on suspicion of attacking an Arab cab driver. They are accused of cursing him and spraying tear gas at the driver.

Another Arab was attacked in the area Saturday night. Police investigating the incident found dozens of youths in Zion Square chanting “Death to Arabs.” One was arrested for attacking a police volunteer, who was lightly injured.

Police also detained three more youths for interrogation.

West to go for UNSC resolution if Gaza talks fail

According to senior Israeli officials, Western powers will move for a UN Security Council resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire should truce talks in Gaza fail, Haaretz reports.

The current ceasefire is set to end on Monday night.

The United Nations Security Council meets at the UN on July 22, 2014 in New York City. (photo credit: Kena Betancur/Getty Images/AFP)

The United Nations Security Council meets at the UN on July 22, 2014 in New York City. (photo credit: Kena Betancur/Getty Images/AFP)

Gazans left without showers, running water

AFP reports on Gazan Feriel al-Zaaneen, who hasn’t had a shower in more than a month. Like thousands of Palestinians, she doesn’t have enough water to wash, adding to the miseries of life in war-battered Gaza.

In searing summer heat, where temperatures can reach 34 degrees Celsius, (93 Fahrenheit), Feriel is one of more than 218,000 refugees sheltering in 87 UN-run schools from a conflict that has killed at least 1,980 Palestinians, according to Hamas-run Gaza health ministry statistics, and 67 on the Israeli side since July 8.

“There’s no water here and the toilets are very dirty, this is no kind of life,” she says.

Zaaneen, her children and grandchildren, some 50 people, had fled the Israeli bombardment of their neighborhood.

She says she faces a daily struggle to get water, a precious resource in the Hamas-controlled enclave which has been under blockade since Hamas rose to power in 2006.

The UN says that 365,000 Palestinians are still displaced in Gaza, like 37-year-old Faten al-Masri, who has to wash her children with bottles of drinking water.

As she sprinkles cold water on her two-year-old daughter, the toddler screams, her skin covered in angry red blotches.

“All my children got sick here because of the dirt and the lack of hygiene, they’ve all got skin infections and scabs,” Faten says.

“There is no water in the bathrooms, and they were so dirty that we couldn’t even go inside,” she said.

“I have been bathing my sons every three days here in the classroom with bottles of water.”

Hamas says it will not discuss returning bodies without truce

A senior Hamas official says that Hamas will not discuss returning the bodies of IDF soldiers to Israel without a long-term ceasefire, Palestinian news agency Maan reports.

Ahmed Yousef, a senior advisor to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, says that “there are European and international parties who are interested in moderating the issue, but we will not discuss it as long as there is no agreement for a long-term ceasefire.”

Yousef also praises Iran for its central role in developing Hamas’s military capabilities. “A big part of our military knowledge and weapons came from Iran. Tehran assisted us greatly in developing the organization’s rocket capabilities.”

Optimism from Palestinian delegation emerges

While Hamas continues to threaten a return to hostilities, Palestinian sources close to their delegation to talks in Cairo tell Maan news agency that there is a real chance that a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel will be signed.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is calling for Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal to accept the terms proposed by Egypt, and senior PA official Saeb Erekat met with Mashaal in Qatar yesterday to urge him to agree to the truce.

‘A Gaza port would be a duty-free for rockets’

During this morning’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz says, “We must stand firm on the demilitarization issue. A port will be like a duty-free for rockets. In the future there will be Scuds and Zelzal missiles there.”

He adds, “We are continuing in our contacts with Egypt. Our conduct is responsible and measured. The most important thing in my opinion is that Gaza be demilitarized. As long as that is not done, it will just make the situation on the ground worse.

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz addresses the seventh Annual INSS conference in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, January 29, 2014 (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Other Palestinian officials sound pessimistic tone

A Palestinian negotiator says his side is “less optimistic” on indirect talks with Israel over the Gaza conflict as a deadline on a temporary cease-fire looms.

The negotiator spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity as the Palestinian team arrived at the Cairo International Airport. Israeli officials were expected to arrive later.

A current cease-fire in the war is due to expire at midnight Monday (2100 GMT).

The Palestinian negotiator says that a key sticking point remains Hamas’s insistence that Israel pledge to end its Gaza blockade before the talks conclude.

— AP

“We are being led around by Hamas’

More ministers speak before going into today’s weekly cabinet meeting.

Tourism Minister Uzi Landau says, according to Ynet, “Hamas is running the show, and we are being led by them. There is a very unpleasant feeling that Israel wants quiet at any price. This is a temporary quiet.”

“There is international credit that we are wasting,” he continues. “Because of the earlier rounds, we reached an arrangement and deterrence, and after that received a more difficult round. We are giving Hamas international status. There is no victory on the ground.”

Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau, October, 2012. (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch / FLASH90)

Uzi Landau (photo credit: Yoav Ari Dudkevitch/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Yaakov Peri condemns racism against Arabs. “I want to strenuously condemn the racism we are witnessing against Israeli Arabs since the start of the operation…They are part of us. We must show solidarity as the public has shown and stop the racism.”

‘We must not finish op before southerners feel safe’

Finance Minister Yair Lapid says before entering the weekly cabinet meeting, “We must demand protection for the residents of Israel. We must make sure they feel safe, and we must not end the operation without them feeling safe.”

“We must create an international arrangement that protects them,” he adds, according to Ynet.

PM says Hamas can’t cover up its military defeat

Opening the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu says, “We are in the midst of a joint military and political campaign. The delegation in Cairo is operating under clear guidelines to stand by Israel’s security needs.”

“Only if there is an answer to these security needs will we reach an understanding. We are a strong and determined nation. If Hamas thinks that it can cover its military defeat with a political achievement, it is mistaken. As long as the quiet does not return, Hamas will continue to suffer very serious blows.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset on Thursday, July 24, 2014. (photo credit: Flash 90)

Hamas may give up on some demands, says official

Another sign that a ceasefire deal is still possible: senior Hamas political member Moussa Abu Marzouk tells Al Jazeera that Hamas is not insisting on receiving 100 percent of its demands, Israel Radio reports.

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (photo credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk (photo credit: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Hatzalah ups service to south’s Shoah survivors

The United Hatzalah emergency response service is expanding its outreach efforts to Holocaust survivors in the range of Gaza rockets.

“For many of these survivors, the recent sirens and explosions brought back old fears and flashbacks to their experiences 70 years prior, reigniting their trauma,” says founder and president Eli Beer. “Our visits are designed to identify and monitor deteriorating medical conditions to ensure that prompt and effective treatment can be implemented before irreversible or fatal damage occurs.”

The program, Ten Kavod, is supported by a recent grant from the Claims Conference, which looks to care for Holocaust survivors.

Serious tank-on-tank friendly fire incident under review

The IDF is investigating a serious friendly fire incident during the Gaza fighting in which a tank commander ordered his squad to fire toward another Israeli tank several kilometers away. No one was injured in the potentially disastrous episode.

According to Haaretz, the officer, serving in the 7th Armored Brigade, was inside the Gaza Strip when he fired eastward, or back toward Israel, despite the fact that the fighting was taking place in the opposite direction. In all, his tank fired four shells, none of which hit the tank positioned near where they landed.

The investigation is being carried out by the 36th Division, to which the 7th Brigade belongs. The officer is expected to receive a severe punishment.

In all, there were 15 friendly-fire incidents in Operation Protective Edge, in which five soldiers were killed and 23 injured.

Israeli tank rides near the Israel and Gaza border Friday, July 25, 2014.  (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Israeli tank near the Israel-Gaza border Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP/Dusan Vranic)

How Israel received a US weapons stockpile

After reports surface of tension between the White House and Israel over Jerusalem’s use of US weaponry in Gaza, the Washington Institute’s David Schenker gives the inside story of the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), the emergency arms stockpile stored in Israel.

Writing in Politico, Schenker explains that Israel withdrew tank and illumination rounds from the WRSA during the Gaza conflict. This was the first time Israel used the WRSA since the 2006 war with Hezbollah.

He writes:

WRSA-I is a strategic boon to Israel. The process is streamlined: No 60-day congressional notification is required, and there’s no waiting on delivery. At the most basic level, WRSA was intended to prevent a repeat of the 1973 war, when the Nixon administration famously delayed a resupply airlift to Israel.

The WRSA process is so efficient, in fact, according to a story published earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, that the White House, to its chagrin, was unaware that last month’s WRSA transfer had even occurred.

He then gives the story of the man behind the cache — a 400-pound, tobacco-dipping mid-level Department of Defense bureaucrat named Keith Rowe.

In 2006, during the Israel-Hezbollah war, Keith pioneered an innovative bureaucratic technique within existing U.S. law to allow the Jewish state to utilize the U.S. stockpile. Along the way, he established the precedent for shipping U.S. weapons from Israel to Israel—without the need for a cumbersome, politically fraught signoff from the White House.

To those unfamiliar with the complex world of military procurement, this accomplishment might seem trivial. But in the highly officious Defense Department milieu—where creativity and initiative is not uniformly rewarded—Keith’s success in transforming WRSA was the bureaucratic equivalent of the elusive single-season Golf Grand Slam.

Bennett urges Israel to leave truce talks

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett calls for an immediate end to the ceasefire talks in Cairo, Ynet reports.

“This situation in which we are biting our fingernails as we wait for an answer from a murderous terror organization must end. We must stop the negotiations with Hamas immediately and take our fate into our own hands according to a simple formula: Humanitarian [aid] yes, terror no.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (L) with Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, March 11, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (L) with Finance Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, March 11, 2014. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Why both Israel and Hamas may reject a truce

ToI’s Avi Issacharoff lays out the reasons why Israel and Hamas — who both would like a return to quiet — might not agree in the end to a truce based on the Egyptian proposal.

“The proposal is broadly favorable to Israel,” he writes, “though it does give certain international legitimacy to Hamas and will likely strengthen the group’s position among the Palestinians in the near future. The agreement would also restrict Israel’s ability to operate in the Gaza Strip and would allow Hamas to continuously arm itself as it pleases.

“Another ‘problem’ the proposal poses for Israel is the return of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from the sidelines to the forefront of the political scene, including in Gaza itself. It is doubtful that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman would be excited to see such a development. While to many in Israel Abbas’s return may sound more like a solution then a problem, it is unlikely this trio of politicians share that point of view.”

Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed, center, and members of the delegation leave the hotel where the negotiations are taking place with Egyptian intelligence mediators aimed at brokering an end to the Gaza conflict on August 12, 2014 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (photo credit: AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)

Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed, center, and members of the delegation leave the hotel where the negotiations are taking place with Egyptian intelligence mediators aimed at brokering an end to the Gaza conflict on August 12, 2014 in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (photo credit: AFP/KHALED DESOUKI)

It is even more problematic for Hamas: “Initially, Hamas might boast of having ‘lifted the blockade,’ in light of the clauses in the Egyptian deal that would see an easing of terms at the border crossings and a widening of the area off the Gaza coast open to fishermen. But in the long term, the proposal does not change the situation in Gaza significantly, at least not in favor of Hamas.

“The organization would be limited in terms of its ability to construct tunnels and to attack Israel. The agreement would give Abbas a foothold in Gaza as well. In some ways, it would simply render Hamas irrelevant.”

Read the full analysis here.

Hebrew media focusing on gaps in truce talks

In his Hebrew media review, Joshua Davidovich explains that Israeli newspapers are focusing today on the reasons an agreement between Israel and Hamas is unlikely:

“The gap with Hamas is large,” reads Yedioth Ahronoth’s main headline, attributing the quote to that favorite amorphous blob called “diplomatic sources.” The paper explains that the cabinet is putting its foot down and refusing to okay any sort of port in Gaza (air or sea) or any other concessions for Hamas. Hamas, meanwhile, is putting its foot down and refusing to budge on its demand of a port, and you dear reader, you would be forgiven if you now put your foot down and drown your sorrows in a glass of port or sherry.

He also writes that there are costs to Israel if it doesn’t seal the deal.

While Hamas has a lot to lose, it’s certainly not the only one with something on the line, saith Haaretz, which reports that if the sides don’t come to terms in Egypt, the Security Council will come after Jerusalem, and Washington won’t be there to save its tush this time. “So far, the US administration has worked to block any procedures in the UN Security Council regarding the fighting in Gaza. Due to US pressure, a Jordanian initiative for a ceasefire in Gaza that called for setting up an international commission of inquiry to look into Israeli strikes on UN facilities did not advance. Sources in Israel believe that if the talks in Cairo fail, the US administration will change its policy and also start pushing for a ceasefire agreement via the UN Security Council,” the paper reports.

‘Hamas sticking to its blockade demands’

A Palestinian source says Hamas still refuses to agree to a ceasefire that would keep Israel’s blockade in place, Israel Radio reports.

Court distances opposing group from Arab-Israeli wedding

A judge in Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court rules that Lehava, an organization that fights intermarriage, can demonstrate no closer than 200 meters from a wedding between an Arab man and a Jewish woman.

The couple, Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malcha, are set to be wed this evening.

Rivlin decries protests against intermarriage

President Ruby Rivlin expresses concern over the protests against the mixed Jewish-Arab wedding taking place in Rishon Lezion tonight.

“The couple decided to get married and fulfill its freedom in a democratic state, and the incitement against them is worrying and enraging,” he says, according to Ynet. “Not everyone has to rejoice in their happiness, but everyone must respect them.

“This type of expression gnaws at the joint foundations of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel,” he continues, wishing the pair “health, peace of mind, and happiness.”

Israeli president-elect Reuven Rivlin speaks to members of the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Reuven Rivlin speaks to members of the press at the Knesset in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Yadlin says Israel needn’t fear war of attrition

Amos Yadlin, former head of military intelligence and current director of think tank INSS, tweets that “Israel does not to fear an attrition campaign against Hamas. Israel has room to maneuver, economic and military strength, and an ability to escalate that Hamas does not have. In attrition, Hamas will not receive a thing.”

Amos Yadlin, former director of military intelligence, Jan 2012. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/FLASH90)

Amos Yadlin, former director of military intelligence, Jan 2012. (photo credit: Gideon Markowicz/Flash90)

Hamas says Palestinians need security first

Responding to Netanyahu’s statements during the cabinet meeting today that Israel will only agree to a truce if its security needs are met, and that “Hamas will continue to suffer very serious blows” if there is no agreement, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says, “The only path to security is for the Palestinians to feel secure first and for the siege to be lifted from them.”

“Hundreds of soldiers were killed, wounded, and even kidnapped; the resistance’s activities and the rockets succeeded in striking deep into Israel and imposed an aerial blockade,” he continues, with quite a bit of exaggeration.

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

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

Counter-protest planned for Jewish-Arab wedding

With a rally spearheaded by the anti-intermarriage group Lehava set to take place at a mixed Jewish-Arab wedding tonight, a counter-demonstration has been organized as well.

Demonstrators plan to bear flowers and signs wishing the couple congratulations outside the Rishon Lezion wedding hall.

“Morel and Mahmoud are not a public institution and no one has the right to harass them,” organizer Guy Ronen says, according to Ynet.

Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malcha are set wed this evening.

The Lehava group has been distanced 200 meters from the wedding hall by a court order.

IDF could have conquered Gaza in days, says ex-NSC official

The army’s attack plans in Gaza were predictable, says a newly retired defense official in the National Security Council, adding that the IDF could have taken Gaza in a matter of days.

“I am stating unequivocally, and not just based on my military experience as a colonel, but in general, that there is a military option, and that the IDF is capable, if it wants and if it is so ordered, to take over – not conquer, but take over – Gaza in two days and to conquer it, in its entirety, in seven days,” Col. (res) Roni Bert, a former department head at the National Security Council, tells Channel 10’s Moav Vardi.

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/THOMAS COEX)

Israeli Merkava tanks drive near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip as they return from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave on August 5, 2014, after Israel announced that all of its troops had withdrawn from the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: AFP/Thomas Coex)

Bert, who is highly critical of the way the NSC allegedly caters to what the prime minister wants to hear, says that the army has operated in the same manner ever since the Second Lebanon War: days of airstrikes followed by a limited ground invasion.

“It should be clear to every citizen, even if he is not an expert, that if the enemy has been waiting for us for 10 days [for a ground incursion], the enemy is more ready.”

He adds that had the army stormed into Gaza on Day One, “there presumably would have been fewer losses when first engaging the enemy.”

That option, though, he says, “was never discussed at the top.”

For a full (Hebrew) transcript of the interview, see here:

Mitch Ginsburg

Channel 2 reporter denounces anti-intermarriage group

Channel 2’s Roni Daniel, broadly considered a hard-line military correspondent, comes out with an unusual statement in advance of Mahmoud and Morel’s mixed Muslim-Jewish wedding on Sunday: “Let them get married and don’t get in the way,” he writes on Mako’s website. “And you are welcome, too, to wish them mazal tov.”

Daniel castigates “surreal organizations” such as Lehava, which is specifically opposed to Jewish women marrying Muslim men and has called for a mass protest outside the wedding hall.

Roni Daniel (photo credit: CC-BY-SA/Itzik/Wikipedia Commons)

Roni Daniel (photo credit: CC-BY-SA/Itzik/Wikipedia Commons)

Both the bride and the groom are from the mixed neighborhood of Jaffa. The bride, Morel, converted to Islam in advance of the wedding.

Daniel writes that he has decided to attend the wedding, “not for the hummus or the fish or the meat,” but “for the principle, the notion that no one has the right to interfere with two people who want to get married, just because he’s an Arab and she’s a Jew.”

Mitch Ginsburg

Justice Ministry to hold hearing on B’Tselem national service

The Justice Ministry says Sar-Shalom Jerby, head of the National Service Administration, overstepped his authority when he blacklisted the human rights group B’Tselem and banned it from receiving national service volunteers.

In a letter sent to B’Tselem today, the ministry says it has demanded legal proofs from Jerby, and will hold a hearing on the issue on August 24.

Until then, the human rights group says its current volunteer will complete his year-long service, and the organization has begun interviewing candidates for next year.

Jerby had written that he had revoked the group’s status “in light of the organization’s activities against the State of Israel and IDF soldiers in Israel and abroad.”

Sydney police sue to stop pro-Palestinian rally

Police in Sydney launch a legal bid to stop a pro-Palestinian protest at the opening of the Israeli Film Festival.

Members of the Palestine Action Group are listed for a hearing Monday in the Supreme Court of New South Wales ahead of their planned protest outside the cinema on August 21, officials claim.

The Guardian Australia reported it had seen the summons served to Damian Ridgwell, a founder of the group. New South Wales police have made an application under the Summary Offenses Act 1988 to “prohibit the holding of a public assembly,” according to the report.

Police decline to comment Sunday.

“This is an outrageous act of political censorship,” Ridgwell says in a statement. “It is legitimate to protest the event, and by attempting to ban the protest the NSW police is denying our freedom of expression and right to protest.”

The poster for the protest accuses the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which organizes the festival, of being a “front organization for the ruling Likud Party and supports their recent massacre in Gaza.”

Albert Dadon, the founder and chair of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, says protesters were invited “in peace” to come and watch “Self Made,” the opening film about two women – one Israeli, the other Palestinian.

“They will be surprised to see that their views and their way of life are actually reflected in Israeli society – the only true, tolerant and democratic society in the Middle East,” Dadon said.

“We are a cultural group promoting Israeli and Australian culture in their diversity, as well as peace and harmony between Jews and Arabs,” he says. “We have held past festivals in Nazareth and Um al-Fahm but also in Sderot and Jerusalem.”

The Israeli Film Festival is in its 11th year, and will also screen in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Byron Bay.


Schabas says he’s ‘very proud’ of Jewish roots

Head of the UNHRC probe on the Gaza campaign, William Schabas, tells i24 News that he is “very proud” of his Jewish heritage.

“I’m not uncomfortable about it. I’m happy about it, but I’m not a religious person,” he says.

Schabas’s father was Jewish.

William Schabas (screen capture: YouTube)

William Schabas (screen capture: YouTube)

The controversial Canadian intellectual, and fierce critic of Israel in the past, says he has become a “bit of a lightning rod over the last few days,” for criticism.

He insists that he will do his best to be impartial, and argues that Israel would be unhappy with the committee regardless of who was appointed the head.

“What I’m going to try to do is park my views at the door — I don’t want to talk about them anymore, they’re not relevant to the job I have to do — and I’m going to try to approach this as objectively and independently as I can. I think the critics — and obviously I’m on the tip of the iceberg on this — won’t be happy about anyone the UN chooses. They really are not content with the commission; they’d like to see the commission disappear — they don’t really like the Human Rights Council at all,” he says.

Schabas also addresses recent criticism after a video surfaced in which he is recorded saying that Netanyahu is “the greatest threat to the survival of Israel,” to much laughter. He says that the statement came in response to an attack on the inquiry into the IDF’s activity during Operation Cast Lead.

“I think he was citing, perhaps Netanyahu, saying that Goldstone was the greatest threat to the survival of Israel,” he explains.

Health minister blesses Jewish-Muslim couple

Health Minister Yael German offers her well-wishes to bride and groom Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour, who are slated to marry this evening.

She writes: “May you have many years of love, happiness, and tolerance. I hope your wedding is another step toward transforming Israeli society into a more tolerant and pluralistic society.”

UN maps out Gaza damage

The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs releases a 108-page report consisting of satellite images detailing the extent of the damage in the Gaza Strip. In the atlas, damaged structures are marked by red dots and institutions such as hospitals and power plants struck by Israeli fire are marked by a red star. Unhit hospitals, mosques, clinics, shelters, schools are plotted on the pages as well.

Click here to view the full report.

WATCH: Gaza airstrike remix

The IDF posts a remix video containing various recordings of air force pilots’ communications with the command centers, as they launch their strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip.

Watch the full video below.

Hundreds of Fatah members under Hamas house arrest

ToI’s Elhanan Miller reports on the intimidation and assault many Fatah members face in the Gaza Strip.

He writes:

“Moments after the call for evening prayer on July 28, the first day of the Islamic festival of Eid al-Fitr, Fatah activist Sami Abu Lashin heard a knock on the door of his Gaza home.

“Lashin, known as Abu Hassan, opened to the door to discover some 20 masked men armed with rifles. When he asked the men what they wanted, one gunman stepped out of the group and promptly fired a shot at Lashin’s right thigh, and then two more at his left thigh, shattering the bone.”

Read the full story here.

Fatah member Sami Abu Lashin at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, a photo displayed on his movement's Facebook page, August 17, 2014 (photo credit: Facebook image)

Fatah member Sami Abu Lashin at Shifa Hospital in Gaza, a photo displayed on his movement’s Facebook page, August 17, 2014 (photo credit: Facebook image)

Hamas raps reporters who sought rocket sites

Hamas spokeswoman Isra Al-Mudallal, who had admitted in an interview with Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen that her movement obstructed the work of foreign journalists covering Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, adds information on Hamas’s motives in curtailing journalistic work in Gaza.

“Any measure that is taken against any foreign journalist working in Gaza is based on the extent to which he or she upholds standards of professional journalism and fair reporting,” Mudallal wrote on her Facebook page early Sunday morning.”We have seen serious breaches of these standards by a small number of journalists whose main task seemed to be locating the places where Palestinian resistance rockets were launched or reporting on the whereabouts of Palestinian resistance fighters while ignoring reporting on the sheer violence and destruction and bloodshed wreaked by the Israeli occupation army on the Gaza population.”

According to Mudallal, journalists wishing to report on Hamas rocket launches were “unfairly and unjustifiably siding with Israel and parroting Israel’s propaganda machine.” Their reporting, she added, “seems to be telling only half-truths or propagating lies and misinformation, offering sensitive information for free to the Israeli occupation.”

Elhanan Miller

Palestinian negotiator hopes for deal in ‘coming hours’

The head of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, Azzam al-Ahmad, says he hopes a lasting ceasefire agreement will be secured in the coming hours, but stresses that the Palestinians will not accept a deal that does not meet its goals, Ynet reports.

“We hope to reach a final agreement for a ceasefire and to establish a lull in the coming hours,” the Fatah official says.

The Palestinians will not sign any “thin” agreement, he says. “We have clear goals, and every deal must answer the demands of the Palestinian people.”

Head of the Palestinian delegation Azzam al-Ahmed gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo late on August 13, 2014 (Photo credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP)

Head of the Palestinian delegation Azzam al-Ahmad gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo, August 13, 2014. (photo credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP)

The Israeli and Palestinian team returned to Cairo on Sunday, and talks were set to restart this evening.

The five-day truce will expire tomorrow at midnight.

Details on Egyptian final truce proposal

Talks have resumed on the basis of an Egyptian proposal, seen by AFP, which calls for a lasting ceasefire beyond Monday midnight, and new talks on the thorniest issues, including demands for a seaport and airport in Gaza, which will begin in a month’s time.

Negotiations about handing over the remains of two Israeli soldiers in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would also be discussed in a month.

The European Union said a durable ceasefire must be accompanied by lifting closures on Gaza and called on “all terrorist groups” in the territory to disarm.

Israel refuses to countenance any major reconstruction effort without full demilitarization.


Long-term truce uncertain, official says

A senior official tells Israeli media that it remains unclear whether the Cairo negotiations will secure a long-term truce, and adds that Israel is prepared for a potential escalation with Hamas.

“It’s not clear whether there will be a truce. There are two options on the table: if there is no truce, and the fire resumes, the response will be strong, and if the fire does not resume, we will examine the possibilities how to progress to resolve the situation,” he says.

Palestinians may seek Turkish, Qatar mediation

Palestinian sources involved in the Cairo negotiations tell Israel Radio it seems unlikely that the sides will agree to a permanent ceasefire at this time, and indicate that the Palestinians may ask for Turkey and Qatar to act as mediators with Israel.

A Palestinian source adds that it seems Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing intense pressure by his government to end the talks and topple Hamas militarily.

Anti-intermarriage protesters gather outside wedding hall

Dozens of demonstrators assemble some 200 meters away from the Rishon Lezion hall where bride and groom Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour celebrate their wedding as planned.

Over 100 policemen patrol the scene, barring the protesters from coming closer to the wedding hall and preventing disturbances.

The rally, organized by the Lehava anti-intermarriage organization, is protesting the couple’s mixed marriage: Morel comes from a Jewish background, although she recently converted to Islam.

Nearby, dozens of counter-protesters bear balloons and signs congratulating the newlyweds.

“As I told the groom and bride — in the end, love will win,” Mahmoud’s mother, Fadua, tells Ynet. She says Morel was shaken by the public criticism, but adds that “she is still strong, and will stay strong until the end.”

Lehava posted the wedding invitation of Moral Malka and Mahmoud Mansour on social media, calling on protesters to arrive with banners and bullhorns to protest. (photo credit: Facebook screenshot)

Lehava posted the wedding invitation of Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour on social media, calling on protesters to arrive with banners and bullhorns to protest. (photo credit: Facebook screenshot)

Palestinian divisions emerge in truce talks

The Palestinians appear divided Sunday as the clock winds down on the latest Gaza ceasefire, with officials saying Hamas is still opposed to a compromise Egyptian proposal that would ease the closure of the territory, whereas other factions, including delegates representing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, are inclined to accept.

Hamas officials say they were holding out in hopes of getting more concessions in the Egyptian-mediated talks.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, directed tough words at Israel.

“The Israelis will only return to their homes when the resistance decides. We are not seeking an agreement because we are weak, but to fulfill our people’s demands,” he tells a rally.

In a show of unity, the Palestinian delegation in Cairo has included representatives of rival factions, including Abbas’s Fatah movement and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad.

One member of the delegation says that even if Hamas opposes the deal, Abbas’s forces are prepared to oversee the crossings and reconstruction.

“We won’t let our people down,” says the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the negotiations with the media.


Months needed to repair facilities in Gaza — UN

United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos says on a visit to Iran that it will take months to repair damage to the UN’s infrastructure in Gaza.

“Damage to hospitals, schools and UNRWA shelters, where people displaced sought refuge, will take months to rebuild,” she says, referring to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

Amos was speaking to reporters at the start of a two-day visit for talks with Iranian officials on the humanitarian crises wreaked by conflicts in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq.

“The UN response continues, including deliveries of food, water and households goods. Medicines and fuel are being delivered to hospitals,” she adds.

A total of 97 UNRWA installations, including health and food distribution centers, as well as schools, have been damaged in the war since July 8 between Israel and Hamas.


2 arrested at anti-intermarriage rally

Two people are arrested at a demonstration outside a wedding hall in Rishon Lezion after approaching the site and violating a court order, the Walla news website reports.

Since the event began, the crowd stationed outside the hall has swelled to several hundred.

Protesters bear signs calling on the bride, Morel Malka, who converted from Judaism to Islam, to “come home.”

Morel Malka (photo credit: screenshot via Channel 2)

Morel Malka (photo credit: screenshot via Channel 2)

Defense Ministry halts southern train routes

The trains from Ashkelon to Sderot will be suspended indefinitely as of tomorrow, upon a Defense Ministry instruction, Ynet reports.

4 protesters arrested at wedding hall rally

Four right-wing protesters rallying against the wedding of Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour are detained by police, after attempting to approach the site and clashing with security forces.

Tunnel shafts allegedly discovered in southern towns

Three shafts possibly connected to tunnels from the Gaza Strip were recently found in Israeli towns on the southern border, Channel 2 reports.

The army says in response that security forces were aware of the sites.

In the coming days, military experts are expected to visit the area to determine whether the shafts are connected to cross-border tunnels.

The openings were discovered some 100 meters (328 feet) from the closest homes, and near a kindergarten. Since they were uncovered, soldiers have been keeping watch of the area, but some cast doubt on whether a tunnel really lies below.

“We didn’t find a tunnel, there’s a suspicion,” says a soldier keeping watch. “That’s why we’re sitting here all the time.

“It’s probably nothing, but we’re checking,” he adds.

Israel braces for rockets before truce runs out

The Walla news site quotes Israeli military sources to the effect that Israel is preparing for a resumption of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza early Monday evening, even though a five-day ceasefire with Hamas is only set to end at midnight.

The projection is based on the assumption that Egypt-brokered talks with Hamas are on the verge of failure, the report says.

The sources are quoted as saying that the ceasefire won’t be broken directly by Hamas but rather by other, smaller armed factions.

Hamas, the sources say, will perfer to “turn a blind eye” to the violations of the ceasefire rather than declare that efforts at cementing a deal have failed.

read more: