Security cabinet meets in Tel Aviv amid Gaza violence
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Report: Israel and Hamas reach ceasefire agreement, deal goes into effect

Al-Jazeera says Egyptian-brokered truce started at 10:45 p.m.; Security cabinet orders IDF to 'continue taking strong action' against Gaza terror groups

A plume of smoke rises from the remains of a building west of Gaza City that was targeted by the Israeli Air Force in response to a rocket attack that hit southern Israel earlier in the day on August 9, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
A plume of smoke rises from the remains of a building west of Gaza City that was targeted by the Israeli Air Force in response to a rocket attack that hit southern Israel earlier in the day on August 9, 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Thursday’s events as they happened.

Defense minister: ‘We will do whatever it takes’ to return calm to south

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promises “we will do whatever it takes” to return calm to the south amid escalating violence.

Liberman makes the vow in calls to mayors of Sderot and regional councils around the Gaza border, during which he also praises their resilience and that of their residents and thanks them for the support they have shown to the IDF and other security forces.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gallant: We will protect our children, no matter the price in Gaza

Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a former head of Southern Command during the 2009 Cast Lead operation in Gaza, charges that “Hamas is taking two million Palestinian citizens as hostages. If they won’t behave themselves, they will set Gaza 10 years backward after this struggle. Whatever we must do to protect our citizens and our soldiers will be done, no matter what the price will be in Gaza.”

“We are ready to do whatever is necessary,” he says in a briefing organized by The Israel Project.

If needed, Israel will target Hamas’s leaders, the heads of its rocket-launching squad and eventually every single member of Hamas.

But if Hamas “behaves itself,” Israel will respond in a similar manner, he says.

“We are ready for peace,” he says when asked about efforts to reach a ceasefire. “This is Israel’s traditional position. If they will send us flowers, we will send them candies. No problem with that. Let’s hope for peace and let’s be ready for war.”

— Raphael Ahren

Lapid: ‘We will not sit on our hands while our children are bombed’

Yesh Atid chief MK Yair Lapid visits Sderot, meets with its mayor Alon Davidi and is briefed on the developments of the past 24 hours.

“Hamas has to understand that Israel will not tolerate nights like the one we just had with rockets and mortars being fired at our women and children,” Lapid says.

“This situation is intolerable and it is unsustainable. We will not sit on our hands while our children are bombed by a terrorist organization which uses its own children as human shields. Israel has every right to protect itself from terrorism.”

— Judah Ari Gross

IDF: 180 rockets and shells fires from Gaza, 150 targets hit by IDF in Strip

The Israeli military says over 180 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip since Wednesday night, injuring at least seven people, including one woman seriously, and causing dozens more to suffer panic attacks.

The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted 30 incoming projectiles headed for population centers. Most of the remaining rockets landed in open fields, the army says.

In response to the attacks, which have damaged Israeli homes, businesses and infrastructure, the Israeli military says it has bombed approximately 150 targets in the Gaza Strip.

— Judah Ari Gross

Organizers cancel hot-air balloon festival near Gaza over security concerns

The International Hot-Air Balloon Festival at Habsor National Park, located some 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the Gaza border, is canceled, organizers say, amid rising tensions and rockets attacks from Gaza.

The festival sees entries from around the world, and was slated to take place on Thursday and Friday.

Israelis enjoy the annual International Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Harod Spring National Park, in the Gilboa region, northern Israel, on August 3, 2018 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Also Thursday, the Quarter to Africa band performance at Kibbutz Kissufim, located scarcely two kilometers from the Gaza border, has been postponed indefinitely.

IDF bombs Hamas attack tunnels on Gaza coast

Israeli fighter jets bomb two Hamas attack tunnels along the central Gaza coast, as well as a tunnel opening in the northern Strip and a military facility east of the southern city of Rafah, in retaliation for the more than 180 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel throughout the morning, the army says.

These latest targets join the approximately 150 others that have been hit in response to repeated attacks by the Gaza-ruling Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave.

“The wide-reaching attacks that the IDF has conducted caused damage and destruction to some 150 military and strategic targets belonging to the Hamas terror organization, representing a significant blow to Hamas,” the army says in a statement.

The military warns the terror group that it will “bear the consequences for its terrorist activities against the citizens of Israel.”

— Judah Ari Gross

Rocket sirens sound in Kissufim, residents hear explosion

Fresh incoming rocket sirens sound in the southern Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim, some two kilometers from the Gaza border.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Residents of the area report hearing an explosion.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gaza official: ‘The current round of fighting is over, calm depends on Israel’

A command center for armed groups in the Gaza Strip says that the current round of fighting has ended, and that calm now depends on Israel.

“The current escalation in Gaza has ended. The resistance responded to the enemy’s crimes in Gaza. The continuation of calm in Gaza depends on the occupation’s behavior,” the command center says, according to Al-Jazeera.

The statement comes just minutes after the IDF said it hit 150 Hamas-linked targets in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for over 180 rocket and mortal shell attacks from Gaza since Wednesday.

The comment appears to be a Hamas attempt to restore calm after both sides appeared to be preparing for war. It is not immediately clear whether this signals a shift for Hamas after its massive rocket barrage on Israel since yesterday, or disagreement in the organization’s leadership about how to proceed.

PA calls for international action to stop ‘Israeli aggression on Gaza’

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah takes to Twitter to call on the international community “to take urgent and quick steps to stop the Israeli aggression on #Gaza.”

Hot-air balloon festival offers to donate ticket funds to southern residents

Organizers of the now-canceled hot-air balloon festival at Habsor National Park near Gaza say they will refund ticket-holders.

But they are also offering ticket holders the option of donating the cost of the tickets instead to groups helping residents of the south cope with the latest escalation in violence.

Woman wounded in rocket attack regains consciousness, hospital says

The Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba says the woman seriously wounded in a rocket attack early this morning has seen her condition improve dramatically. She is no longer on a respirator and has regained consciousness, doctors say. She is now categorized in moderate condition at Soroka’s intensive care unit.

A second person wounded in that strike was treated at the hospital and has already been sent home, the hospital says.

The woman, a 30-year-old foreign worker from Thailand, suffered injuries to her abdomen and limbs when a rocket hit her home in the Eshkol regional council.

According to the IDF, at least five other people were wounded by the rocket and mortar attacks on Wednesday and today, either from shrapnel or in injuries sustained while rushing to bomb shelters. Dozens of Israelis were treated for panic attacks caused by the explosions of the rockets, including two pregnant women in the southern town of Sderot who went into premature labor.

Rocket sirens sound in Kibbutz Kissufim

Another round of incoming rocket sirens are heard in the southern Israeli community of Kibbutz Kissufim, some two kilometers from the border with central Gaza.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

— Judah Ari Gross

Abbas, Qatari emir meet to discuss Palestinian reconciliation

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas informs Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of “the latest developments related to Palestinian national reconciliation,” the official PA news site Wafa reports.

Abbas is meeting the Qatari emir on Thursday in Doha a day after holding talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman.

For the past several months, Palestinian reconciliation efforts have been at a standstill.

— Adam Rasgon

Czech president’s spokesperson tweets ‘solidarity’ with Israel

The president of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, expresses support for Israel as rockets pound the country’s south.

His spokesperson, Jiří Ovčáček, tweets an Israeli flag, together with the word “Solidarity.”

— Raphael Ahren

Lithuania: ‘Israel has every right to defend itself’

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius also takes to Twitter in light of the current violence to insist that “Israel has every right to defend itself.”

“Hamas has launched about 150 rockets from #Gaza at Israeli communities over night,” he writes. “I condemn these provocative & dangerous actions & call to restraine [sic] from further escalation of violance [sic]. Israel has every right to defend itself.”

— Raphael Ahren

IDF drone fires warning shot toward group of Gazan youths along border

An Israeli drone fires an apparent warning shot at a group of Palestinian youths in the northern Gaza Strip near the border with Israel, Palestinian media outlets report.

There are no reports of injuries.

It is not immediately clear what the youths were doing before the shot was fired.

The Israeli military refuses to comment on the strike.

— Judah Ari Gross

Gaza border protest organizers call for Friday demonstration at border

The organizing committee for the Gazan protests along the border fence announce that the name given to tomorrow’s planned protest is “Freedom and Life for Gaza.”

The committee names each Friday’s protest ahead of time.

It is urging Gazans to attend amid an escalation of rocket fire and IDF retaliatory strikes since yesterday.

Rocket sirens sound in Beersheba area

Rocket alert sirens sound in Beersheba, the nearby suburb of Omer, and the Central Negev Regional Council.

Security cabinet meeting delayed till 6 p.m.

The meeting of the security cabinet originally scheduled for 4 p.m. is delayed till 6, officials say.

The delay comes as calm appears to return to the south, with a sharp drop in rocket attacks and IDF retaliatory strikes.

The meeting will take place at IDF Headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya compound.

Palestinians report IDF artillery fire on fields in central Gaza

Palestinian media are reporting IDF artillery fire on agricultural areas in the central Gaza Strip.

Two rockets explode in uninhabited areas near Beersheba

Two rockets launched from Gaza explode in uninhabited areas near Beersheba.

Beersheba hears rocket sirens for first time since 2014 war

Beersheba residents rushed to shelters moments ago after rocket sirens sounded in the city.

City officials note it’s the first time the city has heard its rocket warning sirens sound since the 2014 war with Hamas dubbed Operation Protective Edge.

Jerusalem archaeology museum offers free entry to Gaza periphery residents

Jerusalem’s Bible Lands Museum opens its galleries for free to residents of Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip who are suffering from rocket barrages from the Strip.

Residents of the area can tour the archaeological museum for the coming week, until Thursday, August 16, the museum says in a statement.

Army’s southern commander visits Sderot, says ‘we are ready for anything’

Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi visits Sderot, tours the city together with Mayor Alon Davidi.

“In the past day we carried out significant strikes against Hamas, which has made the decision to disrupt the calm lives of the residents of the Gaza periphery. We are ready for anything,” says Halevi, who is overseeing the IDF operation in Gaza, in comments publicized by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Beersheba mayor urges patience amid rocket attacks

Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich urges residents of the southern city to remain calm after rockets launched from Gaza exploded in an uninhabited area near the city a short time ago.

“I want to assure the residents that despite the attack, at this point there are no special instructions. Be patient.”

Police sappers called to remove Grad rocket that fell in Beersheba

Police sappers are rushing to the scene in Beersheba where a Gazan rocket, reportedly a Grad, has been found inside the city limits.

There are no reports of injuries or damage from the attack.

Sderot mayor urges Gaza op, says it’s time ‘to hit the terrorists hard’

The mayor of the rocket-battered town of Sderot, Alon Davidi, says it’s time for a major military operation in Gaza that will return the quiet to his city.

“It’s time for an action or an operation in Gaza,” Davidi says, addressing ministers in the security cabinet who are set to meet at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv to decide how to proceed in light of the escalation in violence since yesterday in Gaza.

“We have to hit the terrorists hard and bring back our routine to our own lives. For our part, we are ready and willing to give the army and decision-makers the time and space they need to return quiet to this region,” he adds.

Four mortar shells hit uninhabited areas near Eshkol region

A number of mortar shells launched from Gaza detonate in uninhabited areas near the Eshkol region of southern Israel over the past half hour, the army says.

No injuries or damage are caused.

The mortar attack does not set off sirens as the projectiles were heading toward open fields where they was no threat to life.

Rocket alert sirens sound in Sderot

Rocket sirens sound in Sderot.

Health Ministry opens ‘resilience centers’ to help Gaza periphery residents

In an indication that officials may be preparing for a drawn-out conflict with Gaza, the Health Ministry announces that special “resilience centers” in communities near Gaza are being opened. The five centers employ social workers and other professionals trained to help residents of the rocket-battered areas to cope with the stress of conflict.

Palestinians say IDF firing at targets east of Gaza City

Palestinian media reports say IDF forces are firing at targets east of Gaza City. There are no immediate reports of casualties.

PM, DM consult with army brass ahead of security cabinet meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman conclude a meeting with IDF top brass before the meeting of the broader security cabinet set to begin at 6 p.m. in Tel Aviv.

Livni slams government for failing to ‘deliver security for Israelis’

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni slams the government for failing to bring the Gaza escalation to a decisive conclusion and refusing to engage in peace efforts.

“It’s clear today that this government can’t deliver security for Israelis, especially not residents of the south,” she says. “The current government of Israel seems to prefer a state of Hamastan right next to the residents of the south, which explains why it prevented every possibility for dialog with moderates” on the Palestinian side.

Heads of IDF southern, homefront commands visit Sderot

The heads of the IDF’s Southern Command and Home Front Command visit the southern town of Sderot, which was buffeted by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip yesterday and today.

Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi and Home Front Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai speak with the mayor of the town, Alon Davidi, and visit one rocket impact site, the army says.

Halevi praises the residents of the city and the local government for standing up to “challenging situations.”

The head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, center-left, speaks with Sderot mayor Alon Davidi, center-right, during a visit to the southern town, which was hit repeatedly with rocket fire from the Gaza Strip on August 9, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

“In the past day, we have conducted significant attacks against the Hamas terror group,” Halevi says.

“We are prepared for every eventuality and will continue to do whatever is required in order to ensure the safety of [Sderot] residents and to strengthen the feeling of security. I trust in the resilience of residents of the Gaza periphery and call on them to continue to adhere to the Home Front Command’s instructions,” he adds.

— Judah Ari Gross

Eshkol council instructs residents to stay close to protected areas

The Eshkol Regional Council tells residents that “IDF actions in the [Gaza] Strip will continue in the coming hours. We are reminding [residents] to remain close to protected spaces.”

France condemns Hamas rocket fire, urges ‘restraint’ and lifting of blockade

France issues a statement condemning the firing of rockets toward Israel and urging “restraint…by all parties.”

“France deplores the escalation of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip. It condemns the firing of rockets toward Israel and would like restraint to prevail and the ceasefire to be upheld by all parties in order to prevent further civilian casualties,” the statement says.

“These incidents underscore the urgent need to work toward finding a lasting political solution for Gaza and to respond effectively to the humanitarian crisis affecting the Palestinian population.”

It also calls for a lifting of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza.

“This notably requires the lifting of the blockade, on the one hand – while respecting Israel’s security concerns – and the achievement of inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the full return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, on the other.”

“France, in collaboration with its European partners, will remain fully mobilized to support efforts to that end.”

Israel-Cyprus soccer match to take place in Beersheba despite rocket attack

A soccer game scheduled to take place in Beersheba between the Israeli city’s Hapoel team and Cyprus’s Nicosia Apoel will take place as usual, despite recent rocket fire that hit near the city, the IDF’s Homefront Command says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Police say they found rocket remains north of Beersheba

Police say they have found remains from a rocket fired at the southern city of Beersheba earlier Thursday, setting off sirens in the town for the first time since the 2014 Gaza War.

The rocket landed in an open area north of Beersheba, causing no injuries or damage, a police spokesman says.

— Jacob Magid

Palestinians say Israeli planes carrying out airstrikes in Gaza

Palestinian media reports say that IDF aircraft are striking at targets near the a-Shati refugee camp in Gaza.

The strikes are in response to the launch of a Grad rocket at Beersheba, according to Hebrew-language media.

Police chief heads to Sderot

Amid the escalation in violence in Gaza and southern Israel, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich is headed to the city of Sderot to assess the needs of civilians in the Gaza periphery up close.

— Jacob Magid

Security cabinet meets in Tel Aviv amid Gaza violence

The ten-member security cabinet, the committee of ministers empowered by law to decide whether the country goes to war, is meeting in the army’s headquarters in central Tel Aviv to discuss the escalation in violence in Gaza yesterday and today.

According to reports from sources close to the ministers, some are urging a more forceful IDF response to the firing of some 200 rockets from Gaza since Wednesday.

Small group of protesters in Tel Aviv demand IDF ‘conquer Gaza’

A small group of right-wing protesters is demonstrating at the entrance to the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv’s Kirya compound, holding signs demanding that the army “conquer Gaza” and comparing Hamas to Islamic State.

The protest comes as the 10 ministers who are members of the security cabinet gather to hear briefings from top army officers and decide on Israel’s next steps.

200 rockets launched from Gaza since yesterday, IDF says

The army says the number of rockets launched at Israeli towns from Gaza yesterday and today has reached 200.

Thirty rockets were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense forces. Most of the remainder fell in uninhabited areas.

Fresh rocket warning sirens blare in south as IDF strikes Gaza

Incoming rocket sirens sound in southern Israel as the military conducts renewed airstrikes against a target in the northern Gaza Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The alarms can be heard in communities in the Eshkol region.

— Judah Ari Gross

7 Gazans said wounded in Israeli airstrikes

Seven Palestinians wounded in Israeli airstrikes arrive at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, says Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

— Adam Rasgon

IDF strike demolishes Hamas HQ building in Gaza City

The IDF struck and demolished a five-story headquarters building belonging to Hamas in Gaza City, the army says.

The entire building collapsed.

There are initial reports of injuries from the strike.

Expecting more rocket fire, Soroka Hospital moves preemies to bomb shelters

Facing the possibility of an extended war with Gaza, Soroka Hospital in Beersheba has taken steps to protect its most vulnerable patients from rocket attacks.

The hospital has moved its entire neonatal intensive care unit for premature babies to its bomb-proof areas. Some 20 preemies are currently hospitalized in the unit.

“Based on past experience, we prefer to move the babies at our initiative and safely” than under pressure of rocket sirens, Dr. Agi Golan, head of the hospital’s Neonatology Department, says in a statement.

Soroka Hospital staff moving premature babies to rocket-proof areas in the facility, August 9, 2018. (Soroka Medical Center)

Gaza health officials raise wounded toll from Gaza City strike to 18

Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, says the number of Palestinians wounded in an Israeli strike on a Hamas headquarters building in the western part of Gaza City has risen to 18.

— Adam Rasgon

Druze MK offers Galilee cabins to families under rocket fire

MK Salah Sa’ad, a Druze lawmaker on the Zionist Union list, invites Israeli residents of towns targeted by Gazan rockets to take a breather from the stress of rocket fire and pay a free visit to his family’s bed-and-breakfast cabins in his hometown of Beit Jan in the north.

“In light of the security situation in the south, I invite the residents of the Gaza periphery to come and experience Druze hospitality first-hand,” Sa’ad says. “After the warm embrace the Druze community received from the Israeli public” — i.e., the support for the Druze in the crisis over the nation-state law — “we embrace the residents of the south and want to offer them a chance to ‘air out’ from the stress, and come to the Galilee.”

US Reform leader says ‘no doubt’ Hamas to blame for latest violence

The Association of Reform Zionists of America, the main pro-Israel Reform Jewish group in the US, condemns Hamas for the rocket fire that led to the latest escalation in violence.

“Nearly 200 rockets and other projectiles have been launched from Gaza into Israel, injuring dozens and sending tens of thousands of Israelis as far inland as Ashkelon into bomb shelters. No nation can or should be expected to allow such attacks,” ARZA head Rabbi Joshua Weinberg says in a statement.

“There is no doubt where the blame sits for the worst wave of violence since the 2014 Gaza war,” Weinberg adds. “This week Hamas has again shown its true colors. As we stated recently: There appears to be no doubt that Hamas has made cynical and violent use of those Gazans who seek a more hopeful future. The continued tragedy of Gaza shows the strong need for a regional agreement, including Egypt and other Arab states, and for the US to play an arbiter’s role in finding a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

Weinberg concludes: “Our prayers are with the Israelis huddled in bomb shelters today. We also pray for the residents of Gaza, who are being used by Hamas. And we urge Israel to protect her citizens, as she must, and to always bear in mind that there are many in Gaza who seek nothing more – or less – than to live in peace.”

Egypt warns Hamas that Israel may return to targeted assassinations

Egypt warns Hamas that if it continues rocket fire on Israeli towns, Israel will return to its one-time policy of targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders, Hadashot TV reports.

Reports Netanyahu was hospitalized are incorrect, PMO says

Hebrew-language media reports according to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became unwell during a security cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv and was rushed to hospital are incorrect, the Prime Minister’s Office says.

Netanyahu continues to lead the meeting at IDF Headquarters.

The erroneous reports have been removed from Israeli news websites.

Hamas building destroyed by Israel in Gaza City hid a tunnel — report

Hadashot television news reports that a Hamas tunnel was located under the building housing the group’s internal security service, which was blown up a short time ago in an airstrike in Gaza City.

Former PM Barak warns defeating Hamas would require reconquest of Gaza

Former prime minister Ehud Barak says the only way to defeat Hamas is for Israel to re-capture the Gaza Strip, but adds “not even the extremists” in Israel want that.

In an interview with Channel 10 news, Barak also harshly criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the uptick in violence since yesterday.

“From a technical perspective, the IDF could occupy the Gaza Strip in a matter of days,” Barak says about reports of a possible large-scale IDF offensive in the Palestinian territory. “But then we would have a different problem. It’s impossible to topple Hamas without conquering the Strip,” he says.

The former prime minister says that he has previously explored ways to remove Hamas from power in Gaza, but his proposal, which apparently included an Israeli reconquest of the Strip, was rejected by the PA and Arab states.

Barak adds that Netanyahu’s government is “not dealing with” the escalating violence in Gaza.

“The government is sending the IDF to kill mosquitoes, instead of working to dry the swamp,” he says.

Rocket alert sirens sound in Kissufim, Nirim, Ein Hashlosha

Rocket alert sirens sound in Kissufim, Nirim and Ein Hashlosha, all villages close to the Gaza border.

IDF confirms it destroyed Gaza City building it says was used by Hamas

The IDF confirms it conducted the strike on a five-story building in the northern Gaza Strip that it says was used by the Hamas terror group, saying the attack was in response to the rocket fire that hit the southern Israeli city of Beersheba this afternoon.

The military says the attack was “an expression of the IDF’s intelligence and operational capabilities, which will expand and intensify as necessary.”

According to reports, the building housed the headquarters of Hamas’s internal security service.

Hamas says it didn’t fire the rocket at Beersheba — report

Hadashot television news reports that Hamas has sent a message to Israel insisting it was not responsible for the rocket attack on Beersheba earlier today.

According to the report, Hamas claims neither it nor the Islamic Jihad terror group fired the rocket. It blamed the attack, which sparked a retaliatory strike that demolished a Hamas headquarters building in Gaza City, on a radical Salafi group in the Strip.

Hamas slams ‘barbaric’ airstrike on Gaza City building

Hamas spokesman Hazim Qassim says on Facebook: “The occupation’s deliberate bombardment and destruction of cultural centers…are barbaric acts that belong to the Dark Ages.”

Qassim is referring to an Israeli airstrike earlier this evening that demolished a five-story building in Gaza City that was used as a cultural center — but also, according to Israel, as the headquarters of Hamas’s internal security service. It also housed an entrance to an underground attack tunnel, Israel says.

IDF spokesman: Hamas ‘playing with fire,’ army ‘will bring quiet to the south’

IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis says the IDF is prepared to do whatever it must to return quiet to Israel’s south.

“Hamas must understand it is playing with fire, and we will escalate our actions until quiet returns to the south,” he tells reporters.

He adds: “The IDF has used the past four years to improve our capabilities, in the air and on the ground. What we’ve seen until now is only a small part of what we can do. The decision as to what to do and how much force to use is given to the political echelons, but we will bring quiet to residents of the south,” he insists.

Rocket warning sirens again sound in southern Israel

Incoming rocket alert sirens again sounded in southern Israel, sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters.

The sirens could be heard in the Eshkol, Sha’ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regions, just outside the Gaza Strip.

There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

— Judah Ari Gross

Projectile from Gaza sparks fire in southern Israel

A projectile fired from the Gaza Strip at the Sha’ar Hanegev region of southern Israel sparked a fire when it exploded in an open field in the area, a spokesperson for the local government says.

The Sha’ar Hanegev spokeswoman says another projectile also appears to have hit an open field in the region, but it caused no damage.

“Firefighting forces are on the way,” she says.

— Judah Ari Gross

Security cabinet orders military to keep up Gaza strikes

After meeting at the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, the security cabinet orders the IDF to “continue taking strong action against the terrorist elements,” the Prime Minister’s Office says in a statement.

Israel-Gaza ceasefire goes into effect — report

A report in Al Jazeera says that an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement has been reached between Israel “resistance factions” in the Gaza Strip. The report says the truce went into effect tonight at 10:45 p.m.

Israeli official denies Al-Jareeza report of Hamas ceasefire

An Israeli official is denying the report on Al-Jazeera that claims an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas, and went into effect earlier tonight.

One official tells Hadashot news that no agreement with Hamas had been reached, and that while the group earlier indicated it was interested in a ceasefire, he says the security cabinet has instead instructed the military to continue to use force against Gaza terror groups.

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Security cabinet meets in Tel Aviv amid Gaza violence

The ten-member security cabinet, the committee of ministers empowered by law to decide whether the country goes to war, is meeting in the army’s headquarters in central Tel Aviv to discuss the escalation in violence in Gaza yesterday and today.

According to reports from sources close to the ministers, some are urging a more forceful IDF response to the firing of some 200 rockets from Gaza since Wednesday.