Shejaiya, Gaza, burns after being bombarded all night and into the morning, July 20, 2014.
Credit: Ayman Mohyeldin/Instagram


GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: CRISIS IN GAZA

UPDATE: 7/20/14 11:15 PM ET

This live blog is now closed

Check back in the morning for more updates.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 9:55 PM ET

Israel investigating the reported capture of a soldier

The Israeli military said it was checking on the reported capture of one of its soldiers, which was announced in a Hamas television broadcast Sunday night. Israeli television stations ignored the report in their extended evening programing about the offensive.

"Qassam Brigades captured a Zionist soldier," said Abu Ubaida, the masked spokesman of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who identified the soldier as Shaul Aron and recited what he said was Aron's identity tag number.

He provided no other evidence the soldier was in the custody of the Islamist militants.

Ubaida said the capture happened during the same battle in which 13 Israeli soldiers died earlier, near Shejaia, the embattled neighborhood east of the city of Gaza where most of the Palestinian casualties occurred on Sunday.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 4:50 PM ET

Hamas said it captured an Israeli soldier

UPDATE: 7/20/14 4:15 PM ET

100 Palestinians killed on Sunday

The number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip on Sunday was at least 100, the emergency services spokesman in the territory, Ashraf al-Qudra, said.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 3:35 PM ET

Israeli citizens, journalists not permitted to enter Gaza

Israeli citizens are not permitted to enter the Gaza Strip. As a result, some of the most legendary experts on the Israeli military and Hamas are relegated to covering the conflict from just within Israel's border, in clear view of the dark plumes rising form sites being bombed in Gaza about a mile away.

Here, Israeli Channel 1 and Channel 10 Arab affairs reporters cover the conflict from a dusty bluff a mile outside Gaza.


(Noga Tarnopolsky/GlobalPost)

UPDATE: 7/20/14 2:14 PM ET

Israeli army takes a hit, preps new reservists

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

ASHKELON, Israel — Some 13 Israeli soldiers from the elite Golani unit were killed and 60 wounded in the battle in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sujahiye, a Hamas stronghold. The fighting overnight Saturday night killed at least 60 Palestinians.

Helicopters ferried the gravely injured soldiers to Israeli hospitals on Sunday. At Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, the closest to the front lines, relieved, hollow-eyed parents recalled for TV cameras the near-miss experiences of lightly wounded Israeli soldiers.

Hospital personnel set up an air-conditioned tent complete with sugary snacks for journalists — keeping them from clogging the hospital's helicopter landing pad and emergency entrance.

Further south, military police stopped journalists from proceeding to the fields of Kibbutz Sa'ad — where the Golani soldiers had gathered yesterday evening, awaiting orders — for about half an hour.

Upon arrival, the field was flattened and dun, dotted by a few plastic bags that caught on prickly weeds. A new contingent of reserve soldiers awaited orders in the adjacent gas station's mini-mart. About 30 men from late youth to middle age flopped in loose green uniforms on chairs outside the mini-mart.

The men stared blankly at a TV screen hung high up on a wall. Occasionally, one would rise to grab a popsicle from the freezer. On the TV, pundits hinted darkly at the terrible news still kept under the cover of censorship.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 12:15 PM ET

Arab League accuses Israel of "war crimes"

The Arab League on Sunday lashed out at Israel for pounding Gaza's Shejaiya district, accusing the Jewish state of "war crimes," and called for an "immediate stop" to its offensive.

More than 60 Palestinians were killed Sunday as Israeli forces bombarded Shejaiya, sending thousands fleeing in the deadliest assault on the Palestinian enclave in five years.

"What Shejaiya is undergoing today in terms of brutal bombing operations are war crimes against Palestinian civilians and a dangerous escalation that could have further consequences," Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said in a statement.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 12:10 PM ET

Israel extends humanitarian ceasefire in Shejaiya

Israel said on Sunday afternoon it is prolonging the temporary humanitarian truce in Gaza's Shejaiya district, in order to allow emergency teams to go into the battered zone where at least 60 people were reportedly killed by Israeli shelling Sunday.

"Following an additional request made by the Red Cross, the Israel Defense Force has decided to prolong the humanitarian ceasefire until 17:30 p.m. (14:30PM GMT)," an army notice said. "Any attempt to violate this window will not be tolerated," the statement added.

Earlier Sunday, Israel agreed to a request by the International Red Cross Committee for a two-hour humanitarian truce, starting at 13:30 p.m. in order to allow medical teams in Gaza to evacuate the dead and wounded to hospitals.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 11:30 AM ET

13 Israeli soldiers killed overnight

UPDATE: 7/20/14 8:50 AM ET

Palestinian death toll nears 400

At least 40 Palestinians were killed and 400 others wounded early on Sunday by Israeli artillery fire in a Gaza city neighborhood, marking Sunday the heaviest casualties since Israel launched its ground operation late Thursday night.

An Israeli spokeswoman said residents in neighborhood of Sheja' eya had received warning messages from the Israeli army ahead to evacuate their homes.

Palestinian Health Ministry officials said at least 390 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed in the 13-day conflict and about 3,000 have been wounded.

On Israel's side, two civilians were killed by cross-border fire and five soldiers died as conflict intensified.

UPDATE: 7/20/14 8:40 AM ET

Hamas accepts 3-hour humanitarian ceasefire

From AFP:

Hamas movement said Sunday it had accepted a proposal for a three-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza it said was made by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The ICRC contacted (us) and offered to broker a three-hour humanitarian truce to enable ambulances to evacuate the dead and wounded and Hamas accepted it," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

"Hamas agreed on it but the occupation refused it," he claimed, although Israeli public radio reported that the Israeli government was studying the proposal.

ICRC refused to confirm or deny the report. A spokesman said: "We have been making every effort to ensure ways to evacuate the dead and the wounded."

UPDATE: 7/20/14 2:55 AM ET

Israel bulldozes tunnels in Gaza

AP reports:

Israel's military said early Sunday that it has widened its ground offensive by sending more troops into Gaza.

Since the onset of their ground offensive, Israeli troops have demolished more than a dozen tunnels that were used by Hamas to sneak into Israel and carry out attacks on soldiers and civilians, the army said.

Israeli soldiers uncovered 34 shafts leading into about a dozen underground tunnels, some as deep as 30 meters (yards), the military said.

Footage released by the Israeli military showed tunnels being demolished by army excavators and other equipment on the ground and by airstrikes from above. 

UPDATE: 7/19/14 6:05 PM ET

Markets optimistic about crisis

A day after Israeli stocks slumped in New York as the country sent soldiers into the Gaza Strip, the market rebounded to erase all of the losses.

The reversal reflects optimism that the Israeli military’s ground operation in Gaza to quash barrages of rocket fire won’t drag out into a prolonged conflict.

Read more at Businessweek.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 5:09 PM ET

Is Hamas running out of rockets?

Reuters reports:

Israel's army said on Saturday Gaza-based militants had used up or lost about half of their rockets in 12 days of fighting — though the Islamist fighters say they have been replenishing their arsenal.

The Israeli military said Palestinian fighters had fired at least 1,705 rockets out of an estimated stockpile of about 10,000, a depletion of about 17 percent.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 3:32 PM ET

46 Palestinians, 2 Israelis killed Saturday

AFP reports:

Israel's operation against Hamas saw one of its bloodiest days Saturday, with 46 Palestinians killed in Gaza and two Israeli soldiers dying in a clash with militants who infiltrated the Jewish state.

As Israeli warplanes bombarded Gaza from the air, and ground troops pressed an assault on land, the Palestinian death toll rose to 342, with rights groups warning that a growing number of victims are children.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 12:50 PM ET

Protests against Israel gain strength around the world

A girl smiles during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy in Santiago, Chile, on July 19, 2014.

 
 

A protester shouts and holds a placard during a demonstration in Lyon, central-eastern France, on July 19, 2014.

 
 
 

 

Demonstrators march on Whitehall to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England.

 

 

Protesters sport fake injuries during a demonstration in Brussels on July 19, 2014.

 

UPDATE: 7/19/14 12:35 PM ET

2 Israeli soldiers killed in Hamas tunnel attack

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky reports that two Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas tunnel attack. The two soldiers were previously reported as having been wounded.

According to Haaretz, two Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack and four more wounded.

From Haaretz:

It is believed that a cell of four or five militants breached the Israeli border from the center of the Gaza Strip, near the Israeli community of Kissufim, and fired machine guns and an anti-tank missile at an Israel Defense Forces unit.

The IDF returned fire, killing one of the militants, and started in pursuit of the rest of the Palestinian cell. According to a senior IDF officer, the pursuit took place inside Israeli territory.

GP's Tarnopolsky gives context to the attack a few entries down.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 12:25 PM ET

Number of Palestinians seeking UN refuge steadily growing

UPDATE: 7/19/14 12:20 PM ET

2nd Israeli civilian killed in rocket fire from Gaza

An Israeli civilian became the second to be killed Saturday after a rocket attack on southern Israel, Israel's medical services said.

A 32-year-old man died from rocket shrapnel, Israeli national medical emergency services Director General Eli Bin told media.

Three others were wounded including a 4-month-old girl in critical condition and a 5-year-old boy in light condition. The three were evacuated to a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. 

The victims appear to be members of a single Bedouin family living in a community in the southern Israeli Negev Desert. The communities, mostly unrecognized by Israel as they were established before Israel was founded in 1948, are off the electric grid and do not have protection from rocket attacks.

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky reports that some 50 rockets were launched at Israel from Gaza on Saturday.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 12:05 PM ET

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky on Hamas' diplomatic isolation:

While displaying considerable military prowess Hamas remains diplomatically more isolated than ever.

Fraying ties among Islamic groups and regimes have left Hamas virtually an orphan movement. Only Qatar is willing to offer financial support, but the Gulf monarchy is unacceptable to Egypt, the nation bordering Gaza on the south.

Hamas is severely strained by internal tensions between the Gaza-based military wing and the foreign-based political wing. It is the military wing that scuttled Egypt's unilateral announcement of a ceasefire last Tuesday, which was accepted by Israel but lasted only about six hours. 

UPDATE: 7/19/14 11:51 AM ET

Hamas publishes ceasefire initiative

According to the Jerusalem Post:

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip on Saturday published their own initiative for a ceasefire with Israel.

The initiative, which is backed by Qatar, calls for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire, the lifting of the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip eight years ago and the release of Palestinians who were arrested by Israel in recent weeks in the West Bank.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 10:53 AM ET

Donkey suicide bomber stopped by Israelis

From the Telegraph:

Hamas militants sent a donkey laden with explosives on a suicide mission in one of the most unconventional tactics yet seen in the fighting in Gaza, the Israeli army has said.

Troops said they were forced to open fire on the animal — blowing it up — as it approached their position in the southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 9:56 AM ET

Hamas' thwarted tunnel invasion wounds 2 Israeli soldiers 

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

GAZA BORDER AREA — Two Israeli soldiers were critically wounded Saturday when militants attempted to infiltrate Israel through a tunnel. Roads have been blocked off in much of southern Israel in the aftermath of the skirmish.

This was not Hamas' first attempt to infiltrate Israeli territory. On Thursday, Hamas dispatched 13 heavily armed men through one of more than 20 tunnels in a bid to gain access to a small Israeli communal village near the Gaza border.

Israeli intelligence detected the operation, followed the men and bombed the tunnel. (Here's video. Watch the guy in the bottom left with the ninja roll at 26 seconds. Pretty crazy.) 

For now, Israeli infantry and tanks are keeping to the mission's declared goal — eliminating the network of tunnels — and have not strayed from a narrow swathe near the border.

Israeli tanks amassed on the Gaza border, with elite paratroopers and members of the Golani brigade waiting for further orders.

Both Hamas attempts to penetrate Israeli communities with heavily armed units have confirmed Israeli concerns about Hamas activities during the 18 months of relative quiet between Pillar of Defense, and the current conflict, which the Israeli army has named Protective Edge.

Israel is determined to use the current military operation to neutralize the tunnels. Most Israeli observers foresee at least a week-long ground engagement.

UPDATE: 7/19/14 8:30 AM ET

Death toll tops 320 on 12th day of fighting

GlobalPost's Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

The Palestinian death toll has climbed past 320. A family of nine, including four children, was buried Saturday.

Agence France-Presse adds:

The bodies were retrieved from the southern city of Khan Yunis, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The discoveries came after the deaths of seven people outside a mosque in Khan Yunis, Qudra said, adding that three of the dead were from the same family.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 6:20 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. It will resume in the morning.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 6:06 PM ET

On the 11th day of the conflict, the death toll escalates 

Agence France-Presse — Fifty-five Gazans were killed on Friday as Israel pressed a major ground offensive in the coastal enclave, raising the overall Palestinian death toll since July 8 to 296, medics said.

Mourners carry into a mosque the body of Muhammad Abu Musallam, a Palestinian young boy who was killed along with his sister and his brother in an Israeli tank attack, during their funeral on July 18, 2014 in Beit Lahia, north of the Gaza strip.

An Israeli soldier was also killed as troops began an offensive on the Gaza periphery aimed at destroying Hamas's network of cross-border tunnels, the army said. Israeli television said he died by "friendly fire." 

The latest Palestinian deaths included three members of a family killed in an Israeli strike in southern Gaza's Rafah, as well as a 21-year-old man also killed in Rafah, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 3:33 PM ET

How and why is Israel targeting tunnels?

Israel is reportedly targeting cross-border tunnels as part of its Gaza offensive. 

"Dozens of terror tunnels are spread throughout the Gaza Strip, the majority of them constructed and utilized by Hamas," an army spokesman said in a statement, as quoted by Agence France-Presse

"The Hamas tunnel network is highly developed and continuously preserved interconnecting launch sites, rocket maintenance and command and control positions."

To get a glimpse of how these tunnels look from the inside, check out this photo essay published by Business Insider. 

Hayes Brown, an editor at ThinkProgress, wrote a helpful explainer on how these intricate underground tunnels are used — and the role they play in Gaza's economy.

"All told, what passes through the tunnels makes up a substantial portion, if not the vast majority, of the Gazan economy at this point," Brown wrote, and noted that the "reason that such a large portion of the Gazan economy is dependent on the tunnels is that most other crossings into the territory are blocked off." Read the full piece here.


GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky gives her take on Israel's ground invasion from Ashkelon, Israel:

The Israeli ground invasion is for now a bit of a paradox.

On the one hand, Israeli infantry and armor is keeping to its declared mission of attacking cross-border tunnels, and therefore keeping to a fairly narrow zone. The bombing in Gazan cities is all part of the ongoing air campaign. 

On the other hand, this is not really a "limited operation."

My best estimate is that we are talking about at least a week-long ground operation. Israel is determined to use this conflict to neutralize the tunnels — yesterday's infiltration is confirmation of a long-held fear.

So it is limited, but not really limited.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 12:05 PM ET

Obama says US 'deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation'

Agence France-Presse — US President Barack Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to voice concerns about the crisis in Gaza amid an Israeli ground offensive.

Obama said that while the US supports Israel's right to defend itself, "the United States and our friends and allies are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life."


Here are some more key snippets from Obama's statement on the Israel-Gaza crisis:

Obama affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and says sirens went off in Tel Aviv even as he was on phone with Netanyahu.

— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 18, 2014
Read the full transcript of his speech on The Washington Post.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 10:48 AM ET

An impending water crisis in Gaza

Reuters — The United Nations said on Friday it was stepping up emergency aid to Gaza, where Israel's military offensive has made water shortages worse and stoked fears of more sewage contamination and water-borne diseases.

 
A displaced Palestinian girl carries a fresh water jerrycan at a school used as a shelter in Gaza City on July 18, 2014.

On Tuesday, UN aid agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross warned that after years of Gaza's water system deteriorating, damage from the attacks meant the whole coastal strip was facing a water crisis within days. 

"We are still very concerned about the water supply in Gaza, about half of the population are without water supply at this time," UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokeswoman, Amanda Pitt, told a news briefing in Geneva.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 10:15 AM ET

Demonstrations against Israel's Gaza offensive continue to break out in many corners of the world

Here are some photos of today's protests:

Sudan:

Sudanese men shout slogans during a protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip in the capital Khartoum on July 18, 2014.


Bahrain:

 
Bahraini women hold pictures of victims during a protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip on July 18, 2014, in the village of Diraz, west of Manama.


Afghanistan:

 
Afghan demonstrators shout slogans against Israeli attacks on Palestinian territories during a demonstration in front of the Eid Gah Mosque in the city of Kabul on July 18, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 9:48 AM ET

Netanyahu tells IDF to prepare for 'significant broadening' of ground assault

Agence France-Presse — Israel warned Friday it could broaden a Gaza ground assault aimed at smashing Hamas's network of cross-border tunnels, as it intensified attacks that have killed more than 260 Palestinians.

Diplomats stepped up efforts to halt 11 days of bloodshed in and around the battered Gaza Strip while Pope Francis demanded an immediate ceasefire in a phone call with Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas.

And Abbas reached out for French help to lobby Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey to pressure the Islamists into accepting a truce during talks in Cairo with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

In the face of Israel's land, sea and air offensive that has sent terrified civilians running for cover, the Islamist movement Hamas remained defiant and warned the Jewish state it would "drown in the swamp of Gaza."

As Gaza residents spoke of a night of terror, with fierce gunbattles in the south and all-night shelling in the north, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the operation could yet be widened, amid growing international calls to avoid harm to civilians.

"My instructions and those of the defense minister to the military ... is to prepare for the possibility of a significant broadening of the ground activity," he told ministers in Tel Aviv.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 9:22 AM ET

A look at why there aren't any bomb shelters in Gaza 

From the Christian Science Monitor:

The lack of bomb shelters in Gaza stands in stark contrast with Israel, which has invested heavily in such protection since the 1991 Gulf War. ... Building bomb shelters for more than 1.7 million people from scratch would be a massive logistical challenge – just ask Israel – but especially for a government that is chronically in the red and doesn’t control its borders.

More here.

UPDATE: 7/18/14 8:45 AM ET

Number of casualties continues to increase

Reuters — Israel intensified its land offensive in Gaza with artillery, tanks and gunboats on Friday and warned it could "significantly widen" an operation Palestinian officials said was killing ever greater numbers of civilians.

Palestinian mourners gather around the body of five-month-old Fares al-Mahmum and another victim of Israeli bombardment during their funeral on July 18, 2014 in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.

Palestinian health officials said 27 Palestinians, including a baby, two children and a 70-year-old woman, had been killed since Israel sent ground forces into the densely-populated strip of 1.8 million Palestinians on Thursday.

The Israeli military said it killed 17 Palestinian gunmen while another 13 surrendered and were taken for questioning after the infantry and tank assault began in the Islamist Hamas-dominated territory.

An Israeli artillery shell is fired at the border with Gaza on July 18, 2014 near Sderot, Israel.

One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded in the operations, in which some 150 targets, including 21 concealed rocket launchers and four tunnels, have been attacked, according to the military.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 11:50 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 11:19 PM ET

Kerry calls for 'precise' Israeli ground operation in Gaza

Agence France-Presse — US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Israel on Thursday to limit collateral damage in Gaza, urging the Jewish state to be "precise" in its ground assault on the Palestinian enclave.

In his call with Netanyahu, Kerry "emphasized the need to avoid further escalation and to restore the 2012 ceasefire as soon as possible, reinforced our continuing commitment to the Egyptian initiative as the way to do so and underscored the importance of Hamas accepting this plan as soon as possible," a State Department statement said.

The Israeli leader, in turn, stressed to Kerry the "imminent threat" to Israeli civilians posed by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip to Israel, according to the statement.

Kerry "reaffirmed our strong support for Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist threats emanating from tunnels into Israel and expressed our view that this should be a precise operation to target tunnels," according to his office.

"The secretary also reiterated our concern about the safety and security of civilians on both sides and the importance of doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties."


The BBC spoke to Yousef Shehada who lives in Rafah in southern Gaza about the current conditions there.

"We cannot sleep because the tanks are bombing us everywhere — here and there," he says. 

Listen to the full interview here.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 7:15 PM ET

'Gaza on edge,' says BBC journalist 

The BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet is in Gaza right now. Here's her report, via Twitter, of what the atmosphere is like on the ground.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 6:36 PM ET

Israel approves call-up of more reservists

Agence France-Presse — Israel approved the call-up of another 18,000 reservists, taking the total number approved to 65,000 for an operation aimed at protecting Israeli lives and strike "a significant blow to Hamas's terror infrastructure," the army said.

Shortly beforehand, the military began an intensive bombardment of the enclave, by air and sea as well as by tanks massed along the border.

Salvoes of rockets lit up the sky, and a seafront hotel in Gaza City housing scores of journalists shook violently with the force of the shelling by sea, an AFP correspondent said.

An Israeli missile hits Palestinian buildings in Gaza City on July 17, 2014.

Earlier on Thursday, Cairo lashed out at the Islamist Hamas movement, saying it could have saved dozens of lives had it accepted an Egyptian-brokered truce.

"Had Hamas accepted the Egyptian proposal, it could have saved the lives of at least 40 Palestinians," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said.

Israel said the aim of the operation was to destroy the network of tunnels riddling the Gaza Strip, some of which are used for assembling rockets and others used for staging cross-border attacks on southern Israel.

One such attack was foiled by Israeli forces early Thursday.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, this evening instructed the IDF to commence ground action to strike at the terrorist tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory," a statement from the premier's office said.

Israeli soldiers stand near the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip (background) on July 17, 2014.

A military spokesman said Israel had decided to send in troops after repeated efforts to end the conflict had failed.

"We have tried three times in the last ten days to de-escalate; every time we have been met with more aggression," Major Arye Shalicar told AFP.

"Our goal is to strike Hamas infrastructure and operatives in several places in the strip — north, east and south. Part of the infrastructure that we will target is tunnels."

Military spokesman General Moti Almoz urged Gaza residents to flee areas where the army was operating, warning that the ground campaign would "be extended as much as necessary."

Following an appeal by Washington and the UN, the military pledged to invest "unprecedented efforts" to limit harm to civilians.

On the ground, Palestinian witnesses reported gun battles breaking out east of the southern city of Khan Yunis, with military sources confirming it was one of the areas in which the troops were operating.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 3:58 PM ET

Israeli army says it has launched a ground operation in Gaza

Agence France-Presse — Israel launched a ground operation in Gaza late Thursday on the tenth day of an offensive to stamp out rocket attacks from the Palestinian enclave, the army said.

"Following 10 days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation, the Israel Defence Forces (army) has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip," it said in a statement.

Israeli soldiers seen along the border with Gaza on July 17, 2014 on Israel's border with the Gaza Strip.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 3:40 PM ET

Israeli tanks shelling Gaza rehab hospital, facility director says

Agence France-Presse — Israeli tanks are shelling Gaza's Al-Wafa hospital, whose 14 patients include some who are paralysed or in a coma, and several people have been hurt, the facility's director said Thursday.

"Israeli tanks are shelling the hospital, they have hit several of the floors, and several nurses have been injured," director Basman Alashi told AFP.

The hospital in Gaza's Shejaiya district has come under Israeli fire several times before, and the Israeli military has called on Alashi and other doctors to evacuate it.

Alashi told AFP on Wednesday that it was almost impossible to move the patients, most of whom are immobile, and he questioned where they could go.

"There is no place safe in Gaza! If a hospital is not safe, where is?" he said.

On Thursday night, he said he was contacting other hospitals in Gaza to try to arrange ambulances to transport the 14 patients elsewhere after Al-Wafa came under renewed Israeli fire.

"But the ambulances are all in use, there is heavy shelling in many places," he said. "And each patient has to be taken individually and carried because they cannot move." "They are tearing the hospital apart, bit by bit."

UPDATE: 7/17/14 12:37 PM ET

'We have a message of unity,' says father of teenager wounded by rocket in Ashkelon

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky just sent in the following dispatch from Ashkelon, Israel:

Yarin Levy, the teenager gravely wounded by a rocket in Ashkelon a few days ago, is still being treated in hospital. 

His room has become a pilgrimage site of sorts: In the past two days, four Israeli ministers and two foreign VIPs have visited and taken photographs with the boy, who is still in pain.

I asked his dad, Avinoam, if they are bothered by the attention.

"No, not at all," he said. "Anyone who wishes us well is welcome. I've gotten calls from all over, from Arabs, from Israelis. We have a message of unity."

UPDATE: 7/17/14 12:21 PM ET

Three more children have died in Gaza

UPDATE: 7/17/14 11:07 AM ET

A climbing death toll

The total death toll of the conflict is now 233. Al Jazeera has published a list of the names of the people who lost their lives since fighting began a little more than a week ago.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 10:58 AM ET

Lebanon files UN complaint against Israel

Agence France-Presse — Lebanon filed a complaint on Thursday against Israel at the UN Security Council, saying it had violated its sovereignty by opening fire on its territory in retaliation for rocket attacks.

The foreign ministry said Israel fired 102 shells at Lebanon between July 11 and 14, during the ongoing war between Israel and Gaza, describing this as "repeated and dangerous violations."

During that same period at least nine rockets were fired from south Lebanon into Israel. Israel has responded with artillery fire.

The foreign ministry said Lebanon "rejects the firing of rockets (from its territory) on occupied Palestinian territory," in a reference to Israel.

This action "is a threat to peace and stability that serves neither Lebanon nor the Palestinian resistance, and gives Israel reason to attack Lebanon and its sovereignty," it added.

On Wednesday the Lebanese army announced that two Palestinian brothers suspected of involvement in rocket attacks on northern Israel had been arrested.

UPDATE: 7/17/14 10:54 AM ET

Rockets intercepted over Ashkelon, sirens sounding

From GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky: And Al Jazeera's Gregg Carlstrom:

UPDATE: 7/17/14 10:27 AM ET

Reports of security activity in Israel's Eshkol region

UPDATE: 7/17/14 9:30 AM ET

UNRWA launches investigation into rockets found in Gaza school

Agence France-Presse — The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said Thursday it was investigating after finding 20 rockets hidden in one of its vacant schools in the Gaza Strip.

It condemned the incident as a "flagrant violation" of international law and said the rockets had been removed and the "relative parties" informed.

"Yesterday, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered approximately 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip," the agency said in a statement.

"UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations," it continued. "This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law."

UPDATE: 7/17/14 8:30 AM ET

Humanitarian ceasefire ends

Reuters — Palestinians rushed to shops and banks on Thursday during a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire that largely held.

Sirens sounded in southern Israel at 3 p.m. (1200 GMT), exactly at the end of the five-hour ceasefire, and the military said a rocket had been fired at the coastal city of Ashkelon.

During Thursday's period of relative calm, the Israeli military said three mortar bombs were launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, landing in open areas.

Israeli forces, the military added, fired mortar rounds into the Palestinian territory during the truce period after a soldier was slightly wounded by a blast near the frontier.

Palestinian employees wait at a cash-point machine to collect their salaries during a temporary five-hour humanitarian ceasefire observed by Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas on July 17, 2014 in Gaza City. Palestinian residents shop on a street in Gaza City during a temporary five-hour humanitarian ceasefire observed by Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas on July 17, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 4:00 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed.

Here's a brief summary of today's events:

  • Israel urged 100,000 Gazans to evacuate their homes, Agence France-Presse reported
  • Four children were killed in Israeli shelling, which the army later said was a "tragic outcome"
  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk in Cairo to discuss Egypt's ceasefire deal, Reuters reported
  • The funeral for an Israeli victim of Gaza fire was held in Yehud
  • The Israeli government authorized call up of 8,000 reservists
  • Israel agreed to observe a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire

We will pick up coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 3:52 PM ET

Israel to observe a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

From Ynetnews report:

Israel will most likely cease fire for five hours on Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (07:00-12:00 GMT) Hamas has yet to announce its intentions for the humanitarian ceasefire. 

Read the full piece here. 

UPDATE: 7/16/14 3:22 PM ET

 

Israeli army says deaths of 4 children on a Gaza beach is a 'tragic outcome'

Agence France-Presse — The army said the killing of four Palestinian children on a Gaza beachfront Wednesday appeared to be the "tragic outcome" of an Israeli strike targeting Hamas militants.

"Based on preliminary results the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives," the military said in a statement. "The reported civilian casualties from this strike are a tragic outcome."

UPDATE: 7/16/14 2:40 PM ET

Murmurs about a ground invasion

There have been a couple of reports about a possible Israeli ground invasion of Gaza based on an anonymous official's chat with foreign correspondents.

From The New York Times:

The official, a member of the top brass who has been briefing Israeli ministers who make strategic decisions, said his assessment was based on "the signals I get" and the diminishing returns of aerial bombardment after nine days. ... "Every day that passes makes the possibility more evident," the official told a handful of international journalists in a briefing at the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters. "We can hurt them very hard from the air but not get rid of them." He spoke on the condition of anonymity under military protocol.

Read the full story here. 

UPDATE: 7/16/14 1:52 PM ET

Abbas discussed Gaza ceasefire proposal with Hamas official, MENA reports

Reuters — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Hamas political official Moussa Abu Marzouk on Wednesday in Cairo to discuss an Egyptian initiative that has so far failed to halt more than a week of warfare in Gaza, Egypt's state news agency MENA said.

The talks were the first concrete sign that efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants were still active despite the collapse a day earlier of a proposed mutual "de-escalation" of violence.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 12:37 PM ET

Infographic of recent air strikes in Gaza and Israel

UPDATE: 7/16/14 12:06 PM ET

Thousands more Israeli reservists could be called up

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky was on HuffPost Live to discuss the deadly conflict, including reports that the Israeli government is authorizing the call up of 8,000 reservists.

"Some people are taking it to mean that Israel may be planning a ground invasion, possibly a limited ground invasion, though we don't know what that exactly means," Tarnopolsky said. "Others are seeing it just as another warning shot that the Israelis are sending at Hamas in an attempt to corner them while ceasefire negotiations are still ongoing." 

Watch the full interview here:

UPDATE: 7/16/14 10:43 AM ET

Funeral for Israeli victim

The Huffington Post's Middle East correspondent Sophia Jones shared photos of the funeral for 37-year-old Dror Khenin, the first Israeli killed by Gaza fire.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 10:43 AM ET

Hamas official in Cairo for truce talks

Agence France-Presse — A Hamas official was to hold talks in Cairo on Wednesday on Egyptian efforts to end the deadly conflict between his Gaza-based Islamist movement and Israel, the Palestinians said.

Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal which Egypt put forward this week, complaining it had not been a party to the discussions.

"A meeting will be held this afternoon between an official from Hamas and a representative of the Egyptian leadership," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Ahmad said he hoped the talks in Cairo would "crystalize a definite formula for an Egyptian initiative" or clarify its plan, which had proposed an end to hostilities from 0600 GMT on Tuesday.

Israel initially accepted the Egyptian initiative, but later intensified its punishing air strikes aimed at stamping out rocket fire by Gaza militants following Hamas's rejection.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 10:23 AM ET

Four children were killed by Israeli shelling in Gaza, medical officials say

Reuters — Four Palestinian children were killed on Wednesday on a Gaza beach by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, Palestinian medical officials said.

Asked about the incident, an Israeli military spokesman in Tel Aviv said he was checking the report.

Smoke billows from a beach shack following an Israeli military strike, on July 16, 2014 in Gaza City which killed four children, medics said. Palestinian employees of Gaza City's al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike nearby on the beach, on July 16, 2014. Palestinian journalists take care of a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike nearby on the beach, on July 16, 2014 at Gaza City's al-Deira hotel.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 10:14 AM ET

Documenting the number of attacks and deaths

The New York Times just published this graphic, which documents air strikes and fatalities in Gaza and Israel.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 9:40 AM ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's comments 

From Haaretz newspaper's US editor Chemi Shalev:

UPDATE: 7/16/14 8:40 AM ET

Israel urges Gazans to flee as campaign intensifies

Agence France-Presse — Israel urged 100,000 Gazans to flee their homes on Wednesday, but the warning was largely ignored despite an intensification of the military's nine-day campaign after Hamas rejected a ceasefire effort.

As the punishing Israeli operation resumed pace, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas was to travel to Egypt and Turkey in search of regional support for an immediate end to the fighting after an attempt at an Egyptian-brokered truce collapsed.

So far, Israel's campaign, now in its ninth day, has killed 208 Palestinians, with a Gaza-based rights group saying over 80 percent of them were civilians.

In the same period, militants have fired more than 1,200 rockets at Israel, which on Tuesday claimed their first Israeli life.

Overnight, warplanes struck about 40 sites across Gaza, among them political targets, as militants also kept up their fire on Israel's coastal plain, with four rockets shot down over metropolitan Tel Aviv.

The air force also dropped flyers warning 100,000 in northeastern Gaza Strip to evacuate their homes ahead of an air campaign targeting "terror sites and operatives" in Zeitun and Shejaiya, two flashpoint districts east of Gaza City.

Anm identical message was sent to Beit Lahiya in the north, echoing a similar army warning on Sunday, when more than 17,000 residents of the north fled for their lives, most seeking refuge in UN-run schools.

As well as the flyers, residents also received texts and pre-recorded phone messages urging them to evacuate and not return until further notice.

"We issued a warning to the people to leave instead of becoming victims of the policy of Hamas which tries to protect their rockets with civilians," Israeli President Shimon Peres said at a joint news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.

"We're trying to defend our own people, as we must, and we're also trying hard not to hit innocent people in Gaza."

But the warnings did not have any immediate effect, with only limited numbers seen leaving, as children picked up the flyers and played with them, an AFP correspondent said.

"They dropped these bits of paper from planes telling people to leave. Where should we go?" asked Faisal Hassan, a father of five who lives in Zeitun.

"I will not leave my house, whatever happens."

Hamas told residents to ignore the warnings, saying there was "no need to worry."

"This is part of the psychological war, intended to disrupt the domestic front," it said in a statement.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to step up the military campaign after Hamas dismissed an Egyptian ceasefire proposal, firing scores of rockets over the border despite the army holding its fire for six hours.

"This would have been better resolved diplomatically... but Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it," he said.

Although Israel would prefer a truce to putting boots on the ground, the security cabinet met overnight to discuss the possibility of a limited ground operation, army radio reported, saying ministers had approved plans to destroy Hamas's network of tunnels.

They also discussed the possibility of a limited ground incursion which would not initially involve entering towns of villages, it said.

UPDATE: 7/16/14 8:30 AM ET

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