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AFP
A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli flares illuminating the Palestinian coastal enclave, on July 7, 2014. Photo by AFP
AFP
An Iron Dome anti-rocket defense battery in action near the Gaza Strip. Photo by AFP
Eli Hershkovitz
Car damaged by rocket that exploded in Eshkol Regional Council. Photo by Eli Hershkovitz

Shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet decided Monday to escalate attacks against Hamas and the Gaza Strip, militants in the coastal territory fired a barrage of some 35 rockets at Israel.

Sirens rang across the south as well as in central Israel and the Jerusalem area, for the first time since the recent round of escalation began. More than 85 rockets have been launched over the course of Monday.

In preparing for the escalation, the Israel Defense Forces has decided to call up some 1,500 reservists.

Meanwhile, three of the six Israelis arrested on Sunday in connection with 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir's murder confessed to the crime and re-enacted it. Police believe the attack was carried out by Jewish extremists in revenge for the abduction and murder of three Israeli teens.

Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday. Nine Palestinian militants were killed over the course of the night, but Israel claims at least six of them died when a tunnel collapsed.

Click here for Sunday's live blog.

Latest updates:

11:57 P.M. The Iron Dome aerial defense system intercepts a rocket over Sderot. Additional rockets are fired toward the Shaar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon regional councils. (Gili Cohen, Shirley Seidler) 

11:21 P.M. Palestinian youths and Israeli police clash in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shoafat and Beit Safafa. One arrested. (Nir Hasson)

10:53 P.M. Palestinian sources say Israeli forces carried air strikes on open areas in the Gaza Strip; no injuries reported. (Jack Khoury)

Towns in Israel's south declare a state of emergency, even though they have not been instructed to do so by Home Front Command. All activity at Sapir College and Ben-Gurion University has been cancelled. (Shirly Seidler)

10:20 P.M. Rocket explodes in the Yoav Regional Council; damage to property reported. (Shirly Seidler)

9:47 P.M. The rocket sirens that earlier went off in the Jerusalem area were false alarms, IDF says. (Gili Cohen)

9:37 P.M. Hamas claims responsibility for the rockets fired at Ashdod, Ofakim, Ashkelon and Netivot. Some 20 rockets exploded in open areas in the last hour (Jack Khoury and Shirly Seidler)

8:59 P.M. Two Iron Dome batteries intercepted seven rockets above Ashdod and five above Netivot. (Gili Cohen)

8:40 P.M. One person is lightly wounded by shrapnel in Ashdod. (Haaretz)

8:32 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the Jerusalem area towns of Mevasseret, Beit Shemesh and Abu Ghosh, and in the central Israeli cities of Rehovot, Nes Tziona and Yavne for the first time since recent clashes with Gaza. Sirens also go off in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Malakhi, Netivot and Ofakim. (Shirly Seidler and Yaniv Kubovich)

8:20 P.M. Home Front Command orders shelters opened in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva and towns in the Gaza vicinity. (Haaretz)

8:10 P.M. A barrage of some 20 rockets launched by Gaza militants strikes southern Israel. No injuries immediately reported. (Shirly Seidler)

7:40 P.M. After a three-hour meeting, the security cabinet decided to intensify the attacks against Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. According to a senior official, the ministers wish to refrain from a large-scale military operation for now, however they instructed the army to prepare for significant expansion of the operation. (Barak Ravid)

6:59 P.M. A rocket launched from Gaza explodes in an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. No damage was reported.

The IDF instructs residents of Israeli communities located near the Gaza Strip to stay within 15 seconds of shelter. Residents in communities located up to 40 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, including Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva, are requested to call off gatherings of more than 500 people in open areas. Only schools with protected areas will remain open. (Shirly Seidler and Gili Cohen)

6:40 P.M. The Israeli military says it will be calling up some 1,500 reservists from two infantry brigades, as it prepares for an escalation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)

6:30 P.M. Regional councils in the Gaza periphery have decided to begin using emergency work procedures only. The heads of the councils contacted the prime minister, the defense minister, the interior minister and the finance minister, demanding that a “special situation on the home front” be declared amid the escalation against Gaza, the dramatic increase in rocket fire and sirens, and the disruption to daily life.

“We state that maintaining a situation of ‘business as usual’ when nothing is usual is a wrong decision that must be adjusted immediately to the real state of affairs,” said Alon Shuster, the head of the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. In light of the ongoing escalation, the regional councils decided to increase the state of alert at the regional and community levels. A hotline has been opened in Sha’ar Hanegev to deal with the various needs of citizens during a state of emergency. (Shirly Seidler)

6:26 P.M. Israel Air Force strikes western side of a tunnel in Gaza. Hamas says six of its members were killed in an overnight Israeli strike of the tunnel, but the IDF denies it targeted the tunnel. (Gili Cohen)

 

Some rises after Israel strikes targets in southern Gaza. Photo by AFP

6:18 P.M. Israel denies killing six Hamas operatives who died overnight when a tunnel collapsed. A senior IDF officer said the tunnel collapsed after explosives went off inside it for a reason which is still unknown. The IDF says however that its forces have been active in the area of the tunnel, in the southern Gaza Strip, two days ago. (Gili Cohen)

5:00 P.M. Security cabinet concludes three-hour meeting on response to Gaza rockets. (Barak Ravid)



4:34 P.M. Israel Air Force confirms striking three rocket-launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)

4:31 P.M. Rocket explodes in an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. Five mortar shells explode near community in Eshkol Regional Council (Shirly Seidler)

4:18 P.M. 35 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel since midnight Monday, according to Israel Defense Forces data. (Gili Cohen)

3:52 P.M. Mortar shell fired from Gaza explodes in Eshkol Regional Council, causes damage to structure. (Shirly Seidler)

3:50 P.M. Israel Air Force launches strikes in the Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)

3:37 P.M. Two rockets fired from Gaza fall in an open area near a community in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

2:33 P.M. Nine rockets and mortar shells fell in Eshkol Regional Council in the past hour. (Gili Cohen)

2:13 P.M. Security cabinet is convening in Jerusalem to discuss response to Gaza rocket fire. (Barak Ravid)

1:13 P.M. Two mortar shells explode in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council, near Gaza fence (Shirly Seidler)

12:43 P.M. Two rockets explode in open areas in the Sdot Negev Regional Council in southern Israel. Another rocket explodes in open area in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council (Shirly Seidler)

11:43 A.M. Knesset Speaker writes MKs and asks them to refrain from statements which could spark violence and legitimize the actions of one side or the other. (Jonathan Lis)

11:20 A.M. Hamas' military arm announces six of its members were killed in an overnight airstrike of a Rafah tunnel, and another member was killed by a strike in an outpost on western Rafah. (Haaretz) 

11:06 A.M. Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman dismantles joint Knesset faction with Netanyahu's Likud over disagreements over Israel's response to Gaza rockets. (Jonathan Lis)

11:00 A.M. Three out of six suspects in the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir have confessed and reenacted the crime. The reenactment followed the route of the car in which the teen was kidnapped, leading to Jerusalem Forest, where he was burned alive, according to the Palestinian autopsy report. (Nir Hasson)

10:49 A.M. Grad rocket explodes in open terrain in Be'er Sheva. This is the second rocket fired at the city in 48 hours. The first was intercepted by Iron Dome. (Shirly Seidler, Gili Cohen)

10:47 A.M. Hamas' armed wing confirms six of its members were killed in Israeli air strikes at a "resistance location" in the southern town of Rafah, at the Egyptian border early on Monday, a possible reference to a smuggling tunnel. It said aircraft also attacked in northern Gaza, killing one Hamas fighter. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of committing a "grave escalation" in violence and threatened to retaliate, saying Israel would "pay the price." (AP and Haaretz)

10:42 A.M. Former head of Military Intelligence and current chief of the Institute for National Security Studies Amos Yadlin says the murder of Abu Khdeir "is a moral nightmare, a shocking and repugnant crime worthy of any condemnation." In a Facebook post, Yadlin adds that the murder should be a "wakeup call" to lead to a dramatic change with regard to Jewish terrorism. (Gili Cohen)

9:37 A.M. Israel Air Force attacks in Rafah and Beit Hanoun overnight wounds six civilians, one of whom is in serious condition, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

9:26 A.M. The seven Hamas members killed overnight died in a tunnel collapse, and it is still unclear whether the collapse was the deliberate result of the Israeli attack. Two weeks ago Hamas also lost five members after a mysterious explosion in a Gaza tunnel, but did not respond with rocket fire. The high death toll overnight may paint a different picture, however. It remains to be seen if last night's airstrikes will prove to be a turning point, leading to an escalation in the rocket fire to Israel's south. (Amos Harel)

9:19 A.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks with Hussein Abu Khdeir, father of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered last week. "I wish to express the shock Israeli citizens and I feel by the repugnant murder of your son," the prime minister says. "We've acted immediately to find the murderers; they will be brought to trial and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We reject any brutal behavior, and the murder of your son is despicable and cannot be accepted by any person."(Barak Ravid) 

8:56 A.M. Anti-tank missile fired toward IDF force near southern Gaza border. No one was wounded and the soldiers returned fire. (Gili Cohen)

7:47 A.M. Two rockets explode in Eshkol Regional Council in southern Israel. One explodes inside a built-up area, lightly wounding a soldier and causing damage to cars. (Shirly Seidler)

6:53 A.M. Two Islamic Jihad militants reported dead following last night's IAF air strikes in Gaza, raising death toll from overnight airstrikes to nine. (AP)

4:30 A.M. IDF spokesperson confirms five additional concealed rocket launchers targeted by IAF airstrikes in north Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

3:29 A.M. Seven Hamas militants and two Islamic Jihad members confirmed dead, three confirmed wounded following IAF air strikes in Gaza. Six of the casualities occured in a single strike in the southern town of Rafah. (DPA)

2:51 A.M. Cumulative death toll from IAF air strikes in Gaza rises to seven. (Reuters)

2:47 A.M. IDF says mortar shell hits northern Golan Heights near the border fence. No injuries or damage reported, IDF resumes fire into the area. (Gili Cohen)

2:35 A.M. IDF spokesperson confirms IAF struck nine targets, including "concealed rocket launchers and other centers of terrorist activity in the Gaza Strip." (Haaretz)

2:24 A.M. Hamas reports an additional four militants died in a second Israeli air strike in Gaza, bringing Sunday night's death total to six. This is the biggest single Israeli hit against Hamas since 2012's Operation Pillar of Defense. (Reuters)

1:55 A.M. Rocket sirens sound in Sderot and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

1:15 A.M. Firefighters from Be'er Sheva are fighting large amounts of burning debris stemming from the Tel Sheva riots from late Sunday night. Police had to intervene after the rioters attacked the firefighters upon their arrival. (Shirly Seidler)

1:00 A.M. Police arrested 12 people suspected of rioting and stone-throwing in the southern towns of Tel Sheva, Hura, Ar'ara and Laqiya.

Israel Police Negev District Commander Brig. Gen. Peretz Omer said that "the police have a zero-tolerance policy for violence and riots."

Around 8:00 P.M., a notice was received that mosques called on the residents of Tel Sheva to arrive at the Omer Local Council's entrance at 10:00 P.M. to throw stones at passersby.

Council spoeksman Nissim Nir told Haaretz that when he received the information, he tried to contact police commanders in the area, but they did not answer his attempts. A few minutes later, he provided local police with the information, who told him the information would be treated as intelligence.

Despite the advance notice, around 10:30 P.M. hundreds of masked rioters gathered at the entrance and began throwing stones and molotov cocktails.

A resident of Omer told Haaretz, "We smelled of gasoline and realized firebombs were being thrown at us. The rioters began throwing stones. There was a caravan of cars, and all of us were hit."

Pini Badash, mayor of Omer, said: "If you want to be neighbors, it cannot be one-sided. They cannot use our mail services and supermarkets one day, then throw molotov cocktails at us the next day. If this is how it will be, they won't be allowed to enter. They cannot take advantage of us, we are not suckers. This is impossible to ignore. We are in the middle of the country, and everyone is troubled. Tomorrow morning, we will see what we can do. We will terminate the services they get, they can look for them elsewhere." (Shirly Seidler)

12:25 A.M. Rioters throw a molotov cocktail at Israel Police in the northern Israel local council of Iksal, near Nazareth. No injuries reported, property damage caused. (Eli Ashkenazi)

12:10 A.M. Palestinian sources in Gaza report that the two Palestinians killed in the IAF air strikes in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza were part of the Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades.

According to Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Ashraf al-Kidra, the two casualties were Mazen al-Hadba, 30, and Marwan Salim, 23. A 20 year old also hit in the strike was reported in moderate condition. (Jack Khoury)

12:00 A.M. Two Palestinians reportedly killed in IAF strike on Gaza rocket launching cell. (Haaretz)