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Rami Shllush
A long-range rocket fired by Gaza militants at Hadera, July 9, 2014. Photo by Rami Shllush
Reuters
An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod July 8, 2014. Photo by Reuters

The Israeli military launched early on Tuesday a series of airstrikes on more than 50 targets in Gaza on Tuesday, dubbing the offensive Operation Protective Edge.

Meanwhile, for the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, rocket sirens rang in central Israel. Iron Dome interceptor missiles were able to shoot down the rockets. However most of the rockets from Gaza targeted southern Israel, with more than 100 projectiles fired.

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On Tuesday evening, Israeli forces were able to prevent an attack by armed Palestinians who crossed from Gaza into Israel. Five militants were killed in the incident.

The government approved call-up of up to 40,000 reserve soldiers in preparation for further escalation, after the security cabinet decided on Monday to intensify attacks against Hamas. Israel says it wishes to refrain from a large-scale military operation, but also that it will do everything needed to protect its citizens.

Palestinian officials said Hamas had evacuated likely targets and its leaders had gone underground lest Israel attempt to assassinate them. Hamas also issued a statement on Monday night demanding that the Palestinian Authority take action against Israel, saying “national unity sometimes requires paying a price.”

Click here for Monday's live blog.

Latest updates:

11:59 P.M. The Home Front Command orders the opening of shelters in a number of regions in central Israel: The greater Tel Aviv metropolitan, communities in the Sharon and Emek Hefer environs, as well as in Jerusalem and in Beit Shemesh.

11:45 P.M. A rocket explodes in an urban area in Hadera, north of Tel Aviv, further than had previously been reached. No damage was reported.

The distance between Hadera and the Gaza Strip – some 105 kilometers – suggests that Palestinian militants were able to smuggle into Gaza long-range rockets similar to those seized by the IDF aboard the Iranian vessel Klos C in March. (Gili Cohen and Amos Harel)

The rocket fired at Hadera. Photo by Rami Shllush

11:20 P.M. Arab League calls for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to stop Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. (Jack Khoury)

11:03 P.M. Sirens sound in Rishon Letzion, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council and in Gan Rave Regional Council. Iron Dome battery intercepts a rocket over Rishon Letzion. (Gili Cohen and Shirly Seidler)

10:38 P.M. Four rockets fired at Be'er Sheva, three intercepted, one explodes in open field (Shirly Seidler)

10:30 P.M. Three rockets explode in the Jerusalem area. (Gili Cohen)

10:27 P.M. Hamas says it fired a rocket at the city of Haifa, northern Israel. (Reuters)

10:25 P.M. IDF says it attacked 50 sites in the Gaza Strip over the last two hours. (Gili Cohen)

10: 23 P.M. Two rockets explode in Ashdod (Shirley Seidler)

9:52 P.M. Sirens sound in Jerusalem, Binyamina, Be'er Sheva, Rehovot and Ra'anana. Iron Dome intercepts rocket over the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

9:50 P.M. Security forces fear a terrorist infiltrated Kibbutz Yad Mordechai. Residents instructed to lock themselves up at home (Shirly Seidler)

9:48 P.M. Security cabinet meets in Tel Aviv to discuss the ongoing situation. (Gili Cohen)

9:48 P.M. Siren sounds in Tel Aviv for second time today. Iron Dome intercepts missile.

9:27 P.M. The Israeli Prison Service decides to move some 200 prisoners held in the top floors of the Shikma Prison in Ashkelon to other prisons. (Yaniv Kubovich)

9:21 P.M. The U.S. condemns the rocket fire toward Israel. "We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing. "No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks." (Reuters)

9:12 P.M. An explosion is heard in the Kerem Shalom area, near the Gaza border. Residents are instructed to enter bomb shelters.

9:10 P.M. IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz: "Hamas opted to escalate [the situation] and was joined by other organization and we will now mobilize all our might as long as it takes in the different levels that we will be required of us in order to achieve what we consider a victory.

It is possible that there will be surprises; it is possible that there will be shooting; it is possible that there will be a terrorist attack or difficulty. We need to prepare for all possibilities. We mustn't squirm in our seats when something of this kind happens to us. We need to proceed as long as it is required of us and that the policy allows us."

8:53 P.M. Jerusalem's municipality, instructed by the Home Front Command, begins opening its public bomb shelters in preparation for possible rockets attacks from Gaza, and instructs residents to prepare their private bomb shelters, protective spaces.

8:45 P.M. Large fire breaks out in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council following an explosion of a Gaza rocket. Firefighters are prevented from putting out the blaze due to the ongoing incident taking place near Zikim. (Shirly Seidler)

8:43 P.M. The spokesman for Hamas' military wing outlined his group's demands for Israel in a televised address: "Don't dream about quiet without answering the following demands – the halt of aggression in Jerusalem in the West Bank, the halt of aggression against the Gaza Strip, the release of the prisoners of the Shalit deal who were rearrested, and the commitment to all the terms of the cease-fire reached in 2012 following Operation Pillar of Defense." (Jack Khoury)

8:21 P.M. Netanyahu said Tuesday that he ordered a significant increase in IDF operations against terror groups in Gaza after all attempts to restore quiet failed. "We will do all that is necessary in order to restore quiet to the area. The security of our citizens and children is most important," he said. Netanyahu called on Israeli citizens to be patient and said that the operation could take some time.

8:20 P.M. One person sustained light injuries when running for shelter in Bat Yam. He was taken to the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for treatment. Emergency services treated two people suffering of shock.

7:57 P.M. According to the IDF: The Israel Air Force launched 146 strikes on Gaza since the outset of the operation. Out of these 98 were against concealed rocket launchers. The Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted 23 rockets. (Gili Cohen)

7:41 P.M. Islamic Jihad takes responsibility for firing the rockets at central Israel. (Jack Khoury)

7:33 P.M. Five armed Palestinians cross the border into Israel, near the beach of Kibbutz Zikim. A gun battle ensued in which the Palestinians were shot dead by a force from the Givati Brigade. A solider sustained a light injury in the incident. (Gili Cohen)

 

7:25 P.M. Palestinians report another casualty of Israeli attacks on Gaza, a 16-year-old teenager, bringing the number of casualties to 16. (Jack Khoury)

7:17 P.M. Sde Dov Air Port in Tel Aviv resumes normal activity. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

7:05 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in central Israel, including major cities such as Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion. Iron Dome intercepts the incoming rocket south of Rishon Letzion. (Gili Cohen)

6:50 P.M. Sde Dov Air Port in Tel Aviv closes to outgoing air traffic. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

6:47 P.M. Air sirens sound in the area surrounding Rehovot, as the Iron Dome intercepts a rocket fired at Gadera. (Gili Cohen)

6:42 P.M. The Palestinian government calls on the international community to immediately intervene to stop Israeli aggression. Continued aggression will drag the region into more destruction and instability. The government called on the UN to provide the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank international protection. (Jack Khoury)

6:26 P.M. The government approves call-up of up to 40,000 reserve soldiers.

6:18 P.M. Air sirens sound in Ashkelon; apparently the Iron Dome rocket difference system intercepted an incoming rocket attack. (Gili Cohen)

6:12 P.M. Municipality of Rishon Letzion opens its public bomb shelters in preparation for a possible rocket attack. (Yaniv Kubovich)

6:00 P.M. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: We will not stop the operation until there is zero shooting or terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

5:59 P.M. Since "Operation Protective Edge" began seven homes of Hamas members and apparently one home of an Islamic Jihad member were bombed by the Israel Air Force. Palestinians confirm that the IDF called to warn families prior to the attacks and to ask them to leave. (Jack Khoury)

5:53 P.M. Palestinians report two fatalities in an Israel Air Force attack on Sajaya, Gaza (Jack Khoury)

5:41 P.M. Eilat airport reopens to air traffic. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

5:39 P.M.: France's foreign ministry, commenting on violence between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, urged all parties to show restraint. (Reuters)

5:36 P.M.: Israeli security officials say they believe that it is the Hamas's military leadership that is leading the escalation and the rocket fire, despite the Hamas leadership's initial opposition, and claim that it is fiscal and strategic distress that is causing them to escalate the firing of rocket s at Israel. At this stage, officials say, Israel intends to prepare for an offense against Gaza, both by air and by land. (Gili Cohen)

5:15 P.M. Israel Air Force strikes targets in the north and central Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

5:14 P.M. Eilat airport closes down due to security situation. Flights continue to operate at Ben-Gurion Airport, however there may be some delays since flights are being diverted to a northern route due to the rockets fired from Gaza. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)

5:03 P.M. A Palestinian health ministry official said that seven Palestinians were killed and 25 were wounded in an Israeli airstrike on a house in southern Gaza. According to reports, the family members were on the roof when the house was hit and collapsed.

4:52 P.M.: A senior Israeli security official tells journalists: No doubt that Hamas will try to fire rockets at Tel Aviv  and even further than that. The official said that the Hamas was willing to escalate its activities and fire rockets further than 40 kilometers and even use rockets it has that reach up to 80 kilometers from Gaza "If only to show off its abilities in this round of fighting." (Gili Cohen)

4:36 P.M.: Tel Aviv municipality, instructed by the Home Front Command, begins opening bomb shelters in preparation for possible rockets attacks from Gaza. (Zafrir Rinat)

4:16 P.M.: Flights coming in and leaving Ben Gurion Airport diverted to a northern route out of fear of rockets fired from Gaza. (Anshel Pfeffer)

4:14 P.M.: Palestinians report at least 11 people killed in the past 24 hours in IAF strikes in the Gaza Strip (Jack Khoury)

3:51 P.M.: At least six Palestinians were killed and about 25 wounded in an Israeli attack on Tuesday on a house in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said.

Local residents said the dwelling belonged to the family of a Hamas member and that the casualties occurred when it came under attack for the second time on Tuesday.

After the first strike, people had gathered on its roof as "human shields", hoping their presence would deter a second strike, the residents said. The Israeli military had no immediate comment. (Reuters)

3:40 P.M. Over the past few hours, the Israeli army raided the Gaza homes of three Hamas activists that were allegedly used as a part of the organizations terrorist infrastructure. (Gili Cohen)

3:15 P.M.: Two Arabs are arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap a 15-year-old girl in a suburb of Jerusalem. (Nir Hasson)

3:12 P.M.: Ismail Ashkar, a Palestinian parliament member for the Hamas, says: "There will be no respite from the fighting as long as the attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank continue." He went on to say that a respite is contingent also on the release of the prisoners released in the Shalit prisoner exchange and that were rearrested, as well as the ending of the siege on Gaza. (Jack Khoury)

3:10 P.M.: The cabinet discusses plans to call up 40,000 reservists as the situation in the south escalates. The forces will join the 1,500 reservists already called up.

2:45 P.M. Two rockets were fired toward Be'er Sheva. Iron Dome intercepted one, the other landed in an open area. Another rocket exploded in the Merhavim Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler, Gili Cohen)

2:22 P.M. Four Palestinians were killed in an IDF strike on a vehicle in the center of the Gaza Strip, Palestinians report, raising the death toll in the Strip since this morning to five. Their identity is still unclear, but Shin Bet said the airstrike was a joint IDF and Shin Bet operation, targeting Mohammed Shaaban, 24, a commander in the Hamas naval forces. (Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen)

1:50 P.M. Hamas militant killed in IAF strike in central Gaza Strip, Palestinians report. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the militant was Rashad Yassin, a member of the Izz a-Din al-Qassam, Hamas' military arm, who was in the Nuseirat refugee camp when he was hit. Emergency teams are looking for another casualty under the rubble. According to reports, 29 wounded were admitted in Gaza's hospitals in the last hours. (Haaretz) (Jacky Khoury)

1:18 P.M. In last hours IDF strikes 40 targets in Gaza Strip, including the home of Mohammed Abdel Rahman Guda, a Hamas commander.

Since the morning, Magen David Adom teams treated seven people lightly wounded by rocket fire at Ashdod. Of which, one was wounded by shrapnel, another was wounded when he fell en route to a bomb shelter, and the rest suffered from shock. Two were taken for additional treatment at Ashkelon and Rehovot hospitals. (Gili Cohen, Shirly Seidler)

12:56 P.M. Islamic Jihad's military arm states it has fired over 60 rockets toward Israel since the morning, and that it will continue to fire as long as "Israeli aggression" persists. (Jack Khoury)

12:40 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Israeli army to prepare for a possible ground offensive in the Gaza Strip in meeting in the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, a senior Israeli official said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Benny Gantz and Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen attended the meeting, along with other defense officials.

"The prime minister's instruction by the end of the meeting was to prepare for a thorough, long, continuous and strong campaign in Gaza," the senior Israeli official said. "The prime minister instructed the army to be ready to go all in. A ground offensive is on the table."

During the meeting the defense minister and the chief of staff asked for additional reservists to be called up.

The senior Israeli official added that the purpose of the operation is to exact a heavy price from Hamas, in order to restore deterrence and calm in the south. "Our increased response will be well felt on the ground," he said.

Netanyahu intends to speak with foreign leaders throughout the day to rally their support of Israel's Gaza operation. The prime minister will stress that Israel had tried to bring about calm in Gaza but Hamas has escalated the situation and increased the rocket fire on Israel. (Barak Ravid)

12:24 P.M. President Elect Reuven Rivlin says in southern town of Sderot: "It's impossible that people are sitting in cafes and restaurants in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem, while in Sderot people are sitting in bomb shelters. We're at war with Hamas because they declared war on us. Hamas want to bring the state of Israel to an end, and make life in Israel impossible, and we have to handle that. We have to fight back to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. It's not our right, but our duty." (Shirly Seidler)

12:16 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets above Sdot Negev. At the same time, Israel Railways stops train traffic between Ashkelon and Ashdod due to rockets. (Shirly Seidler)

12:10 P.M. IDF strikes in Gaza Strip. Palestinians report eight were wounded in Israeli strikes in the center and the north of the Gaza Strip in the last hour. Five suffered moderate wounds in an agricultural area in Beit Lehi in the north Strip. East from there, a man and a woman were moderately wounded, and a woman in her 50s was wounded in the Dir al-Balah area in the center of the Strip. (Gili Cohen, Jack Khoury)

11:53 A.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructs the military to "take off gloves" in fight against Hamas. "Hamas chose escalation and it will pay a heavy price for it," Netanyahu says. (Barak Ravid)

11:28 A.M. The IDF intends to call up several thousand more reservists, in addition to the 1,500 already called up, to replace infantry and tank battalions deployed in the West Bank. These battalions will be sent to South Command ahead of a possible ground offensive in Gaza.

However, the steps taken by the IDF since last night are still relatively restrained, and Israel is so far avoiding a full-scale aerial assault against Hamas.(Amos Harel)

11:13 A.M. Police arrests 63 persons on suspicion of involvement in disruptions of order in demonstrations in Jerusalem and in the Negev in last two days. (Shirly Seidler, Nir Hasson)

10:52 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts three rockets fired at Ashdod. Soreq Nuclear Research Center near Yavne halts activity due to rocket fire. (Gili Cohen, Shirly Seidler)

10:41 A.M. Rocket explodes near house in Hof Ashkelon in southern Israel; emergency team fights fire at scene. (Shirly Seidler)

10:08 A.M. IDF strikes targets in northern Gaza Strip. At the same time, rocket sirens were sounded in Ashdod, Yavneh, and in Be'er Tuvia. Later, Iron Dome intercepted two rockets above Ashkelon and Ashdod. (Gili Cohen)

10:00 A.M. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon is expected to declare a "special situation" in Israeli communities located 40 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip. A short time ago Ya'alon held a discussion on the issue with Home Front Commander Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg and other high ranking officials in the defense establishment.

"We're heading toward a campaign against Hamas, which will not be over after a few days," Ya'alon said at the discussion, adding that Hamas intends to exact a price from the Israeli home front. "In the last hours we've attacked with force and hit dozens of Hamas assets, and the IDF is continued with the assault, in a way which will exact a very heavy price from Hamas. We'll not tolerate rocket fire at Israel." (Gili Cohen)

8:37 A.M. Palestinians report at least 17 wounded following the IDF airstrikes in the Gaza Strip overnight. Among the wounded are nine family members from Khan Yunis who suffered light to moderate wounds when their home was bombed, and two children, a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, who were moderately wounded.

According to reports, Israel Navy Dabur class patrol boats also participated in the overnight bombings, and targeted an Izz a-Din al-Qassam base northwest of Khan Yunis. Targets in the Rafah area and in the central Strip were also attacked, and at least three youths were wounded in the central Strip, two of them moderately and one seriously. To the north of the Strip, hits were reported in open agricultural areas in Beit Hanoun and in sites northwest of Gaza City, including a Hamas base near Jabalya.

Hamas' military arm said the strikes on the homes of its top members have "crossed the red line," and that the group would attack targets at the heart of Israel. Hamas top official Musa Abu Marzouk says "attacks on civilian homes is a serious escalation," and adds that "the time when attacks on homes went without a response has passed." (Jack Khoury)

8:20 A.M. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit says the targets hit by the Israel Air Force strikes overnight include the homes of Iad Sakhik, a top Hamas operative who participated in rocket and mortar fire; Abdallah Hashash, a Hamas operative from Rafah involved in recent rocket fire; Samer Abu Daka, top Hamas member in Khan Yunis involved in terror activity; and Hassan Abdallah, top Hamas operative also involved in recent rocket fire. (Gili Cohen)

6:53 A.M. Rocket explodes in open area in Eshkol Regional Council (Shirly Seidler)

6:48 A.M. A military source said in a media briefing that Operation Protective Edge will be expanded in the coming days, and will include prepping up forces for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. According to him, "The operation will intensify with regards to the quality and quantity of targets the Israel Air Force is attacking in the Strip, after Hamas stepped it up yesterday. The IDF is continuing to draft forces for the Strip, and intends to draft more, even though the effort is currently concentrated on IAF strikes."

Regarding how long the operation is expected to last, the source said the army "is not committed to any end-date. This could take days and even longer. The IDF is acting in attempt to bring back the calm the south enjoyed before the operation, and there are many avenues for actions and targets, but that requires patience." (Shirly Seidler)

6:00 A.M. Israel's air force strikes 50 targets in Gaza as part of Operation Protective Edge. According to the military, more than eight rockets were fired toward Israel over the past four hours. (Gili Cohen)

4:15 A.M. A rocket fired from Gaza explodes near Kiryat Malachi. (Haaretz)

2:40 A.M. The IDF dubs the aerial offensive on Gaza "Operation Protective Edge." The airstrikes are targeting sites in the center of the Strip. (Haaretz)

1:24 A.M. The IAF strikes Gaza targets in retaliation for the rocket fire. (Gili Cohen)

12:32 A.M. Rocket alarm sounds in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

12:08 A.M. Due to the rocket fire from Gaza, Home Front Command instructs towns within 40 kilometers of the Gaza Strip to cancel school and summer camp activity. (Haaretz)