IDF Avoids Civilians Casualties in Gaza, Hamas Increases Them
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The Israeli air force expanded its offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza early Wednesday, as rocket fire on Israel's south, center and coastal plain continued.

Israel has attacked hundreds of targets in Gaza on Wednesday and more than 180 rockets have been fired from Gaza during the same period, according to Israel Defense Forces estimates. Long-range rockets have been launched at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and as far north as Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, near Haifa. Iron Dome interceptor missiles have in the last 24 hours intercepted dozens of rockets over Israeli cities.

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IDF strikes on Gaza overnight targeted some 120 underground launchers and 10 tunnels, a naval police base and domestic security offices, and the homes of eight senior Hamas member which the army says served as command centers and were used in coordinating the rocket fire on Israel's south.

A top Islamic Jihad militant was killed in the strikes, as well as five other Palestinians. Two more Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed as the strikes continued on Wednesday.

Click here for Tuesday's live blog.

Latest updates:

2:52 A.M. Rocket intercepted over Ashkelon, three land in open areas near city.

2:37 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol and Hof Ashkelon regional councils.

2:26 A.M Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes tonight in the vicinlty of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. According to the report, which is based on a statement made by the Gaza ministry of health, women and children are among the dead.

1:32 A.M. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief the UN Security Council on Thursday on the escalating Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, which he described as a "troubling and volatile" situation.

"Gaza is on a knife edge," Ban told reporters on Wednesday. "I firmly condemn the multiple rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israel. Such attacks are unacceptable and must stop."

"I also urged (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu to exercise maximum restraint and to respect international obligations to protect civilians. I condemn the rising number of civilian lives lost in Gaza," he said.

Ban spent the day speaking with regional and world leaders, including Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the king of Saudi Arabia and the emir of Qatar.

"Regional leaders have a vital role to play and I urged President Sissi and others to help facilitate a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement," Ban said. "The risk of violence expanding further still is real. Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war."

1:26 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over Be'er Sheva; One rocket lands in open area; none wounded. (Gili Cohen)

1:17 A.M. Rocket alert sounds in Be'er Sheva area, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council (Haaretz)

00:30 A.M. All told, 82 rockets and mortar shells hit Israel on Wednesday, and 21 rockets were intercepted. The IAF struck 326 targets in the Gaza Strip throughout the day. (Gili Cohen)

00:04 A.M. Two rockets intercepted above Kiryat Malachi. (Shirley Seidler, Gili Cohen)

July 10, 2014:

11:44 P.M. Several rockets land in open areas in Be'er Tuvia. Three lightly wounded when car they were driving in hits electric post during sounding of siren.

11:21 P.M. Alarms sound in Kiryat Gat, Gan Yavne, and Shafir, Be'er Tuvia, Yoav, Gderot, Hevel Yavne and Hof Ashkelon Regional Councils.

11:15 P.M. Alarms sound in Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Sdot Negev, Be'er Tuvia and Yoav Regional Councils.

Palestinians report that one man was killed and eight wounded when a car carrying reporters was attacked in Gaza City. The man, Hamdi Shahab (49) was an employee of a 'Media 24,' a local media agency. Three of the wounded are in serious condition. (Shirley Seidler, Jack Khouri)

11:00 P.M. One rocket lands in Sdot Negev Regional Council, none wounded.

10:39 P.M. More information emerges on the scuba divers spotted on near the Gaza coast: The IDF says the armed men were identified near Israeli territory. A military force opened fire at the suspects and large force are currently canvasing in attempt to locate them. (Gili Cohen)

10:10 P.M. An IDF force spotted a short while ago what appeared to be two armed scuba divers on the northern coast of the Gaza Strip approaching Israeli territory. The force is taking measures to stop the men, presumed to be militants.

On Tuesday, five armed Palestinians crossed 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)

9:43 P.M. A leading Hamas representative, Osama Hamdan, says Israel is refusing to negotiate a new cease-fire deal. He adds that Hamas' strained relationship with Egypt has nothing to do with the country's failure, as mediator, to reach an agreement with Israel.

9:35 P.M. Palestinian death toll in Gaza rises to 51, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. (Jack Khoury)

Magen David Adom emergency services says 68 people were treated since the operation commenced on Tuesday. Nine suffered light injuries while seeking shelter, and 59 were treated for shock. (Shirly Seidler)

8:59 P.M. Palestinian President Abbas says that Israel is waging war against all Palestinians. "This is not a war against one faction, or against Hamas, but against the entire Palestinian people." He adds that "difficult days for all of us remain ahead."

8:50 P.M. Israeli forces bomb the home of Ahmed Ghandour, a top Hamas member responsible for rocket fire in the northern Gaza Strip. Homes of four other Hamas members were attacked, including that of rocket specialist.

In the last hour, the military carried out strikes against 80 targets in Gaza, mainly against rocket launching sites. (Gili Cohen)

8:42 P.M. Public shelters in Dimona have been open since Tuesday, but according to residents they are in bad shape. In Yeruham, however, shelters will be opened Wednesday night after they were locked when the sirens went off earlier. City Hall is now meeting to decide on whether schools should be opened Thursday. (Shirly Seidler)

8:34 P.M. Gaza rocket explodes in an open area north of Yavne, central Israel. A fire erupted in the area. (Gili Cohen)

8:08 P.M. Netanyahu appeals to world leaders. The prime minister spoke Wednesday afternoon with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

During these conversations, Netanyahu stressed that no country would accept incessant rocket fire on its territory, nor infiltrations by sea or through cross-border tunnels. Hamas, he said, was committing a double war crime, by trying to deliberately harm Israelis while using Gaza’s civilians as human shields. Therefore, Hamas was responsible when there are accidental civilian casualties in Gaza.

Netanyahu added that Hamas is recognized by the world as a terror organization, and the international community must forcefully condemn the ongoing fire by Hamas and other terror groups on Israeli cities. (Barak Ravid) 

8:03 P.M. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal calls on the international community to make it clear to Netanyahu that the Palestinians will not live under occupation. In a press conference in Qatar, Meshal said the Israeli prime minister isn't interested in reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and is attempting to undermine it.

Meshal accuses Netanyahu of starving people by blocking the payment of salaries in Gaza and by ignoring the recent hunger strike by the administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. He reiterated that Hamas had no clue who had kidnapped the three teenagers in Gush Etzion, but welcomed the attack.

“The kidnapping was the start of things as far as Netanyahu is concerned. As if the occupation, the settlements and the blockage don’t constitute a blatant violation of Palestinian rights. Whoever wants calm in return for calm isn’t going to get it.”

He says the blueprint for achieving quiet was “an immediate halt to the aggression and bombings, and it’s time to end the occupation. You Israelis: Take your complaints to Netanyahu and his extremist government, which are the reason you are in bomb shelters.

"The enemy will see things it’s not expecting,” Meshal continues. “Israel is stronger than us in weapons and technology, but we are facing a great campaign and ask for our people’s patience so we can win.”

Meshal calls on the various factions in the West Bank and Gaza “to take responsibility, and together we will face the mighty Israel and achieve liberation.” He also calls on the Palestinian Authority and its security forces to join the campaign. “We are brothers,” he says. “Stand up for your nation and its rights.” (Jack Khoury)

7:54 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over Dimona, two other projectiles explode in open areas near the city. (Gili Cohen)

7:49 P.M. Rocket sirens go off in communities near Dimona and Yeruham. (Shirly Seidler and Gili Cohen)

7:32 P.M. Home Front Command orders public shelters to be opened in Haifa and Hof Hacarmel Regional Council. (Gili Cohen)

7:19 P.M. Iron Dome defense system intercepts a rocket over Ashkelon. (Gili Cohen)

7:15 P.M. Gaza rocket hits a house in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. The family was out, but heavy damage was reported. (Shirly Seidler)

6:55 P.M. A rocket hit an art gallery in a community in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. None wounded, damage done to the building. (Shirly Seidler)

6:47 P.M. IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION: Thousands of Israelis have received an SMS in Haaretz's name alleging that rockets have struck Haifa. This message was not from Haaretz. (Haaretz)

6:40 P.M. In the last two days, Israel has struck more Hamas targets than it had in all of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel's eight-day offensive in 2012, a top Israel Air Force commander says. Military aircrafts dropped more than 400 tons of explosives since Monday night, after a heavy rocket barrage was fired at Israel.

“We think Hamas was surprised by Israel’s actions over these two days. We are systematically hitting their infrastructure, where Hamas commanders operate,” he added. (Gili Cohen)

6:31 P.M. Seventy-two rockets have exploded in Israel so far on Wednesday, according to military figures. (Gili Cohen)

6:24 P.M. One Egyptian soldier and four others wounded in an explosion in the Egyptian town of Rafah, near the border with Gaza and Israel, according to security sources. They said the blast occurred after an armored tank drove over an explosive device. (Reuters)

6:21 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Gaza envelope communities. (Israel Radio)

6:10 P.M. One of the mortar shells that recently fell in the Eshkol Regional Council landed between two houses in a residential area. Damage reported to property. The other rounds fell in open areas. (Shirly Seidler)

5:58 P.M. Rocket sirens go off in Ashkelon. (Israel Radio)

5:54 P.M. The Israeli military since Wednesday morning bombed 31 tunnels in Gaza, in addition to 60 concealed rocket launchers, rocket storage sites and 12 buildings it says were used as command centers. (Gili Cohen)

5:26 P.M. Six mortar shells fall in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

5:15 P.M. Iron Dome interceptors shoot down a rocket over the greater Tel Aviv, the third since Tuesday. The IDF is currently examining whether another rocket was fired at the metropolitan area.

A rocket explosion in an open area near Ofakim sparks a fire. (Gili Cohen and Shirly Seidler)

4:56 P.M. The Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system has achieved a nearly 90 percent success rate since Monday night, an improvement over its performance during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the IDF says.

4:44 P.M. Rocket explodes in agricultural fields in the Merhavim Regional Council, damage done to property. Also, three rockets damaged buildings and a road in a residential area in the Eshkol Regional Council. Three other rockets exploded in an open area in the council's jurisdiction. (Shirly Seidler)

4:31 P.M. Forty-eight rockets hit Israeli territory since midnight, 14 more were intercepted by Iron Dome defense systems across the country. (Gili Cohen)

4:20 P.M. Rocket explosion sparks a fire in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. Four other rockets explode in the council's jurisdiction. (Shirly Seidler)

4:18 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a series of security consultations at the Israel Defense Force's Southern Command on Wednesday, as militants in the Gaza Strip continued to fire rockets as far as 125 km away.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, IDF Chief Benny Gantz and GOC Southern Command Sami Turgeman took part in the discussion

"We've decided to escalate even further our attacks on Hamas and on the terrorist organizations in Gaza," Netanyahu said at the end of his visit. "The IDF is prepared for every possibility. Hamas will pay a heavy price for the fire against Israeli citizens. The security of the citizens of Israel takes precedent over everything. Our army is strong, our home front is steadfast, and our nation is unified. This combination is our response to the terror organizations that want to harm us. We are all united in the mission to stop the terror organizations and bring back the quiet. The operation will expand and continue until the fire on our communities is over and the quiet is back." (Barak Ravid)

4:03 P.M. The death toll in Gaza Strip rises to 42 since the operation began on Tuesday, according to Palestinian sources. A mother and her child were killed by an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younis and three bodies were found in the al-Maghazi refugee camp near Deir al-Balah in the center of the Strip. (Jack Khoury)

3:55 P.M. Rocket explosions spark fire in open areas near Sderot, firefighters en route. (Shirly Seidler)

3:45 P.M. The Israeli scouts evacuate 800 campers from a summer camp in Ya'ar Ofer, north of Zichron Ya'akov.

3:00 P.M. IDF confirms rocket siren near Zichron Ya'akov and Hof Hacarmel, located more than 120 kilometers from the Gaza Strip, was not false alarm and that a rocket had been detected. (Gili Cohen)

2:58 P.M. Two additional rockets intercepted over Sderot. (Gili Cohen)

2:40 P.M. Hamas claims responsibility for the rocket fire on Israel's north. The attack was aimed at Haifa, the group says. (Jack Khoury)

2:30 P.M. Fires break out at two locations in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council due to rocket explosions. (Shirley Seidler)

2:24 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Zichron Ya'akov and Hof Hacarmel Regional Council, north of Hadera. Sirens also sound in the Sharon plain. (Eli Ashkenazi)

2:20 P.M. Two rockets fired from Gaza are intercepted over the southern Israeli city of Sderot. (Shirley Seidler)

2:00 P.M. The Iron Dome intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza toward the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Gat. (Shirley Seidler)

1:53 P.M. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will convene the Palestinian leadership at 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday at his bureau, during which he expected to sign the necessary documents for joining international organizations. Inter alia, he has requested to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, a senior official told Haaretz.

1:30 P.M. Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi accuses the IDF of committing war crimes in Gaza by "purposefully wiping out entire families." (Jack Khoury)

1:24 P.M. Three rockets explode in the Be'er Tuvia Regional Council; no damage reported. Two other rockets hit, one in a town in the Yoav Regional Council and another in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirley Seidler)

1:11 P.M. A rocket explodes in a town in the Eshkol Regional Council; the siren fails to sound. Another rocket explodes near a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, sparking a fire. (Shirley Seidler)

12:40 P.M. A father and son were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports.

12:30 P.M. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon says during a security briefing that the operation against Hamas is to be expanded in the coming days. According to Ya'alon, the Israeli strikes in Gaza have destroyed weapons, terror infrastructure, command centers, Hamas institution, government buildings and terrorists' homes.

"We are killing terrorists of different ranks, and this operation will persist and intensify," he says. "For our part, this doesn't have to be a short battle. We will continue hitting Hamas and other terrorist groups hard." 

12:10 P.M. A spokesman for the Egyptian president says that intensive efforts to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas are ongoing. (Jack Khoury)

12:09 P.M. A rocket explodes near Kiryat Malakhi, sparking a fire at a farm. Two other rockets hit open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirley Seidler)

12:05 P.M. Sirens go off in Be'er Tuvia and Gedera; sounds of explosions ensue. Evidently, rockets fired toward the area were intercepted.

Iron Dome intercepts three rockets fired toward Ashdod. (Gili Cohen)

11:50 A.M. The IDF confirms that an antiaircraft missile, evidently a Strela, was fired toward an Israeli air force plane after the start of Operation Protective Edge. (Gili Cohen) 

11:36 A.M. Palestinian sources say an 80-year-old woman has been killed in an IDF attack on central Gaza. (Jack Khoury)

10:40 A.M. Rocket intercepted over Ashkelon, another strikes near school; several people suffering from shock (Shirley Seidler).

10:25 A.M. Vandals spray paint anti-Arab slogans in several Jerusalem neighborhoods; police open an investigation. (Nir Hasson)

10:10 A.M. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asks Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to intervene in the escalating violence between Israel and militants in Gaza. Abbas says he has spoken with Hamas leaders, who are interested in a cease-fire. The Egyptian envoy in the Palestinian Authority says that talks between the sides are ongoing but an agreement has yet to be reached. (Jack Khoury)

10:05 A.M. The rockets that were fired on central Israel earlier Wednesday were aimed at Ben-Gurion Airport, Palestinian sources report. (Jack Khoury)

The Iron Dome intercepts a rocket fired toward Ashdod. (Shirley Seidler)

9:54 A.M. An IAF strike in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza kills a motorcyclist and wounds one other person.

Hamas claims responsibility for rockets fired on Tel Aviv earlier Wednesday. (Jack Khoury)

9:40 A.M. The Israel Air Force strikes targets in the Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)

9:33 A.M. 24 Palestinians have been killed and 200 wounded since start of operation on Monday night, according the Gaza health ministry.

8:50 A.M. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepts two rockets fired toward central Israel. (Gili Cohen)

8:42 A.M. Two rockets explode in the Eshkol Regional Council; a farm is damaged. (Shirley Seidler)

8:30 A.M. Rocket sirens ring across central Israel; explosions heard. (Haaretz)

8:26 A.M. Two rockets explode near a town in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. (Shirley Seidler) 

8:15 A.M. Since the launch of the IAF's Operation Protective Edge on Monday night, 225 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel; 40 were intercepted by the Iron Dome. The air force has struck 434 targets in Gaza so far as part of the operation.

8:00 A.M. School and summer camp activity in Jerusalem and in towns within 40 kilometers of Gaza will only take place in buildings with bomb shelters. Schools in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council are closed.

School and camp activity in Kiryat Malakhi, Gan Yavneh and Ashdod has been cancelled. Summer events in the latter city have been cancelled as well, the weekly market remains closed and gatherings of more than 300 people have been forbidden. (Nir Hasson, Shirley Seidler)  

7:15 A.M. The Nahal Brigade joins two other IDF brigades deployed near Gaza in preparation for a ground operation. (Gili Cohen)

7:00 A.M. Some of the rockets fired toward central Israel on Tuesday were manufactured by Hamas, a senior IDF officer says. In anticipation of further attacks, the Israel Air Force has rearranged the deployment of Iron Dome missile defense batteries.

The IAF will continue striking the homes of key Hamas militants on Wednesday. According to the officer, residents of the buildings that were previously targeted have tried to avert the attacks by going up to the roofs en masse. Such ploys will not be effective, the officer says, adding that the IAF has been warning residents in several ways to evacuate the buildings ahead of time.

"If the pilot has signaled (an impending strike), go outside, this house will be destroyed," the officer says." (Gili Cohen)

6:50 A.M. Gaza rocket explodes in an open area in Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

6:18 A.M. The Israeli military strikes 160 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight. The IDF says some of the targets were homes of eight top Hamas members, which were used as headquarters. The homes included those of Khan Yunis division commander Muhammad Sinwar and Rafah division commander Ra'ed Atar. (Gili Cohen)

Some 120 underground launchers and 10 tunnels also targeted overnight, as well as a naval police base and domestic security offices. (Gili Cohen)

5:10 A.M. The European Union condemns rocket fire from Gaza toward Israel, calling for an immediate cease-fire. A statement published by the office of foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says the EU "strongly condemns the indiscriminate fire into Israel by militant groups in the Gaza Strip."

The statement also deplores the "growing number of civilian casualties, reportedly among them children, caused by Israeli retaliatory fire." The EU calls on Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza "to do their utmost to achieve an immediate ceasefire."

5:01 A.M. Man suffers smoke inhalation after a rocket that exploded earlier in an open area near Rishon Letzion sparked a fire. (Israel Radio)

2:21 A.M. Due to the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says that is will operate with minimal staffing until further notice. (Haaretz)

1:35 A.M. Three Grad rockets explode in open areas near Be'er Sheva. (Shirly Seidler)

1:25 A.M. Rocket sirens go off in Be'er Sheva and the vicinity. (Shirly Seidler)

1:03 A.M. The death toll in a recent Israeli airstrike on Gaza rises to six, according to Palestinian sources. A top member of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, Hafez Hamad, was killed in the attack, and five others including several family members. Israeli planes also targeted the house of a top Hamas official in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (Jack Khoury and GIili Cohen)

12:15 A.M. Three Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Twenty Palestinians were killed in the past 24 hours. (Jack Khoury)