IDF strikes Palestinians attempting to infiltrate via underground tunnel
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Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 17, 2014. Photo by AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon ordered the Israel Defense Forces to launch a ground incursion in the Gaza Strip Thursday night, in order to "damage the underground tunnel terrors constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory."

Earlier, Israel resumed airstrikes on the Gaza Strip at 3:00 P.M. after a six hour temporary cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza residents. The cease-fire began at 9:00 A.M. on Thursday morning, though Hamas fired rockets at Israel roughly two hours later.

Since the end of the ceasefire, over 100 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel, including large barrages aimed primarily at the south, but some have also reached central Israel. Israeli airstrikes killed four Palestinian children, three in Zeitoun and one in Khan Yunis.

Also on Thursday afternoon, representatives from UNRWA, the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees, found roughly 20 rockets hidden in a vacant UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's security cabinet is set to meet on Friday morning in Tel Aviv to discuss expanding Operation Protective Edge.
 

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Latest updates:

1:53 A.M. IDF Southern Command believe that the rocket launches from the Gaza Strip at Israel will increase during the IDF ground operation. According to estimations in the IDF, Hamas is prepared for a ground incursion, and will utilize snipers, charges and anti-tank rockets, alongside underground activities. (Gili Cohen)

1:33 A.M. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has denounced Israel´s operation in Gaza and again demanded that both sides accept a Cairo-proposed cease-fire.

1:26 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts four rockets above Ofakim in southern Israel. Three rockets explode in open areas. Earlier, rocket sirens were sounded in the Merhavim Regional Council (Gili Cohen, Shirly Seidler)

00:54 A.M. Israel Air Force strikes 11 targets in Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)

00:29 A.M. UN chief Ban Ki-moon says regrets Israeli ground offensive in Gaza, urges Israel to 'do more' to stop civilian casualties

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also says France is "extremely concerned" by the ground offensive, and called on Israel to show "utmost restraint." (DPA, Reuters)

00:15 A.M. Cabinet approves recruitment of 18,000 additional reserves. (Gili Cohen)

July 17:

11: 56 P.M. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu following IDF ground incursion into Gaza Strip. (Barak Ravid)

11:54 P.M. Israeli army to request cabinet to green light the recruitment of 18,000 more reserves in case the ground operation in Gaza is expanded. Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Benny Gantz says that "we'll launch a joint ground-aerial assault, using full force. We'll continue to expand the fire all over the Gaza Strip."

IDF Spokesperson Moti Almoz said that the IDF has entered the second phase of the operation, which will last for however long is necessary. "Large ground forces, assisted by massive backing from the air force and the navy, are currently taking over areas in the Gaza Strip and acting against tunnels and other targets," he said. Almoz addressed Gaza Strip residents and called on them to evacuate the areas where the IDF is operating. (Gili Cohen, Amos Harel)

11:35 P.M. Al Wafa rehabilitation hospital in Gaza City is hit by an Israeli strike, wounding an unknown number of people, Physicians for Human Rights report. Earlier it was reported that there are 17 patients inside the hospital who cannot be evacuated due to their medical condition. (Ido Efrati)

11:27 P.M. Foreign journalists in Gaza report that the IDF has told them to remain in their hotels for the duration (Haaretz)

11:16 P.M. Hamas makes an official statement: The ground operation in the Gaza Strip is a drastic, dangerous step, and the occupation will pay a heavy price for it. (Jack Khoury)

11:11 P.M. IDF reports that rocket fired from Syria at Israel landed in Syrian territory.

11:00 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Sderot. (Haaretz)

10:56 P.M. Palestinian reports indicate that the death toll in Gaza has risen to 240. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry attacked Hamas, and blamed the organization for utilizing the current crisis to improve its standing after a drop in its standing with the Palestinians. According to Shoukry, those who opposed the Egyptian cease-fire proposal are responsible for the Palestinian blood being spilled right now. (Jack Khoury)

10:48 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the Golan Heights (Haaretz)

10:45 P.M. The Prime Minister's Office released a statement on the current ground incursion in the Gaza Strip:

"The prime minister and the defense minister have ordered the IDF to begin a ground operation in order to damage the underground tunnel terrors constructed in Gaza leading into Israeli territory.

Such a tunnel was used earlier this morning by Hamas terrorists to enter Israeli territory, with intent to case massive harm to Israeli civilians.

The IDF successfully thwarted this attempt at terrorism as well. The prime minister and the defense minister have ordered the IDF to make preparations for expanding the ground operation. The order to act tonight has been approved by the security cabinet, after Israel agreed to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal which Hamas rejected and proceeded to fire rockets at Israel.

Nor did Hamas uphold the humanitarian cease-fire initiated by the UN, continuing to fire at Israel instead. In light of Hamas' unending criminal attacks, and its dangerous incursions into Israeli territory, Israel is forced to defend its citizens. Operation Protective Edge will continue until it achieves its objective – to restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come, while significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip."
 

10:38 P.M. prime minister and defense minister order the IDF to begin a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen) 

10:23 P.M. IDF reports five rockets intercepted over Kiryat Gat, one over Gush Dan (Gili Cohen)

10:15 P.M. Residents in Gaza neighborhood of Shuja'iyya ordered to evacuate their homes. 

10:14 P.M. Israelis living near Gaza border ordered to remain in their homes. (Shirley Seidler)

10:07 P.M. Three rockets intercepted in central Israel (Haaretz) 

10:02 P.M. Sirens sound in central, southern Israel (Haaretz)

9:44 P.M. IDF begins a significant expansion of operations on the Gaza Border by land, sea and air. Palestinian sources report heavy IDF artillery fire throughout the entire Gaza Strip. A Gaza resident told Haaretz, "they're firing from every direction, everything here is shaking." (Jack Khoury)

9:42 P.M. Palestinians in Gaza reporting heavy artillery fire (Haaretz)

9:30 P.M. Between the hours of 3:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M., Hof Ashkelon Regional Council has had seven rockets explode in residential areas. One injured soldier was sent to Barzilai Hospital with light wounds. Three fires have broken out in the area, five rockets have exploded in open areas, and three rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome. (Shirley Seidler)

9:20 P.M. Right-wing demonstrating outside of a "Breaking the Silence" event on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Police prevented the demonstrators from approaching a nearby restaurant after someone at the restaurant yelled, calling them "baboons." Protesters heard shouting "Mohammed is Dead," and "Let the IDF screw the Arabs." (Ido Efrati)

9:16 P.M. Rocket siren sounds in Ashkelon (Haaretz)

8:30 P.M. Patriot missile downs Palestinian UAV over Ashkelon, marking the second time a Palestinian UAV has entered Israeli territory during Operation Protective Edge. (Gili Cohen)

8:15 P.M. Since 3:00 P.M., the IDF has attacked roughly 30 terror-related targets in the Gaza Strip, including a weapons production facility, ten rocket-launching facilities, and 11 underground tunnels. (Gili Cohen)

8:04 P.M. The security cabinet will convene at 11:00 A.M. Friday morning in Tel Aviv to discuss expanding the military operation. (Barak Ravid)

7:55 P.M. Since the end of the cease-fire at 3:00 P.M., roughly 100 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel. (Gili Cohen)

7:37 P.M. Two rockets intercepted over Netivot. Bomb squads currently disposing of the rocket fragment that landed near Gedera. (Shirley Seidler)

7:00 P.M. Large rocket barrage fired earlier included 13 rockets aimed at Ashdod and Ashkelon, twelve of which were intercepted, one hit an open area near Ashkelon (Gili Cohen)

7:00 P.M. Due to an electric system malfunction, partial disruption of cellular service has been reported in Gaza-border area towns of Sufa, Holit, Nir Yitzhak, Bnei Netzerim and possibly other towns in the Eshkol Regional Council. The malfunction is being handled by the Israel Electric Company and the Defense Ministry. Also, three towns in the area have been without power since the morning. (Shirley Seidler) 

6:53 P.M. Three Palestinian children, including two siblings, were killed in an air strike on a house in Zeitoun neighborhood. Another girl was killed in a strike on Khan Yunis. (Jack Khoury)

6:49 P.M. Large rocket barrage fired at southern Israel (Haaretz)

6:36 P.M. One individual rushed to hospital after being lightly wounded by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in the Hof Ashkelon regional council. Iron Dome intercepts rocket fired at Ashdod. (Shirley Seidler and Gili Cohen)

6:24 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Ashdod, Gan Yavne, Be'er Tuvia Regional Council and Yavne area. (Haaretz)

6:17 P.M. Three mortar shells hit near town in Eshkol Regional Council, near Gaza border. No damage or casualties reported (Shirley Seidler)

6:14 P.M. IDF reports two rockets intercepted over Gush Dan (Gili Cohen)

6:00 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Petah Tikvah, Kfar Saba, Herzliyah, Ra'anana as well as in commercial zone near Ben Gurion Airport (Haaretz)

5:53 P.M. Residents in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza border, were ordered to remain in their homes for roughly an hour, after suspicious individuals were spotted near kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. Israel sent a large contingent of forces to the area and closed roads in the region to assist in search efforts. After an extensive search, it was determined that the reports were erroneous, and the individuals were possibly IDF soldiers in the area. Some of the roads previously closed have been reopened, and the IDF has declared that the situation in the area has returned to normal.

5:49 P.M. Rocket hits home in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, no casualties reported (Haaretz)

5:30 P.M. Since 3:00 P.M., 40 rockets and mortar shells have been fired at Israel. Three were intercepted, no casualties were reported.

Sapir College in Sderot announces that all classes and exams will be cancelled until further notice. (Shirley Seidler)

5:17 P.M. UNRWA, the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees, says that during a regular inspection of its premises it found some 20 rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip.

"UNRWA strongly condemns the group or groups responsible for placing the weapons in one of its installations," it says in a statement. "This is a flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law," it adds. This incident "endangered civilians including staff and put at risk UNRWA's vital mission to assist and protect Palestine refugees in Gaza." (DPA)

5:13 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts several rockets over Ashkelon, no damage or casualties reported (Shirley Seidler)

5:12 P.M. Residents in area near Gaza border ordered to remain inside their homes. (Haaretz) 

4:57 P.M. Barrage fired at Eshkol Regional Council. Israel Air Force has attacked four targets in Gaza since the end of the humanitarian cease-fire. (Haaretz and Gili Cohen)

4:55 P.M. Israeli counter-terror forces deployed to the south (Haaretz)

Israeli police forces deployed in the area near the Gaza Border.  

4:50 P.M. Route 4 has been closed to traffic from Yad Mordechai Junction to Erez Junction due to ongoing incident; roads that were closed earlier have been reopened (Shirley Seidler)

4:46 P.M. Iron Dome anti-missile defense system intercepts two rockets over Sderot and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, an additional rocket exploded in the area, causing a fire. (Shirley Seidler)

4:45 P.M. As far as Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are confirmed, there is no cease-fire yet, a Hamas spokesman announced at a press conference late Thursday afternoon. Moreover, no Hamas delegation has gone to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire, though one senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, is already there because he lives there, Sami Abu Zuhri said. Abu Zuhri also said any cease-fire agreement must include Israeli acceptance of the terms laid down by the Palestinian militant organizations. However, Palestinian officials are reportedly in Cairo for nonstop talks with Egyptian mediators in an effort to reach a cease-fire. (Jack Khoury)

4:34 P.M. Portions of Route 25, Route 241 and Route 40 have been closed to traffic due to army activities. (Shirley Seidler)

4:27 P.M. Palestinians report that IDF has renewed its attacks on Beit Lahiya, in north Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

4:10 P.M. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett visits Ashkelon, tells residents: "I came here to say thank you. The image that we are getting from you is power. You are giving us the time and strength to act responsibly, but I believe that Hamas' time is over."

4:10 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, four rockets explode in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional council. (Shirley Seidler)

4:01 P.M. A COGAT spokesman stated that "Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, decided to reject the UN's request to extend the humanitarian cease-fire, stating that Hamas did not honor the humanitarian cease-fire and continued firing rockets and mortar shells at Israeli citizens, in similar fashion to the attack that killed an Israeli citizen two days ago. Therefore Hamas is responsible for the fact that the humanitarian cease-fire will not be extended." (Barak Ravid)

3:39 P.M. Gaza militants have resumed their rocket and mortar shell fire against Israel: Launches made at Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva and Gaza border towns. (Haaretz)

3:14 P.M. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tells Israeli diplomats that the reports of a cease-fire were "far from reflecting reality." He says he has spoken to the prime minister and that acceptance of a truce were, at the moment, unknown to him. (Barak Ravid)

3:09 P.M. A senior Palestinian source in Cairo says no cease-fire agreement reached, Al-Jazeera reports. (Jack Khoury)

2:59 P.M. Sirens sound throughout Gaza border towns and Ashkelon area the moment the temporary cease-fire expires. (Haaretz)

2:37 P.M. Senior members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad tell Haaretz that progress has been made in the negotiations, but that a cease-fire agreement has not yet been reached. (Jack Khoury)

2:26 P.M. IDF soldier was lightly wounded by an explosion near the tunnel bombed during this morning's infiltration. (Gili Cohen)

2:23 P.M. A member of the security cabinet tells Haaretz that the reports of approval within the cabinet were wrong. The minister does not elaborate on whether an agreement has been reached or not. (Jonathan Lis)

2:10 P.M. Israeli officials tell Reuters that the security cabinet has accepted the cease-fire. Another Israeli official tells Channel 10 that the reports of a cease-fire are inaccurate. (Haaretz)

1:49 P.M. A senior Israeli official told the BBC that an agreement has been reached on a comprehensive cease-fire, to go into effect at 6 A.M. on Friday. (Haaretz)

1:46 P.M. Rocket explodes in the southern Israeli town of Merhavim. No injuries reported. (Shirly Seidler)

1:45 P.M. Palestinian sources say crossfire has erupted between Israeli forces and militants at the site of the Gaza tunnel where 13 Palestinians tried to infiltrate earlier Thursday. (Gili Cohen)

1:27 P.M. Palestinian sources report death toll in Operation Protective Edge rises to 230. 1,690 people have been wounded. (Jack Khoury)

1:19 P.M. Israeli President Shimon Peres tells BBC yesterday's killings of four Palestinian children on a beach in Gaza City were not intentional. 

When questioned if Israel would apologize, Peres said "we are really sorry to see four children killed."

"I think the Air Force takes maximum care not to hit children," Peres continued.

"Pilots have orders not to [carry out strikes] if they see a single child."

Peres said there was a "great concentration of weapons" in the area where the air strike occured. "Unfortunately, [the Palestinians] did not take out the children, who did not have the slightest idea." 

1:15 P.M. Israeli delegation leaves Cairo after talks with Egyptian officials on a proposed long-term truce for the Gaza Strip. "The delegation's short visit came in response to the Egyptian initiative [on a Gaza ceasefire] that includes holding talks in Cairo with top-level delegations from the Israeli government and the Palestinian factions to consolidate the proposed ceasefire and complete confidence-building measures," an Egyptian official said. (DPA) Read full article

12:45 P.M. Egypt's foreign minister says its proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas is gaining momentum, calling it the only viable way to stop an "intolerable humanitarian situation" in Gaza.

"The plan has been widely endorsed by the Arab League, it has been endorsed by the European Union... and it continues to gain momentum in terms of recognition," Sameh Shukri said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The plan, which includes easing access to Gaza, was accepted by Israel this week but rejected by Hamas, which said it had never been consulted, a claim Shukri denied. (AP)

12:41 P.M. Al-Qassam Brigades claim all militants returned safely to Gaza following the attempted infiltration into Israel early Thursday morning. (Jack Khoury)

12:20 P.M. Three mortar shells land in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damages reported. (Haaretz)

12:02 P.M. Sirens sound in Eshkol Regional Council and Ashkelon areas, two hours after temporary cease-fire went into effect.

11:59 A.M. Three suspects, including two minors, are formally indicted for the kidnapping and murder of Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. (Haaretz) Read the full article

11:27 A.M. The Shin Bet said it warned the army of intelligence indicating a potential infiltration attempt, and that soldiers were thus prepared and on high alert, with increased troops in the area. (Gili Cohen) Read the full article

11:01 A.M. One hour into cease-fire, both Israel and Hamas are adhering.

10:31 A.M. Palestinian media reports three killed in IDF airstrike in Rafah minutes before the truce went into effect. (Haaretz)

10:00 A.M. Temporary 5-hour truce goes into effect. One minute before the cease-fire went into effect, Iron Dome intercepts a rocket over Be'er Sheva, and a mortar explodes in an open area near the border fence in Eshkol Regional Council. (Gili Cohen and Shirly Seidler)

9:48 A.M.  The Israeli delegation is in Cairo for negotiations over the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. The Israel team is headed by Shin Bet Chief Yoram Cohen, and includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy Isaac Molho and the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security department, Amos Gilad. The three were meeting with senior Egyptian intelligence officials in attempt to revive the Egyptian proposal that collapsed two days ago. (Barak Ravid) Read full article

9:35 A.M. Rocket sirens sound in Netivot area and in Be'er Sheva; one rocket explodes in open area in Be'er Sheva and Merhavim Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

9:27 A.M. Residents of Sufa, Hulit and Kerem Shalom on the Gaza border told to resume routine after being instructed to remain indoors as IDF forces comb the area following the infiltration attempt. (Haaretz)

9:24 A.M. Clashes in East Jerusalem: Palestinians threw stones at a passing train in the Shoafat neighborhood this morning. No injuries were reported.

Two Palestinians arrested overnight in East Jerusalem, suspected of throwing stones. Another three Palestinians suspected of attacking a Jewish man in the Muslim Quarter were also arrested. The victim did not require medical treatment. An additional 21 Palestinians suspected involvement in Jerusalem riots over the last two weeks were also arrested overnight. 201 Palestinians have been arrested over the past two months, 45 of whom have been formally charged. Police expect to make further arrests.

Meanwhile, a brawl fight broke out between two families in the Silwan
neighborhood, most likely due to a fight between children. Three people were injured by gunfire, and a bus and a number of stores were hit by firebombs during the incident. (Nir Hasson)

9:15 A.M.  Details emerge of overnight infiltrations attempt: Militants seen by IDF observation post entering the tunnel at 4:30 A.M. "If the terror attack had been actualized, it would have been very significant. Think, 13 terrorists inside of a kibbutz. We would have woken up this morning to a killing spree, including the possibility of abductions. That clearly would have been the result," IDF spokesman says. (Gili Cohen)

Read more on the underground tunnels in Hamas

8:46 A.M. The Iron Dome system intercepted one rocket over Ra'anana and a second exploded in an open area in the Sharon region in latest barrage. (Gili Cohen)

8:45 A.M. Gaza medical sources report five Palestinians killed overnight in Gaza, death toll now at 219. (Jack Khoury)

8:42 A.M. Rocket sirens sound in towns across the Sharon area, north and east of Tel Aviv. (Haaretz)

8:28 A.M. IDF spokesperson confirms 13 Palestinians were caught attempting to enter Israel through a tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip. Eight Palestinians confirmed dead and the rest attempted to flee. No Israeli casualties reported. (Haaretz)

8:20 A.M. A senior IDF official updated that three demolition orders were issued for the houses of those involved in the kidnapping and murders of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.

Until now, security officials had indicated interest in two main suspects, Marwan Kawasama and Omar Abu Aisha. Yesterday, it was reported that demolition orders were issued for both of their houses.

However, a third demolition order was issued for the house of Hussam Kawasama, a suspect officials consider key in planning the abduction. (Gili Cohen)

8:07 A.M. Six rockets fired at southern Israel. Four explode in open areas in the Be'er Sheva area, two explode in open areas in Merhavim Regional Council. No casualties or damage reported.

Last night, IDF attacked the homes of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad and Khalil al Haya, a member of Hamas' political bureau. (Gili Cohen and Shirly Seidler)

2:37 A.M. European Union leaders call on Israel and the Palestinians to end the violence. Israel has the right to defend itself, they said, but its response needs to be proportional.

2:10 A.M. Three rockets fired. One was shot down over Kiryat Gat, another shot down over Kiryat Malachi and the third landed in open ground near Kiryat Malachi. (Gili Cohen)

2:05 A.M. Hamas agrees to temporary ceas-fire. (Reuters)

2:00 A.M. Rockets fired at Ashkelon and Eshkol region fall into open ground. No injuries or damage reported.

1:53 A.M. Alerts sounded in Beit Shemesh, the Jerusalem Hill region, Kiryat Gat and the Beer Tuvya regional council.

1:51 A.M. Alert sounded in Eshkol regional council.

1:28 A.M. Alert sounded in Hof Ashkelon regional council.

1:15 A.M. U.S. President Barack Obama announces concerted push to "close a cease-fire agreement" between Israel and Hamas.

12:32 A.M. FM Avigdor Lieberman says Qatar and Turkey deliberately persuaded Hamas to reject the Egyptian cease-fire proposal in order to promote Qatar as mediator in the conflict.

11:20 P.M. Palestinian internal security forces are preventing a group of some 200 Palestinian demonstrators from marching on the settlement of Beit El in support of the people of Gaza. (Amira Hass)

10:55 P.M. Rocket falls in open ground outside a settlement in Eshkol. No injuries or damage reported. (Shirley Seidler)

10:48 P.M. The IDF Spokesperson said that the humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza will take place between 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. local time on Thursday. "Any attempt to take advantage of the cease-fire will be retaliated," he said.

10:39 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the Eshkol Regional Council.