Smoke billows following an Israeli military strike east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
Smoke billows following an Israeli military strike east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. Photo by AFP
Text size
related tags
2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin.
2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was feared captured in the Gaza Strip until he was declared dead on Sunday.

Indications suggest an Israeli officer has been taken captive by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, the IDF Spokesman said Friday at noon, hours after a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire agreed upon by Israel and Hamas collapsed after holding for less than two hours. According to a statement by the Hamas military wing, the officer, Hadar Goldin, was probably killed together with his captors in an Israeli bombardment.

Mortar shells fired from within the Gaza Strip landed near a border-region town some two hours after the truce deal brokered by the United States and the EU kicked in, and shortly thearafter Palestinian medical sources reported that at least 25 Gaza residents were killed and dozens of others wounded by IDF artillery fire directed at the southern Strip.

The names of the five Israeli soldiers killed by Palestinian mortar fire near the Gaza Strip border were released by the IDF. The number of Israeli military fatalities now stands at 63.

Sixteen Palestinians were killed by IDF fire overnight and in the early morning in Khan Yunis, according to Gaza medical sources. Nine of the deceased belong to Al-Farah family, of which four are children aged 4 to 12.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Palestinian death toll since fighting began is now at over 1,450, and the number of wounded has risen to over 8,200.

SUBSCRIBE TO HAARETZ AND GET FULL COVERAGE

For Thursday's live updates, click here

Latest updates (Friday):

11:12 P.M. The number of casualties in Rafah rose to 62 today, eight of them children and babies, elderly persons, and three medics. The number of people injured rose to 350. (Jack Khoury)

10:07 P.M. U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Hamas for Friday morning's capture of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, saying if Hamas was serious about resolving the situation, the Israeli officer must be "unconditionally released as soon as possible."

Obama reiterated Israel's right to defend itself, saying no country would tolerate rockets and tunnel attacks. He stated that Hamas is housing rockets in the middle of civilian neighborhoods, which is why innocent people are getting killed.

Obama stated the international community has to do more to protect innocent civilians in Gaza, saying a cease-fire was one way to do that.

The president said Israel committed itself to the cease-fire before it was violated, cautioning that Israel cannot be confident that a cease-fire will hold if Hamas cannot control all Palestinian factions.

President Obama additionally praised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's continued efforts to arrange a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. (Barak Ravid) 

9:48 P.M. Rocket explodes in an open area outside Ashkelon. No damage or injuries reported.

9:38 P.M. Rocket alarm sirens sound in Ashkelon and Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

9:36 P.M. 61 rockets and mortars fired at Israel since midnight. 51 of these exploded in Israeli areas and nine rockets were intercepted.

Since Friday's attack in Rafah, 38 rockets and mortars were fired at Israel. 35 exploded in Israeli areas and two rockets were intercepted. (Gili Cohen)

9:20 P.M. Turkey will do what it can to help free an Israeli soldier whose capture led to the breakdown of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas but the priority should be the reinstatement of a truce, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says.

"What is important is that the ceasefire is reinstated. To ensure this, together with others, we can take any step that could resolve this Israeli soldier issue. If Turkey can do anything, we will do our best," Davutoglu tells reporters.

"But if the ceasefire is stopped because an Israeli soldier is kidnapped, somebody should account for the 70 Palestinians killed (today). In our eyes, all people are equal," he says. (Reuters)

8:55 P.M. Simha Goldin, father of captured soldier 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, briefly addressed reporters gathered outside the family's home in Kfar Saba.

"We wish to strengthen Israel's fight against Hamas in Gaza, and are sure the IDF will leave no stone unturned in Gaza to make sure Hadar is returned safe and sound."

Professor Eyal Zisser, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Tel Aviv University, said that he spoke with Dr. Goldin, a senior university employee.

"They are very strong and faithful, a religious family. They told me they are receiving ongoing reports from the army." (Ofer Aderet)

8:50 P.M. 121 Palestinians have been killed Friday, according to Palestinian media reports. 54 of the fatalities are from Rafah, 25 from Shujaiyeh, 16 from Khan Younis and the rest throughout Gaza.

The total includes bodies found today that have been buried under rubble for several days. The death toll in Rafah is expected to rise. (Jack Khoury) 

8:41 P.M. Hamas official Ismail Radwan: Our political leadership has no information about a captured Israeli soldier. Even if it was true, the military leadership are the only ones authorized to report such an event.

At 7:00 A.M. Al-Qassam Brigades were fighting Israeli forces entering Rafah. These forces planned to remain in place, violating the cease-fire, so we acted against the forces and harmed soldiers. (Jack Khoury)

8:27 P.M. Sources in the Prime Minister's Office say that Israel only agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire after John Kerry received explicit assurances from Qatar that Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in Gaza would honor the truce. They added that Hamas gave similar assurances to the UN, but that Hamas decided to violate both commitments.

The sources say that Israel expects the United States and the international community to react sternly against any terror organization who challenges them in such a blunt manner. According to the sources, the fact that Hamas not only uses civilians as human shields but also violates humanitarian cease-fires, and by doing so prevents them from receiving humanitarian aid, proves Hamas wants the people of Gaza to suffer and that the world would then blame Israel for their suffering.

To the world leaders who offered their regret over the collapse of the 72-hour truce in Gaza, the sources said it didn't just collapse – it was Hamas who violated it.

In conversations Netanyahu held on Friday with Kerry and Ban, they noted, the prime minister made it clear that Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza will be held accountable. (Barak Ravid)

8:08 P.M. Four mortar shells explode in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council. No injuries or damage reported. (Shirly Seidler)

8:03 P.M. Security cabinet convenes in Tel Aviv. (Barak Ravid)

7:37 P.M. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Friday to provide $225 million in emergency funding for Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system.

An earlier version of the funding plan had failed on Thursday when Senate Republicans blocked a broader spending bill that was largely intended to provide money to handle the current immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

But lawmakers reached an agreement overnight to pass the missile funding measure.

To become law, the funding plan must still pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Barack Obama. Given U.S. lawmakers traditionally strong support for Israel, it is not expected to encounter significant resistance in the House. (Reuters) 

7:36 P.M. Two more Palestinians reportedly killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank. At this time, protesters are confronting Israeli forces in Hebron and Bethlehem. Earlier on Friday, a Palestinian man was killed in Tul Karm. (Jack Khoury)

7:30 P.M. Fearing an escalation of violence in Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Turkey and Qatar to use their influence to secure the release of an Israeli soldier whose reported capture led to the collapse of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Kerry called Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al Attiyah and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu soon after an aide informed him of reports of the capture, and the killings of two Israeli soldiers, while flying back from a visit to India.

"We have urged them, implored them to use their influence to do whatever they can to get that soldier returned," a senior State Department official told reporters traveling with Kerry. “Absent that, the risk of this continuing to escalate, leading to further loss of life is very high.” (Reuters)

7:27 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Haaretz)

7:19 P.M. IDF says they have attacked 50 targets in Gaza since Friday morning's attack, which killed two soldiers and led to the reported capture of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin. (Gili Cohen)

7:14 P.M. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked and profoundly disappointed" by Hamas' violation of the humanitarian cease-fire Friday morning and demanded the immediate release of the reportedly captured soldier.

Ban added he was "deeply concerned" by the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza, and casts doubt on the credibility of the assurances previously given by Hamas to the UN. (Barak Ravid) 

7:08 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. (Haaretz)

6:48 P.M. A Palestinian journalist says that, contrary to some reports, no one is being evacuated from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. "There is a rumor about evacuation and people are leaving the building, but the hospital itself is still functioning," he says. (Jack Khoury)

6:35 P.M. The cabinet is set to convene in Tel Aviv Friday evening to discuss how to react to Friday morning's attack in Gaza. Despite the mounting losses, Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and senior IDF commanders were considered ending the ground operation and exiting the Gaza Strip unilaterally, without an agreement. Amos Harel writes the situation is now more complex. The short-lived cease-fire is over, and the expectations that the IDF would leave the Gaza Strip in 72 hours, after neutralizing the tunnel threat, are now much less realistic. Read full article here

6:15 P.M. John Kerry stated that Friday morning's attack was "an outrageous violation of [the] cease-fire negotiated over the past several days, and of assurances given to the UN and U.S."

Kerry called on Hamas to "immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier," and called on "those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message."

Kerry added that "the international community must now redouble its efforts to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel." (Barak Ravid)

6:11 P.M. IDF Spokesperson says Major Banaya Sarel will be buried late Saturday night in a Hebron cemetary. His family requests the media does not cover the funeral. (Gili Cohen)

5:59 P.M. One rocket explodes in open area in Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

5:55 P.M. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says Israel, by reporting that one of its soldiers was captured, is trying to mislead the world, following what he said was its violation of the ceasefire, in an attempt to "cover up its Rafah massacre." (Jack Khoury)

5:51 P.M. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel's offensive and describing this as a war crime and "state-sponsored terrorism". 

Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.

"We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality," Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.

"This (international) community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification."

His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from Islamist militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh's quiet response to the Gaza crisis. (Reuters) 

5:42 P.M. Sirens sound in communities near the Gaza border and in the southern city of Netivot. (Haaretz)

5:26 P.M. The Israeli army names the two soldiers killed during the attack and the suspected capture of an Israeli officer in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday morning: Major Benaya Sarel, 26, an infantry officer from Kiryat Arba. Sarel was posthumously promoted from the rank of Captain; and Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni, 20, an infantry soldier from Jerusalem. The soldiers' families have been notified.

5:18 P.M. A Palestinian man was killed in clashes with the IDF near the West Bank city of Tul Karm, according to Palestinian media reports. A report by AFP said that, according to the Red Crescent, 39 Palestinians were wounded by live rounds and rubber-coated bullets fired by Israeli forces on Friday throughout the West Bank. (Jack Khoury and Haaretz)

5:11 P.M. Three mortar shells explode in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

5:05 P.M. Security cabinet meeting postponed, to convene at 6:30 P.M. (Barak Ravid)

4:51 P.M. Cleared for publication: 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, suspected captured, has a twin brother who is an IDF soldier.

4:47 P.M. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry: "The Palestinian delegation will arrive in Cairo tomorrow no matter what, and will include representatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front."

Palestinian sources said that the delegation will head for Cairo, even if the Israeli delegation does not come. (Jack Khoury)

4:32 P.M. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni: Hamas has paid, and will continue to pay, a heavy price. And if it wasn't sufficiently clear before, the world now knows who is responsible for the destruction and bloodshed in Gaza.

A White House spokesman added that Hamas must release the captured soldier, and called on all countries that have influence on Hamas to demand the orginzation returns to the humanitarian cease-fire's original outline. (Barak Ravid) 

3:56 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday afternoon, after two Israeli soldiers were killed and an officer was apparently taken captive following a suspected suicide bombing in the southern Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu said that the planned 72-hour cease-fire, which was brokered by Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and which went into effect at 8 A.M. (Israel time), was unilaterally violated by the Palestinians a little over an hour later. The prime minister described the attack on the soldiers as a flagrant violation of the humanitarian cease-fire, despite having given guarantees to the U.S. and the UN that they would abide by it.

Netanyahu went on to tell Kerry that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza would be held accountable for their actions. Israel would do whatever actions it deems necessary against those who seek to destroy it and harm its citizens, he said. (Barak Ravid)

3:53 P.M. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: The attack on Israel is a barbaric violation of the Gaza cease-fire. (Barak Ravid)

3:38 P.M. Humanitarian aid agencies and the United Nations are appealing for 369 million dollars for the "urgent needs" of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"We need an immediate end to the human suffering of the people in Gaza," says James Rawley, the UN's humanitarian coordinator.

"As a first step, all humanitarian agencies should receive safe passage or safe access," he says. (DPA)

3:30 P.M. Israeli cabinet to meet at the Kirya in Tel Aviv at 5:30 P.M to discuss the collapsed cease-fire and the potentially captured soldier. (Barak Ravid)

3:15 P.M. Cleared for publication: Two soldiers were killed Friday morning during the suspected capturing of IDF 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin. According to the IDF Spokesperson, "a group of Hamas terrorirsts, including a suicide attacker, kidnapped 2nd Lt. Goldin at 9:30 A.M. and dragged him into a tunnel."

2:48 P.M. The IDF soldier apparently taken captive in Gaza is 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba. (Haaretz)

2:11 P.M. Several rockets fired at Ashkelon region, two intercepted above Sderot (Shirley Seidler)

2:08 P.M. IDF confirms that besides soldier feared taken captive, IDF troops have incurred further losses during morning operation (Gili Cohen)

1:36 P.M. IDF soldier missing in Gaza, feared taken captive.

Gaza militants opened fire at IDF troops operating in the southern Gaza Strip at 9:30 A.M., and it is feared an Israeli soldier has been taken captive by Gaza militants, the IDF Spokesman says.

"The IDF is currently conducting intelligence efforts and extensive searches in order to locate the missing soldier," the IDF statement read. The name of the IDF soldier has not been released. His family has been notified. (Gili Cohen)

1:32 P.M. UN Special Coordinator Robert Serry says he has received word from Israel regarding a "serious incident" that occurred after the cease-fire deal took effect, " involving a tunnel behind IDF lines in the Rafah area of the Gaza Strip."

"The United Nations is not in a position to independently confirm these reports," said Serry. "However, if corroborated, this would constitute a serious violation of the humanitarian ceasefire in place since 8 A.M. this morning by Gazan militant factions, which should be condemned in the strongest terms."

Serry called on the Palestinian parties to last night's understanding to "urgently reaffirm their commitment to the humanitarian ceasefire," and stressed that he is "deeply concerned regarding the serious consequences on the ground that could arise as a result of this incident. (Barak Ravid)

12:59 P.M. Palestinian death toll in Rafah area shelling rises to 40, Palestinian medical sources say (Jack Khoury)

12:57 P.M. IDF confirms name of fifth IDF soldier killed Thursday: Capt. (Reserves) Liran Adir (Edry), 31, of Azuz. (Haaretz)

12:39 P.M. IDF shelling near southern Gaza town of Rafah kills at least 25 people, Palestinian Interior Ministry says (Reuters)

12:36 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Be'er Sheva, Ofakim and in Gaza-bordering regions. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets fired at Merhavim. Three mortar shells land in Eshkol. (Shirley Seidler, Haaretz)

12:17 P.M. As far as Israel is concerned, the cease-fire agreement with Hamas is now annulled, Israel's military co-ordinator in the territories tells UN's Robert Serry, a senior Israeli official tells Haaretz (Barak Ravid)

11:55 A.M. Official source in Prime Minister's Office says "This is once more that Hamas and terror organizations in Gaza are grossly violating the agreed-upon cease-fire, this time before the U.S. secretary of State and the UN Secretary General" (Barak Ravid, Jack Khouri)

11:45 A.M. "Any fire directed at IDF troops will be answered with fire," IDF official says. IDF forces prepare to continue operations focused on uncovering, destroying infiltration tunnels. (Gili Cohen)

11:03 A.M. Hamas website says four Gaza civilians were killed and twenty wounded by IDF artillery fire near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. According to Hamas, the Palestinians had been out in the street due to the cease-fire agreement.(Jack Khouri)

11:19 A.M. Heavy fire exchanged in eastern Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip (Gili Cohen)

10:51 A.M. Rocket siren sounds in town near Gaza border (Haaretz)

10:38 A.M. Three Palestinian civilians wounded by IDF artillery strikes in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports, less than three hours after cease-fire agreement takes effect (Haaretz)

10:18 A.M. The IDF has released the names of four of the five soldiers killed on Thursday: Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Marash, 22, of Rishon Letzion, Capt. Omri Tal, 22, of Yehud, and Staff Sgt. Shay Kushnir, 20, of Kiryat Motzkin, and Staff Sergeant Noam Rosenthal, an armored corps combat medic, 20 years old from Meitar.

The families of the soldiers killed on Thursday have been informed of their deaths. The soldiers were killed when a mortar shell fired from Gaza exploded in a staging area in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza border. 15 other soldiers were wounded in the incident. (Gili Cohen)

Capt. Omri Tal (L), Staff Sgt. Noam Rosenthal (C) and Staff Sgt. Shay Kushnir (R)

10:04 A.M. Two mortar shell strike town near Gaza border; rocket siren sounded, no injuries reported. (Haaretz)

7:59 A.M.  An IDF paratroopers unit opened fire overnight at two Gaza militants who were spotted standing near the shaft of an infiltration tunnel. Direct hits were reported. In addition, IDF forces uncovered and destroyed two other tunnel shafts. (Gili Cohen)

7:38 A.M. Iron Dome shoots down six rockets over Ashdod; three others land in open areas near the city. Several sirens were sounded throughout Ashdod and in neighboring regions beforehand. No injuries were reported.

7:31 A.M. Rocket alerts sound across Ashdod, Ashkelon regions. (Haaretz)

7:18 A.M. IDF is preparing for violent protests in the West Bank today, the first Friday since the ending of the month of Ramadan. Heavy police presence is being felt in Jerusalem.

16 Palestinians were killed overnight and in the early morning in Khan Yunis, according to Gaza medical sources. Nine of the deceased belong to Al-Farah family, of which four are children aged 4 to 12, Palestinians said.

Also overnight, the IDF bombed the house of Mohammed Al-Mabhouh, in Jabalia refugee camp. Mabhouh was a senior Hamas military official who, according to foreign media, was killed by Mossad agents in Dubai in 2012.

Israel has accepted the proposal for a 72-hour cease-fire presented by the U.S. and the UN, the Prime Minister's Office confirms. (Gili Cohen, Jack Khouri, Barak Ravid)

6:56 A.M. IDF forces struck 40 targets in Gaza overnight. According to a senior officer, one of the structures struck was a Hamas command center located in the Nusirat refugee camp, in the central Strip. (Gili Cohen)

6:54 A.M. A high-ranking IDF officer told reporters that despite the reports of a cease-fire, the Israeli army intends to continue destroying the tunnels uncovered in the Gaza Strip. "With regards to the tunnels – the activity continues as planned," the officer said. "If there's fire, we'll open fire too." (Gili Cohen)

6:46 A.M. Rocket siren sounded in Eshkol Regional Council. (Haaretz)

5:00 A.M. Cleared for publication: Five soldiers were killed Thursday evening by a mortar shell in the Eshkol Regional Council near the Gaza Strip, the IDF says, raising the IDF death toll since the operation began to 61. (Haaretz)

4:02 A.M. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott welcomes the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as "a marvelous humanitarian thing."

"I deplore the indiscriminate rain of missiles from Gaza on to Israel; I deplore any actions which result in civilian deaths, and obviously we've seen far too much of that over the last few weeks," he adds. (AP)

3:53 A.M. The White House released a statement calling on both parties to act with restraint until the start of the humanitarian ceasefire on Friday morning.

The statement also called for a permanent ceasefire agreement, and urged the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations to begin negotiations immediately in Cairo. (Reuters) 

2:22 A.M. Israel has accepted the proposal for a three-day truce with militant groups in the Gaza Strip, an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

"Israel has accepted the U.S./U.N. proposal for a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire beginning 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Friday," said the official, who made the statement on condition of anonymity. (Reuters)

1:58 A.M. The Egyptians will be the go-between for the talks in Cairo between the Israeli and the Palestinian delegations, a senior State Department official says, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't allowed to discuss the issue publicly by name.

The Palestinian delegation is expected to include members of Hamas, which the United States and Israel consider a terrorist organization and cannot be negotiated with directly. So if the Israelis and Palestinians meet face to face, the Hamas members will not participate in those talks. (AP)

1:18 A.M. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday called the 72-hour ceasefire agreed to by Israel and Hamas in their conflict in the Gaza Strip a "lull of opportunity" and said it was imperative that the sides make their best efforts to find common ground.

Kerry said Egypt's foreign minister will invite the Gaza ceasefire parties to take part in "serious" negotiations in Cairo and that the United States plans to send a small delegation to the talks.

"This is a lull of opportunity," Kerry told reporters. "... It is imperative people make the best effort to try to find common ground." 

During the cease-fire, Kerry said Israel will be able to continue its defense operations to destroy tunnels that are behind its territorial lines. The Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine and humanitarian assistance, bury their dead, treat the wounded and travel to their homes. The time also will be used to make repairs to water and energy systems.

The UN representative in Jerusalem, Robert Serry, has "received assurances" that all parties have agreed to the pause, according to a joint statement released by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry.(Reuters, AP, DPA)

1:15 A.M. According to the Palestinian news agency Ma'an, 84 Palestinians were killed over the last 24 hours in the Gaza Strip, and 258 were wounded. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Palestinian death toll since fighting began is now 1,442, and the number of wounded has risen to 8,295. According to the Ma'an report, the Strip's Housing Ministry estimated the damage caused by the IDF operation as totaling $4 billion, and that 5,238 buildings have been completely destroyed. (Haaretz)

1:10 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts rocket over Ramle, central Israel. Earlier, rocket sirens were sounded in the area. (Gili Cohen)

12:55 A.M. Hamas says will abide by three-day Gaza truce to begin on Friday.

"Acknowledging a call by the United Nations and in consideration of the situation of our people, resistance factions agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian and mutual calm that begins at 8 a.m (0500 GMT) on Friday as long as the other side abides by it," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

"All the Palestinian factions are united behind the issue in this regard," Abu Zuhri said. (Reuters)

12:39 A.M. Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in their conflict in the Gaza Strip starting on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

The ceasefire will begin at 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Friday, Aug. 1, they said in a joint statement. The statement said "forces on the ground will remain in place" during the truce, implying that Israeli ground forces will not withdraw.

"We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire," Kerry and Ban said. "This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence."

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately travel to Cairo for negotiations with the Egyptian government to reach a durable ceasefire, the statement said (Reuters)

July 31:

11:42 P.M. Call for residents of towns in Zikim to stay indoors canceled. Announcement made due to fears, now refuted, of suspected security-related incident. (Shirly Seidler, Gili Cohen)

11:03 P.M. Israel will be required under international law to take responsibility for helping Palestinian civilians if there are any further large-scale displacements from the fighting in Gaza, UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl tells the United Nations Security Council.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the council debated a statement to condemn the deadly attacks on UN schools, the rockets hidden in vacant schools and the deaths of UN staff, but could not reach agreement. (Reuters)

10:56 P.M. Entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque will be limited to men over 50, due to concerns of violent clashes. Police forces are expected to be deployed in the area. (Yaniv Kubovich)

10:54 P.M. Hundreds of riot police in Paris deployed near the Israeli Embassy Thursday for the first major pro-Israel rally since the start of the latest Gaza war.
Several thousand people turned out for the rally, waving signs with slogans like "Gaza hostage of Hamas" and "We protest for peace."

The demonstration happened amid persistent reports the Jewish Defense League faces a government ban. JDD militants stepped in to assure security at synagogues during pro-Gaza protests, but were blamed for provoking violence at pro-Palestinian rallies. (AP)