IDF targets Hamas commanders Raed Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh
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AFP
A light trail made by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, August 21, 2014. Photo by AFP
Raed Al-Attar, left, seen in image of Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas abduction, October 2013.
Raed Al-Attar, left, seen in image of Gilad Shalit's release from Hamas abduction, October 2013.

Three Hamas commanders, two of them considered the most senior in the southern Gaza Strip, were killed early Thursday in an Israel Air Force strike, a day after the assassination attempt on Mohammed Deif, the military wing chief. Hamas has said that the IDF "failed" in its attempt on Deif's life, but there is still no concrete evidence indicating whether he is dead or alive.

Rockets and mortar shell fire continued over the course of Thursday morning, moderately-to-seriously wounding an Israeli in the Eshkol Regional Council. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Wednesday deplored the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations. 

More than 175 rockets and mortar shells were fired toward Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday. In response, Israel struck some 110 targets in Gaza. Palestinian officials reported that more than 22 people have been killed since midnight on Thursday alone. The Palestinian death toll is at 2,049 and 10,000 have been wounded as of Thursday afternoon, according to Gaza's health ministry.

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For Wednesday's live updates, click here

Latest updates [Friday]:

4:02 A.M. American diplomats said the U.S. had joined the European effort to produce a UN Security Council resolution that would call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and advance the goal of a durable peace. (AP) Read more here

August 21:

11:53 P.M. Israel is examining the option of renewing the Egypt-mediated truce talks in order to reach a long term deal with Hamas, a government official said. "The end of the operation, we believe, must go through Cairo," the official said. Cabinet ministers, among them Bennett, Lieberman and Livni, voiced their opposition in recent days to negotiating with Hamas. During a stormy debate on the issue in the last cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu reprimanded Bennett for his public stance on the subject. (Jonathan Lis)

11:42 P.M. Hamas's Gaza-based deputy political leader Ismail Haniyeh issues a statement following the deaths of three commanders in Hamas' military wing: "Their martyrdom is a natural price in our journey. The way is long, and the warriors of al Qassam will reap a heavy price from the enemy. The enemy's crimes only strengthen our resolve to seek an end to aggression, a removal of the siege and liberty. Those involved in the cease-fire initiative must know that the Palestinian people will not settle for less than an end to the aggression and the final removal of the Gaza blockade." (Jacky Khoury)

10:59 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Ramat Negev Regional Council. The alarm is believed to be a false one. (Shirly Seidler)

10:56 P.M. According to the IDF, 109 rockets and mortar shells launched from Gaza since midnight. 95 projectiles landed, including seven in built-up areas, and 13 interceptions. More than 60 targets have been struck in Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

10:33 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Eshkol Regional Council. (Haaretz)

9:55 P.M. According to the IDF, 104 rockets and mortar shells have been launched toward Israel since midnight. Eighty-four of those projectiles exploded in open areas, seven landed in built-up areas and 11 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. (Gili Cohen)

9:41 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts one rocket over Ashdod. (Shirly Seidler)

9:39 P.M. Germany, France and Britain have begun working on a UN Security Council resolution that would end the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, they circulated a document to diplomats at UN headquarters in New York outlining the elements they thought such a resolution should contain. These include returning Gaza to the Palestinian Authority’s control, reconstructing the Strip under international supervision to prevent Hamas from rearming, and restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on the basis of the pre-1967 lines. (Barak Ravid) Read full article here

9:38 P.M. Rocket barrage fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod and surrounding areas. (Haaretz)

8:55 P.M. Rocket intercepted between Modi'in and Ramallah, according to the IDF. (Gili Cohen)

8:48 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Modi'in and the Shomron Regional Council in the northern West Bank. (Haaretz)

8:26 P.M. Oxfam has called on the international community to suspend arms sales to Israel following the collapse of the temporary cease-fire this week.

In a statement released Thursday, the international confederation of humanitarian organizations stated that "the world will not tolerate the violence and civilian suffering for a moment longer."

The statement claimed Israel's use of force is unnecessary and disproportionate, and therefore does not comply with international humanitarian and human rights laws, adding that "this conflict cannot be resolved militarily. Civilians on both sides deserve an enduring cease-fire and a credible, inclusive peace process." (Haaretz)

8:15 P.M. A 40 year old was seriously wounded after he was hit by a car while seeking cover in Be'er Sheva. (Shirly Seidler)

8:00 P.M. Two rockets intercepted over Be'er Sheva area, three land in open areas. (Shirly Seidler)

7:45 P.M. Two rockets land outside of communities in Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

7:41 P.M. Rocket alarms sound in Be'er Sheva and surrounding areas. (Haaretz)

7:21 P.M. Rocket alarms heard in Kiryat Malachi and Be'er Tuvia Regional Council. (Haaretz)

7:15 P.M. Major General Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activities in the territories, told Sky News in Arabic that Israel will not hold cease-fire negotiations as long as rocket fire from Gaza continues.

Mordechai added that "no Hamas leader is immune, at any place or at any time, whether he's a statesman or a military man." (Gili Cohen)

7:15 P.M. Rocket alarms heard in Sha'ar Hanegev and Hof Ashkelon Regional Councils. (Haaretz)

6:51 P.M. Rocket explodes in open area in Merhavim Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

6:48 P.M. Rocket alarms sound in Sderot and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Councils. (Haaretz)

6:41 P.M. Rocket alarms heard in Merhavim and Sdot Negev Regional Councils. (Haaretz)

6:30 P.M. Senior Palestinian authority officials said that the final decision on whether Khaled Meshal will join Mahmoud Abbas in traveling to Cairo will depend the result of their meeting in Doha, which is due to take place this evening. (Jack Khoury)

6:29 P.M. Rocket explodes outside a community in Sdot Negev Regional Council. In addition, a 107mm rocket launched from Gaza lands at the Kerem Shalom crossing; no injuries. (Shirly Seidler)

6:17 P.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol Regional Council. (Haaretz)

5:53 P.M. An Islamic Jihad operative was killed in southern Gaza after he left a building from which rockets were fired at Israel, the IDF says.

The IDF also fired at several operatives who were about to launch rockets from cemeteries in northern Gaza. On Wednesday, rockets were fired from that location toward Ashkelon. (Gili Cohen)

5:49 P.M. Rocket alarms heard in Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils. (Haaretz)

5:44 P.M. Khaled Meshal said in an interview to the Turkish Andalou News Agency that Hamas would keep fighting until Israel meets its terms for a permanent truce. He also accused Israel of interpenetrating a 'holocaust' in Gaza and of 'replicating what Hitler did years ago.' (Haaretz)

5:27 P.M. Three mortar shells explode outside of a community in Eshkol Regional Council, causing minor damage to a car and very lightly wounding two people. They were treated at the scene and did not require further treatment. (Shirly Seidler and Gili Cohen)

5:19 P.M. Rocket alarms sound in Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils. (Haaretz)

5:15 P.M. The Palestinian death toll is at 2,049 and 10,000 have been wounded since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, according to Gaza's health ministry. (DPA)

5:08 P.M. Three mortar shells explode outside of communities in Eshkol Regional Council, lightly damaging a car. Since Midnight, 28 rockets and mortar shells have fallen in the area. (Shirly Seidler)

5:00 P.M. Palestinian sources say Hamas chief Khaled Meshal will leave for Cairo tomorrow to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian officials. (Jack Khoury)

4:59 P.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol Regional Council.

4:03 P.M. Mortar shell explodes in yard of home in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, causing damage. Rocket alerts sound in Gaza border towns.

3:54 P.M. Israel Air Force has struck at least 40 targets in Gaza since midnight. (Gili Cohen)

3:37 P.M. Defense Minister requested cabinet permission to call up 10,000 reservists for combat and home front duty. (Gili Cohen)

3:31 P.M. First round of Israel's Premier League soccer games postponed due to security situation. (Haaretz)

3:27 P.M. Three rockets explode outside of a community in Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

3:13 P.M. Rocket alarm sirens sound in Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev Regional Councils.

3:00 P.M. Four mortar shells fall in open areas in Eshkol Regional COuncil. Two rockets fall in Merhavim Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

2:53 P.M. Since midnight last night, 55 rockets and mortar shells have been fired into Israel from Gaza. Eight of them have been shot down and the rest fell into open areas. (Gili Cohen)

2:34 P.M. Five rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome system near Ashkelon. (Shirly Seidler)

2:31 P.M. Sirens sound in the Be'er Sheva region. (Haaretz)

2:15 P.M. A Hamas website reports that the body of Mohammed Deif's daughter, Sarah, has been recovered from the ruins of the building struck by Israel on Tuesday night. The bodies of Deif's wife and young son were retrieved earlier. The whereabouts of Deif, head of the Hamas military wing, are unknown. (Haaretz)

2:02 P.M. Rocket barrage fired at Gaza border communities, as well as the Ashkelon area. (Haaretz)

1:40 P.M. Rocket intercepted over Sdot Negev Regional Council. Mortar shell causes damage in a community in Shaar Hanegev. (Shirly Seidler)

1:30 P.M. Several communities in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council are without electricity after infrastructure was damaged in a rocket strike. (Shirly Seidler)

1:11 P.M. Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that 22 people killed in Gaza on Thursday. (Haaretz)

1:09 P.M. Palestinian officials say two people were killed in an Israeli attack on a vehicle in central Gaza City (Jack Khoury)

1:07 P.M. Tens of thousands of Palestinians attend the funeral of the three senior commanders killed overnight in an Israeli strike in Rafah. (Haaretz)

1:06 P.M. Rocket intercepted over Ashdod. Two rockets land in open areas in Ashkelon. (Haaretz)

12:56 A.M. Sirens sound in the Ashkelon and Ashdod areas and the communities around Gaza. (Haaretz)

12:49 A.M. Two mortars land in open areas in Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

12:40 A.M. Two rockets fall in open areas in Ashkelon; one falls in the area of Ramle. No injuries of damage reported.

12:37 A.M. A mortar shell hit a protected structure in Eshkol Regional Council causing structural damage. Five other mortar shells landed in open areas. Four rockets also exploded in open area without causing damage. (Shirly Seidler)

The Eshkol region home hit by rocket from Gaza. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz

12:27 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu releases statement on Rafah assassination, thanking the Shin Bet for its "hard work and professionalism":

"The extraordinary intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet through hard work and professionalism, together with the precise execution capabilities of the IDF, enabled us to decide to carry out this operation against the Hamas leaders who plotted fatal attacks against Israelis. In my name, and in the name of every Israeli citizen, I thank the Shin Bet, the heads of the intelligence and operational units, and the chief of the organization, Yoram Cohen."

Operation Protective Edge will continue until its goals is met – the return of quiet for an extended period to the citizens of south Israel, along with a significant blow to the terrorist infrastructure." (Haaretz)

12:21 A.M. Four rockets explode in open areas near Ashdod. (Haaretz)

12:17 A.M. "The Hamas military commanders killed on Wednesday night were responsible for serious attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers, including the abduction of Gilad Shalit," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday. "It is a very significant intelligence and operational achievement for the IDF and the Shin Bet, who work day and night in the interests of the citizens of Israel and for that they have my utmost respect."

Ya'alon added that Israel will continue to "chase and strike Hamas leaders wherever they are. The fate is sealed of everyone who tries to hurt the citizens of Israel. They need to know that we will not cease and we will not rest until we have got them. "

The defense minister asked the public for patience and fortitude, saying " the operation will be long and the goal is one: to return quiet and security to the people of Israel in general and the residents of the south in particular. We will not compromise." (Haaretz)

12:10 A.M. Rocket intercepted over southern Israeli town. (Haaretz)

12:07 A.M. Multiple sirens indicate the firing of rocket barrages at Ashdod, Ashkelon, Yavne, Kiryat Malachi and the communities north of the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

11:59 A.M. Sirens sound in the Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon areas, including Ofakim and Urim. (Haaretz)

11:58 A.M. Sirens sound in Nahal Oz and other communities around the Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

11:51 A.M. Sirens sound in the central Israeli region, south of Tel Aviv. (Haaretz)

11:44 A.M. Haaretz military analyst Amos Harel writes that that the killing of two Hamas military commanders, Raed Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, could be the event that tilts the balance in the Gaza conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking such an event for some time. Israel has been trying to assassinate Hamas leaders from the start of hostilities in early July, but it had been unsuccessful until Wednesday. Read full article here

11:35 The Israel Air Force attacked six Islamic Jihad operatives poised to fire rockets at Israel from northern Gaza. The IDF said it identified a hit. The army has carried out attacks on more than 150 targets in Gaza since the truce ended on Tuesday. (Gili Cohen) 

11:12 A.M. The military wing of Hamas announces it has fired a missile at Ben-Gurion Airport. There is no confirmation from Israeli sources. (Jack Khoury)

11:07 A.M. The elimination of Hamas military commanders in Rafah was a "very complex intelligence operation that succeeded in producing results," a senior Israeli security source says. Referring to the attempted assassination of Mohammed Deif, the source said, "The success is that we got to three targets in one day. That fact that we hit a place in which Deif was suspected to be is a fact. What exactly happened there, is not yet known." (Gili Cohen)

11:00 A.M. Sirens sound in Ofakim and the Be'er Sheva and Ashkelon regions. (Haaretz)

10:52 A.M. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri describes Israel's strike on three leading military commanders of the organization as "a despicable crime for which Israel will pay dearly. The strike won’t break the resistance of the Palestinian people." (Jack Khoury)

10:49 A.M. Condition of 33-year-old Israeli wounded by mortar shrapnel in Eshkol worsens; described as moderate to serious. (Shirly Seidler)

10:30 A.M. Six mortar shells land in Eshkol Regional Council, one person lightly wounded. (Shirly Seidler)

10:20 A.M. Mortar lands in open area in Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

10:18 A.M. Two mortars land in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

10:17 A.M.The head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Nazareth's Radio al-Shams on Thursday that the Palestinians needed to change their strategy in the cease-fire negotiations with Israel. Israel's refusal to proposals for an arrangement was preventing an political solution from emerging. "The policy of [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry 'coming and going' already proves that the process is not advancing, and that we can longer rely on one official to be the sole sponsor of the political process," he said.

Abed Rabbo said he hoped that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' meeting later in the day with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal in Doha and with Egyptian President Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo on Friday would lead to the opening of the Rafah crossing, as that was an issue not involving Israel. (Jack Khoury) 

10:06 A.M. Ben-Gurion Airport is functioning as normal, despite Hamas threats to target it. There is a large police presence at the airport, but departures and arrivals are on schedule. (Ilan Lior)

9:27 A.M. Two of the Hamas militants killed by the IDF on Wednesday night, Raed Attar and Mohammed Abu Shamaleh, were regarded as the two top Hamas commanders in the southern Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet said.

Shamaleh was the most senior among them, and was involved in several attacks, including the 2006 Kerem Shalom incident during which two IDF soldiers were killed and Gilad Shalit was abducted.

The unit led by Attar was responsible for the killing and abduction of Lt. Hadar Goldin during the first phase of the fighting and was involved in another incident in which IDF soldiers were killed.

During the first phase of the current operation, Shamaleh commanded the Sufa incident, in which three Hamas militants entered Israel via a tunnel. Attar was regarded by the Shin Bet as responsible for the construction of all the tunnels in the south of the Strip. He was also involved in the 2006 abduction and several other attacks conducted by the Hamas Rafah unit under his command. (Gili Cohen)

9:03 A.M. The Shin Bet confirms that an Israeli strike targeted the three Hamas commanders killed overnight in Rafah. (Gili Cohen)

(L-R) Raed Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Osama Abu Atah from Hamas, stand before a Palestinian Authority court in Gaza in this February 27, 1999. Photo by Reuters

8:54 A.M. Hamas says three of its commanders from the Izz A-Din Al-Qassam Brigades in Rafah were killed overnight in an Israel Air Force strike: Raed Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Mohammed Barhoum. (Jack Khoury)

8:08 A.M. Eleven Palestinians arrested in the West Bank overnight. (Gili Cohen)

8:05 A.M. Mortar shells land in open ground in Eshkol Regional Council. No damage reported. (Haaretz)

7:56 A.M. Some 175 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel from Gaza since the end of the cease-fire on Tuesday. Of those, 135 fell in Israeli territory and 24 were shot down by the Iron Dome system. (Gili Cohen)

6:27 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza border. (Haaretz)

3:00 A.M. Two rockets are intercepted over Ofakim. (Shirly Seidler)

2:50 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in the Be'er Sheva region. (Haaretz)

2:20 A.M. The UN Security Council deplored the resumption of fighting in the Gaza Strip and called on Israel and the Palestinians to resume negotiations.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant read a council statement Wednesday expressing "grave concern at the return to hostilities following the breach of the Egyptian-brokered humanitarian cease-fire." He said the council calls upon the parties "to reach an immediate humanitarian cease-fire" and resume talks in Cairo.

Lyall Grant said Security Council members are discussing a possible resolution that would call for a sustainable cease-fire.

Jordan has circulated such a resolution, but Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar told reporters Wednesday that "we're taking our time to talk to the Americans, to the Europeans" because "the whole idea is to have a Security Council that's effective." (AP)

2:00 A.M. A senior Hamas official boasted during a conference in Istanbul on Wednesday that the group's military wing was behind the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June. Read full article