LIVE UPDATES: Operation Protective Edge, Day 23

Rockets fired at central Israel; PA chief negotiator heads to Qatar to meet Hamas head Meshal; Israeli delegation returns from Cairo; three IDF soldiers killed.

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An Israeli artillery gun fires a 155mm shell towards targets from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014.
An Israeli artillery gun fires a 155mm shell towards targets from their position near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014. Credit: AFP

Operation Protective Edge entered its 23rd day on Wednesday. Israeli ground forces continued their operations in Gaza amid heightened diplomatic activity. Three IDF soldiers were killed in battles in the coastal territory in the afternoon.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says 1,300 Palestinians have been killed and more than 6,500 have been wounded since the operation began. Among the dead are 16 people killed early Wednesday while seeking refuge at the UNRWA-operated Abu Haseen school in northern Gaza, the Gaza Health Ministry says. On the Israeli side, three civilians and 56 soldiers have been killed since the fighting began. About 110 Israeli soldiers are currently hospitalized across the country.

The IDF declared a four-hour humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza over the course of Wednesday afternoon, rejected by Hamas because it was partial and did not extend to the whole Strip. Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas' military wing, said Tuesday night that "there won't be a cease fire without the end of [Israeli] hostility and the lifting of the blockade." Meanwhile, Israel's Foreign Ministry advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to initiate the drafting of a UN Security Council resolution that would end the fighting.


For Tuesday's live updates, click here

Latest updates [Wednesday]:

11:23 P.M. A rocket explodes in an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirley Seidler)

11:16 P.M. According the Palestinian health ministry, 129 people were killed and more than 200 were wounded in Gaza on Wednesday. Since Israel launched its Operation Protective Edge, 1,400 have been killed and more than 7,500 have been wounded in the Strip. (Jack Khoury)

11:10 P.M. Bolivia cancels its visa agreement with Israel to protest the military operation in Gaza, and declares Israel a "terrorist state," AFP reports. The agreement has permitted Israel to visit Bolivia freely since 1972. "The attack on Gaza shows that Israel has no respect for life, or the principles of harmony and coexistence that guide the international community." Bolivia canceled its diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009, during Operation Cast Lead. (Haaretz)

22:54 P.M. A rocket fired toward the Tel Aviv region explodes in an open area. The Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over Ofakim. Two others hit open areas nearby. (Shirley Seidler and Yaniv Kubovich)

22:36 P.M. A rocket explodes in an open area in the Eshkol Regional Council. Four others explode in open areas near Ashkelon. (Shirley Seidler)

10:30 P.M. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to recognize Gaza as a disaster area. Abbas called on the international community to take responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and provide aid. (Jack Khoury)

10:25 P.M. The Iron Dome intercepts two rockets that were fired toward the Merhavim Regional Council. Another explodes in an open area in the council. (Shirley Seidler)

10:20 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in central Israel - Rehovot, Rishon Letzion, Nes Ziona - and in the greater Ashkelon area.

10:18 P.M. UNWRA notifies Israel that if its attacks on Gaza continue to spur more waves of refugees it will be unable to accommodate them and that it expects Israel as an occupying power, to provide them with the necessary humanitarian aid, Robert Turner, the Gaza-based director of UNWRA tells Haaretz. According to Turner, this message was transmitted to Israel a number of times over the past two days. Of the 400 thousand people who fled from neighborhoods and towns Israel shelled and is shelling 220 thousands were housed in UNWRA schools. (Amira Hass)

10:15 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in a number of towns in southern Israel.

10:13 P.M. IDF releases name of third soldier killed in Gaza today: Sgt. 1st Class Guy Algranati, 20, of Tel Aviv. (Haaretz)

9:57 P.M. Two mortar shells explode in open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

9:55 P.M. Three rockets intercepted by Iron Dome over the greater Ashkelon area. One rocket explodes in an open field in the area. (Shirly Seidler)

9:45 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in the greater Ashkelon area.

9:27 P.M. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack on the UN school in Gaza as "outrageous" and "unjustifiable," and demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

"Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children," Ban said on his arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica. "I condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms."

Ban said "all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause" of the pre-dawn attack, and he pointedly noted that Israeli military authorities had received the coordinates of the school from the United Nations 17 times, including on Tuesday night.

At UN headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson expressed "shock and dismay" at the attack that also injured more than 100. He stressed that more than 3,000 civilians had sought shelter at the elementary girls' school in the Jabalia camp.

The UN Security Council scheduled a briefing Thursday morning on the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza at the request of Jordan, the Arab representative on the council.

9:17 P.M. Two mortar shells explode in the Eshkol Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

9:06 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in several Israeli towns near the Gaza border.

8:42 P.M. An Israeli delegation was in Cairo today to discuss the IDF's operation in Gaza, according to French media. (Barak Ravid)

8:38 P.M. Hamas claims casualties in attack on IDF vehicle used for demolition of Gaza tunnels. The organization says the attack was revenge for the shelling of Shujaiyeh. (Jack Khoury)

8:33 P.M. The IDF released the names of two of three soldiers killed in Gaza earlier today: Sgt. 1st Class Matan Gotlib, 21, of Rishon Letzion and Sgt. 1st Class Omer Hay, 21, Savyon. Their families were notified. (Gili Cohen)

8:21 P.M. White House: U.S. condemns Israel's shelling of UN school in Gaza Strip. (Chemi Shalev)

8:20 P.M. Rocket explodes in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

7:52 P.M. Saeb Erekat travels to Qatar by invitation of the Qatari foreign minister, and is expected to meet with Khaled Mashal to discuss a possible route to a cease-fire. A senior Palestinian official tells Haaretz: "There are negotiations on several levels but no breakthrough yet." (Jack Khoury)

7:51 P.M. A senior Israel official says that the cabinet has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to continue its fierce attacks against Hamas and the terror organizations in Gaza, and to complete neutralizing the tunnels. Israel will continue to allow temporary humanitarian cease-fires in certain areas where there are no battles, to avoid endangering the soldiers or preventing the operations against the tunnels. "The purpose of these cease-fires is to ease the situation for the civilian population of Gaza," said the senior officer.

The senior official said that at this point, Israel is not close to a cease-fire: "When a cease-fire proposal that answers Israel's important needs is laid on the table, it will be considered," he said. "The operation continues and the IDF will expand its attacks against Hamas and the rest of the terror organizations." (Barak Ravid)

7:49 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in two Israeli towns near Gaza.

7:47 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in two Israeli towns near Gaza.

7:45 P.M. IDF clears for publication: The three Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and 12 wounded on Wednesday afternoon in the Khan Yunis area of south Gaza. A Maglan special forces unit was searching for tunnels with the 460th Armor Brigade The soldiers sent a bomb disposal and Canine Unit team into the UNWRA clinic ahead of them. which set off a number of explosives rigged inside.The forces were killed when a wall collapsed on them; several soldiers were wounded.

They were transferred by IDF helicopter for medical treatment, some in serious condition. This was one of the most serious incidents so far in the current operation. The IDF has said in recent days that they were aware of the fact that Hamas operatives were seeking to wound IDF troops in operation to locate and the destroy tunnels in Gaza. (Gili Cohen)

7:30 P.M. Mjr. Gen. Sami Turgeman commander of the IDF Southern Command: "We are days away from destroying all the tunnels we know about." Turgeman went on to say: "For me and for the forces on the ground. we are in war and are using all our capabilities to overcome the enemy. In every place we attacked up to now we managed to overcome the enemy."

7:26 P.M. Death toll in Shujaiyeh market rises to 17, 200 wounded; photojournalist among the dead. (Jack Khoury)

7:25 P.M. Security cabinet meeting comes to an end, after five hours of discussion. (Barak Ravid)

7:11 P.M. The Lebanese news agency Al Mayadeen reports that the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Arab countries to rise above political conflicts and support "the resistance efforts" of the Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. "We must support our downtrodden brethren that are under attack of the blood hungry Zionist fox," he said. Khamenei called for assistance to the Gazan by sending weapons, drugs and food. He also condemned the support the U.S., U.K., and UN were giving Israel.

7:04 P.M. IDF Spokesman say three Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday afternoon while in operation in the southern Gaza Strip. In addition, 27 soldiers were wounded in military activity in the Gaza strip over the past 24 hours. The families of the fallen were notified. Since the operation began 56 officers and soldiers have been killed in action. (Gili Cohen)

7:00 P.M. Israel's four-hour humanitarian cease-fire, limited to certain parts of Gaza, comes to an end.

6:46 P.M. 119 Israeli soldiers are currently hospitalized in hospitals throughout Israel. One is in critical condition, another in very serious condition, and another 16 in serious condition. All the rest are being treated for moderate and light injuries. (Ido Efrati)

6:37 P.M. Mortar shell explodes in open field in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

6:21 P.M. Palestinians reporting 15 killed, over 160 injured in artillery barrage on the Shujaiyeh market in Gaza City. Eye witnesses report dozens of artillery shells explode in the market. (Jack Khoury)

6:00 P.M. Palestinians report over 70 people injured in artillery barrage on a compound adjacent to a mosque in Zeitoun, a neighborhood in the northeastern Gaza Strip. (Jack Khoury)

5:54 P.M. UNWRA condemns Israel's overnight attack on a school in the Jabalya refugee camp overnight, which it says killed 16 people. The school was attacked three times, UNWRA said, despite that its exact location in a heavily populated residential area was clarified to the IDF a number of times.

5:42 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Israeli town near Gaza.

5:36 P.M. Eleven rockets and mortar shells fired at the Eshkol Regional Council in last hour and a half. One exploded in a yard in the town, eight exploded in open areas, two were intercepted. (Shirly Seidler)

5:33 P.M. Mortar shell explodes in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. No damage reported. (Shirly Seidler)

5:27 P.M. Five Palestinians have died in Israeli aerial strikes on the Gaza Strip in the last two hours, since the IDF's unilaterally declared partial humanitarian cease-fire went into effect, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported. Seventy people have been killed over the course of Wednesday, according to a Gaza medical official. (Haaretz)

5:18 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts another rocket fired at the Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

5:17 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts a rocket fired at Netivot. Two rockets explode in Sdot Negev Regional Council in open fields; six explode in open fields in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. Currently no damage was reported. (Shirly Seidler)

5:16 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in two Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.

5:11 P.M. Debris from the last rocket intercepted over Ashkelon falls in the parking lot of the Barzilai Medical Center, damaging several vehicles. (Shirly Seidler)

5:08 P.M. Six rockets explode in open fields in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. Currently no damage was reported.

5:04 P.M. An interrogation of a Hamas commander arrested by the IDF revealed that he had been given course training in kidnapping, paragliding, and anti-tank ambushes. The Palestinian also pointed out a sniper position on the tenth floor of the Red Crescent building. He told his interrogators that he and 10 other militants were sent to Malaysia to practice flying paragliders, for years ago. A short time before Operation Protective Edge began, they underwent another training session in preparation for a terror attack inside Israel. (Gili Cohen)

4:55 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in two Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.

4:53 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in about ten towns in southern Israel.

4:45 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in two Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.

4:40 P.M. Two rockets and two mortar shells explode in open field near the Gaza Strip. (Shirly Seidler)

4:30 P.M. A senior Israel Air Force officer says: "We are continuing to attack in great numbers in preparation of a possible deepening of the ground operation. Tonight the air force continued to attack throughout the Gaza Strip and increased its activity rate compared with the last few days. Forces inside the Gaza Strip have widened their incursion even into the outskirts of inhabited areas in an attempt to locate more areas with tunnels. According to the senior officer, air force attacks are progressing towards Gaza City.

"We can see that the volume of long and medium range rocket fire is gradually decreasing, and more and more fire is falling within Gaza, directed at IDF forces. Much of this fire is falling in Palestinian territories," the officer said. He explained the change in the pattern of fire with IDF forces activity in the Gaza Strip, as well as, aerial activity against rocket launching sites, and Hamas' intention to manage their ammunition for prolonged combat. According to IAF data over 4,000 targets were attacked, nearly four times more than were attacked by the IAF during Operation Pillar of Defense. IAF says the activity of the Iron Dome is "an unprecedented achievement."

4:28 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in a couple of Israeli towns near Gaza.

4:07 P.M. Rocket siren sounds in town near Gaza.

3:42 P.M. Two mortar shells explode in the Eshkol Regional Council. One caused damage to a town's parameter fence. (Shirly Seidler)

3:40 P.M. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri has rejected the IDF's announcement of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip. "Israel's announcement about a humanitarian cease-fire for four hours was done for media purposes only. It is completely useless, because it does not include the whole Gaza Strip, but just areas where there is already no fighting." (Jack Khoury)

3:38 P.M. A rocket explodes in the yard of a home in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirly Seidler)

3:35 P.M. Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon: "We are going forward with the military campaign full throttle, and tonight attacks continued very widely, while we continued to progress satisfactorily with dealing with the terror tunnels and continue to exact a very high price from Hamas." Ya'alon went on to say: "We are not limiting ourselves in time or place, and are going everywhere we know there's a tunnel or a tunnel opening, even if it means that we need to deepen our presence into areas we haven't yet entered. All operational options are on the table, and it is very important to remain vigilant and prepared." (Gili Cohen)

3:20 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in a number of towns surrounding the Gaza Strip.

3:10 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts rockets over Ashdod and Ashkelon. Mortar shell explodes in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council (Shirly Seidler)

3:05 P.M. As four-hour humanitarian cease-fire set to begin Gaza militants fire a barrage of rockets at Ashkelon, Ashdod and the coastal south.

2:59 P.M. Mortar shell explodes in open area in Eshkol Regional Council; no injuries reported. (Shirley Seidler)

Before and after satellite images of Beit Khanun, Gaza. AFP

3:55 P.M. IDF Spokesman announces humanitarian cease-fire saying in a statement: "The IDF has authorized a temporary window in the Gaza Strip. The window will commence today between 15:00-19:00."

2:52 P.M. Israeli security cabinet meeting begins (Barak Ravid)

2:45 P.M. IDF says IAF aircraft struck over 40 Hamas military targets since the morning, among them a tunnel, a missile fabrication facility. (Gili Cohen)

2:25 P.M. IDF announces 4-hour humanitarian cease-fire will take effect starting at 3 P.M. Top Israeli official says cease-fire will only be in effect in areas where no fighting is taking place (Jack Khouri, Barak Ravid)

2:18 P.M. Iron Dome intercepted one rocket above Sdot Negev Regional Council, another rocket landed in an open area. Rocket alarms were sounded in Netivot area. (Shirley Seidler)

1:54 P.M. Exchange of fire with Gaza militants in Khan Yunis, south Gaza Strip; eight IDF soldiers wounded transferred to Soroka Medical Center, Be'er Sheva. (Gili Cohen)

1:37 P.M. Rocket siren in Ashdod was a false alarm (Haaretz)

1:07 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts one rocket, four others land in open areas in Ofakim region. One of the rockets exploded in a greenhouse, and caused damage to agricultural land. No injuries reported. (Shirley Seidler)

1:00 P.M. Israeli cabinet to meeting at 2:30 P.M. (Barak Ravid)

12:58 P.M. Rocket alerts sound in Be'er Sheva, southern Israel (Haaretz)

12:56 P.M. The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has denied the reports Wednesday morning that a delegation from Ramallah has arrived in Cairo. "There is no Palestinian delegation in Cairo and no delegation like this will go there as long as there is no cease-fire on the ground," a senior official from Abbas' office told Haaretz. He said the Egyptians are refusing to accept any delegation while there is no cease-fire for at least 24 hours. According to the official, "The announcement on the issue that the PLO released yesterday was in coordination with the head of Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal, and it talked about the willingness for a humanitarian truce. (However) The one still opposed to such a truce is Israel, who continues with massive military on the Gaza Strip and with the killing of people."

In about an hour, the Palestinian leadership will hold another discussion on diplomatic developments. Its main efforts at the moment ate to obtain a temporary lull to enable a delegation to reach Cairo. (Jack Khoury)

12:49 P.M. Palestinian Health Ministry says number of deaths in Gaza, since operation's start, now stands at 1,284. Since this morning, 48 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, 15 of them in the UNRWA school, seven members of the Al-Khalil family including three children, and six members of the Abu Amar family in Khan Yunis. The ministry also stated that most of the dead were killed by aerial strikes and artillery fire. (Jack Khoury)

12:39 P.M. El Salvador recalls Israeli envoy from Tel Aviv in protest at Gaza operation, joining another four Latin American nations who have already done so: Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. Israel's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said recalling ambassadors encourages Hamas.

"Israel expresses its deep disappointment with the hasty decision of the governments of El Salvador, Peru and Chile to recall their ambassadors for consultations. This step constitutes encouragement for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.Israel expects countries who oppose terrorism to act responsibly and not to hand terrorists a prize. So far, every time Israel accepted plans for establishing a ceasefire and restoring calm, it was countered by Hamas’s sustained rocket fire. El Salvador, Chile and Peru would have been much better advised to promote the international move intended to assist Israel in its efforts to defend innocent civilians and instate a durable ceasefire with the demilitarization of Gaza," he said. (Barak Ravid)

11:18 A.M. Two mortar shells land in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council (Haaretz)

10:45 A.M. IDF forces continued to advance into built-up areas within the Gaza Strip overnight, the IDF says. Speaking on Army Radio, the IDF Spokesman said that the incursion was continuing.

Meanwhile, IAF aircraft distributed flyers over several areas in Gaza Strip, warning of forthcoming military operations. (Gili Cohen)

9:10 A.M. Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, over 2,670 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israeli territory, the IDF says. Approximately 280 rockets were launched and landed within the Gaza strip.

"IDF forces are continuing with the efforts to degrade the tunnel network in Gaza, eliminate rocket-launching capabilities, and demolish terror elements operating from within the Gaza Strip, in order to guarantee security and safety to Israeli civilians," the IDF Spokesman said in a statement.

8:52 A.M. Anti-tank missile fired at army tractor within Strip, 2 IDF soldiers lightly wounded. (Gili Cohen)

8:41 A.M. Three rockets and mortar shells land in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council; no injuries or damage reported. Rocket alerts sounded. (Haaretz)

7:05 A.M. IDF forces struck over 80 targets in the Gaza Strip overnight. The Israel Air Force targeted five mosques "which were utilized for terror purposes, such as concealing weapons, housing tunnel access shafts and lookout posts," the IDF Spokesman said in a statement.

In addition, the IDF targeted a facility utilized by a senior Hamas militant, who is in charge of the Hamas cyber division, the statement said. (Haaretz, Gili Cohen)

5:28 A.M. After a six-hour break, sirens sound in Nahal Oz, Shaar Hanegev and Sdot Negev.

1:53 A.M. The Gaza Health Ministry says Israeli artillery fire has killed 30 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Thirteen people, including a paramedic, were killed in Jabalia, in the north of the strip.

Among the dead are 17 people who were killed while seeking refuge at the UNRWA-operated 'Abu Haseen' school. Dozens of families were staying at the facility. 70 people were injured in the attack. Earlier, 13 people were killed in a shelling near a mosque in Jabalia.

The ministry says that the death toll since the start of the Israeli operation has risen to 1,231 dead and 7,000 wounded. (Jack Khouri)

00:26 A.M. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said late on Tuesday it had found a cache of rockets at one of its schools in the Gaza Strip and condemned those who had put them there.

"We condemn the group or groups who endangered civilians by placing these munitions in our school," said UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness. "This is yet another flagrant violation of the neutrality of our premises."

11:04 P.M. Hamas released a video of an attack carried out by its militants on Monday, in which five Israeli soldiers were killed.

The footage depicts Hamas men climbing out of a tunnel, armed with rifles and an R.P.G. launcher and are seen approaching an IDF guard post. The video, which was edited, doesn't show the militants breaking into the post, but only how they are capturing an Israeli soldier who came out of the watch tower, shooting him multiple times from short range.

The men are then seen gathering around the body, but due to the poor quality of the footage it is impossible to determine whether they are abusing the body. The men are later seen leaving the IDF post and running back to the tunnel. At the end of the video, a Hamas man is seen presenting an IDF-issued Tavor rifle which was taken from one of the soldiers during the operation.

10:55 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Israeli communities near the northern Gaza Strip. (Haaretz)

10:33 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts rocket over Holon while two rockets explode in open areas between Ashdod and Ashkelon. (Gili Cohen)

10:32 P.M. The head of Hamas' military wing, Mohammed Deif, told Hamas television that "there won't be a cease fire without the end of [Israeli] hostility and the lifting of the blockade." Hamas "will not accept interim solutions," he said.

Deif turned to the residents of the Gaza and praised them for their "resilience." Deif said: "Without your support we would not have reached results. We won't accept interim solutions, and Israel must know that it send its troops to hell." (Jack Khoury)

10:13 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in greater Tel Aviv area, including in Ramat Gan, Givatayim, Bnei Brak, Or Yehuda and Yahud. (Haaretz)

At the UNRWA-operated Abu Haseen school in northern Gaza during the 2014 war between Hamas and its allies and Israel, July 30, 2014.Credit: AFP

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