Israel's Operation Protective Edge entered its third day Thursday, after a night of heavy bombing by Israel Defense Forces forces resulted in a rising death toll in Gaza. As at Thursday evening, the IDF had launched over 860 strikes in the Strip since the operation began, including 60 on Thursday morning alone.
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Medical officials in Gaza said on Thursday evening that some 90 Palestinians had died since the start of the operation, including 22 children, and that hundreds of others, mainly civilians, had been hospitalized.
By Thursday evening, more than 350 rockets and mortar shells had been fired from Gaza toward Israel since the operation began. The Iron Dome missile defense system shot down over 70 rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns since the operation began, with a near-90 percent success rate, according to the IDF.
Long-range rockets were fired at Tel Aviv twice on Thursday morning, with at least one interception confirmed by the IDF. Rockets later hit the Jerusalem area, and a rocket barrage was fired across southern and central Israel on Thursday evening.
At a security briefing, Netanyahu said attacks on Hamas would be escalated, and that the operation "will expand and continue until the fire on our communities is over and the quiet returns.”
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01:38 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts rocket above Ashkelon. (Gili Cohen)
01:26 A.M. Following a telephone conversation between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the White House issued a statement that the United States "remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement."
01:11 A.M. IDF announces that the reports of a sea incursion in Eilate was a false alarm (Gili Cohen)
00:42 A.M. The Eilat beachfront has been evacuated due to a suspected incursion.
Israel Navy vessels stationed offshore from the Princess Hotel in Eilat spotted what they sus[ected was an attempted incursion from the sea just before midnight on Thursday, only a few hundred meters from the beach.
Security forces fired warning shots and flares. Police boats and rubber dinghies from the Eilat naval base arrived at the scene to support the missile boats that are stationed there.
The entire Eilat beach-front has been evacuated and Highway 90, leading from Eilat to Taba, is closed.
Management of the Princess Hotel and other southern hotels have been instructed to prevent people from leaving the hotels and to reinforce their security. (Revital Levy-Stein)
11:40 P.M. The spokesman of the military wing of Islamic Jihad, Abu Ahmad, said that "what is happening right now is a war of nerves."
"The factions in Gaza are not going to surrender but to carry on fighting. Netanyahu is talking, but we aren't impressed by his words. We aren't worried. We are working quietly and calmly, according to the strategy we set for ourselves. I am not revealing secrets here. We will escalate our responses if Israel escalates its aggression. We will escalate both by rocket fire and other means."
He added that "the factions fired 300 rockets so far, but we have many more. There is total cooperation between the military wings, exchange of opinions, and joint strategy. The ball is currently in Israel's court. We won't agree to less than a cessation of all Israeli aggression in Gaza, and a complete removal of the blockade of the Gaza Strip." (Jack Khoury).
11:24 P.M. Since start of operation Protective Edge, Magen David Adom Emergency Services says it has treated 123 wounded people: 1 seriously; 2 lightly to moderately; 19 lightly; and 101 people suffering from shock.
10:43 P.M. Four rockets fired at Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council fall in open areas. No damage reported. (Shirley Seidler).
10:38 P.M. France's Hollande regrets Palestinian deaths caused by Israeli operations in Gaza, says escalation must end. (Reuters).
9:45 P.M. Conflicting reports about wounded in Ashdod, in incident where rocket hit car. Emergency services now say there was no one in the car, and no one critically wounded. Some people are suffering from shock, however. (Shirley Seidler).
9:00 P.M. Netanyahu at end of security cabinet meeting: "So far, the campaign is going as planned, but we expect further stages later on. If innocent civilians are hurt this is because Hamas deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians." The prime minister also called on Israeli citizens "to continue demonstrating the civilian robustness that you are showing in these days and hours." (Barak Ravid).
8:52 P.M. Rocket volley fired at Ashdod in southern Israel: Two rockets hit populated areas in Ashdod. At one site, a rocket hits a parking lot, and starts a fire. Vehicles are badly damaged by the blaze. In another site, a rocket hits a two-storey house. A number of people are suffering from shock as a result, and the hit causes a lot of damage. (Shirley Seidler, Gili Cohen).
8:40 P.M. In joint operation, IDF and Shin Bet struck a Hamas operative involved in rocket fire toward Israel. The operative was wounded while riding a motorbike near the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen).
8:39 P.M. One soldier moderately wounded by mortar in Eshkol Regional Council, another lightly wounded. They were transferred to Soroka Medical Center, Be’er Sheva (Shirley Seidler and Chaim Levinson).
8:33 P.M. U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki: Nobody wants to see an Israeli ground invasion to Gaza. This is why deescalation is important. (Barak Ravid).
8:27 P.M. In the six rocket volleys that were fired within minutes to the south earlier this evening, 24 grad missiles were fired, 11 were intercepted, 12 hit open areas in Israel and one fell in the yard of a house. (Shirley Seidler).
8:07 P.M. Interior ministry in Gaza calls on residents to ignore calls to evacuate homes, claiming that the aim of the messages is to scare civilians and civilians must act responsibly and not follow misleading Israel instructions. (Jack Khoury)
7:48 P.M. Magen David Adom emergency services spokesperson reports a number of people in shock after rocket hits near a sports center in Be'er Sheva. Another rocket hits the yard of a house. Four members of one family suffering from shock after rocket does major damage to the house. (Shirley Seidler).
7:47 P.M. Rocket alert sirens heard in Bat Yam, Rishon Letzion, Lod and Holon in central Israel.
7:42 P.M. Rockets intercepted in greater Tel Aviv area.
7:30 P.M. Six rocket barrages fired at south: Sirens heard across southern Israel, Be'er Sheva, Mitzpeh Ramon, Arad, Dimona and other areas in the Negev.
7:24 P.M. Two rockets intercepted in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, another two fell in open areas, one in residential area. No damage reported. (Shirley Seidler).
7:20 P.M. So far on Thursday, there have been 103 projectiles have landed in Israel, and 21 were intercepted by Iron Dome.
7:14 P.M. GOC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sammy Turgeman: "We are prepared for expanding the operation."
"I am sure that over the next few days we will bring security and quiet. We are preparing all our capabilities and will act as needed. There are enough targets and I am sure that Hamas knows that. We have enough targets to attack."
He added: "The enemy has more long-range rockets.We see Hamas hiding from our attacks and we are chasing and attacking the hideouts, I predict and I know this will continue for days." (Gili Cohen)
7:01 P.M. Security cabinet meeting finishes after seven hours. (Barak Ravid)
6:52 P.M. BBC reporter who swam in the sea near Zikim Beach raised suspicions of terrorists once again trying to infiltrate the area. IDF and police were called to the scene. (Shirley Seidler)
6:46 P.M. 70-year-old man seriously injured in Kfar Adumim in the West Bank when he fell while trying to reach a sheltered area. (Chaim Levinson)
6:44 P.M. Rocket hits open field in Gush Dan area, central Israel. One of the Jerusalem area rockets earlier hits territory under Palestinian Authority's jurisidiction. (Gili Cohen)
6:30 P.M. Israel's UN envoy after security council meeting: "We don't want a cease fire. Our goal is to dismantle the Hamas rocket infrastructure." Pros also walked around the building, playing sound of sirens from IPhone and explaining Israelis have 15 seconds to run for shelter. (Barak Ravid)
6:22 P.M. Armed wing of Hamas claims responsibility for rocket fire at Jerusalem. Armed wing of Islamic Jihad also claims responsibility for two two of the rockets. (Jack Khoury)
6:11 P.M. Shrapnel from rocket intercepted over Jerusalem area hits roof of house Mateh Yehuda area, a few people in the area suffering from shock. (Nir Hasson)
6:10 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets fired at Jerusalem area and two hit open areas. Rocket intercepted also Ashkelon and Sderot. (Shirley Seidler and Gili Cohen)
5:56 P.M. Rocket siren heard in the Jerusalem area, Beit Shemesh, Ashdod and the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council. A few minutes earlier siren heard in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
5:55 P.M. Public meeting of the security council is over. Ambassadors from 15 member states are moving on to a closed session. (Barak Ravid)
5:49 P.M. Israel UN envoy Ron Prosor responds: Mr Secretary General while you were talking here 5 rockets were fired from Gaza to Israel, and one hit a house. Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Israeli envoy to UN: Hamas dragged us into this operation. Prosor sounds sirens in the security council hall and says Israeli civilians have 15 seconds to get to shelters. Hamas is trying to implement a genocidal agenda against Israel, Prosor said, adding that the Palestinian envoy did not even say one word about one rocket shot from Gaza against Israel. The Palestinian delegate here is a mouthpiece for Hamas, Prosor adds. (Barak Ravid)
5:30 P.M. Rocket hits house in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council. Damage was caused, but no injuries (Shirley Seidler)
5:29 P.M. The Palestinian UN envoy responds: We must stop the carnage and the Israeli attacks on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Israel's occupation is racist and expansionist. Israel claims it is the only democracy in the Middle East but is attacking innocent civilians. Israel is perpetrating war crimes and state terror against civilians in Gaza. (Barak Ravid)
5:23 P.M. UNSC meeting on Gaza escalation has started. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Israeli ground operation is still preventable if Hamas stops rocket fire. He says he is worried about civilians in Israel and Gaza being hurt, and that civilians in Gaza are caught between Hamas' irresponsible behavior and Israel's attacks. Ban is concerned about civilian deaths, and says the current violence in Gaza shows the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians is unsustainable. (Barak Ravid)
5:17 P.M. Hamas says in official statement that Kerry is a partner to the murder of Palestinian children and that his declaration about Israel having the right to defend itself enables Israel to continue its crimes and agressions against the Palestinian people. (Jack Khoury)
5:22 P.M. Nine rockets explode in Eshkol Regional Council, at least two near towns. Damage to the road reported. (Shirley Seidler)
5:07 P.M. Mahmoud Abbas' office is reporting on a phone call between him and Secretary of State John Kerry, which took place around an hour ago. The office says that Abbas asked Kerry to help him reach a ceasefire as soon as possible. The two agreed to keep in contact. Abbas also spoke today with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A senior official in Abbas' office said that he spoke with "everyone he could, including the Hamas leadership, and as far as he is concerned stopping the fighting immediately is of the highest priority." (Jack Khoury)
4:30 P.M. The defense establishment has retracted its statement that the head of Hamas' rocket arsenal had been killed in an IDF strike. It was apparently a case of mistaken identity. (Gili Cohen)
4:17 P.M. A rocket landed near an academic institution in Sha'ar Hanegev, causing damage to vehicles. Several people were suffering from shock.
Meanwhile, three rockets were intercepted over Sderot. In the same barrage, sirens were heard in Ashkelon, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council and Sdot Negev. (Shirly Seidler)
3:48 P.M. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is trying to stem the surging violence in Israel and Gaza in a way that allows Israel to continue defending itself from Hamas rocket fire.
Kerry, in Beijing for a summit with Chinese leaders, says it's a "dangerous moment" for the Middle East.
Kerry says no country can accept such rocket attacks.
But he says de-escalating the crisis is ultimately in everyone's interests.
Kerry says he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The goal, he says, is to see if there is some way to restore peace. (Barak Ravid and AP)
3:42 P.M.The Palestinian side is also not discussing a potential cease-fire at this point, and spokesmen of the various organizations in Gaza have pledged to continue fighting until the end. Senior Egyptian officials, meanwhile, have told Haaretz that efforts to establish the contacts to advance a truce have not panned out. He said that Egyptians had tried to reach a compromise and secure calm last week already before the beginning of the operation, but these efforts failed.
According to the same sources, despite the high threshold set by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, Egypt was still trying to reach a deal similar to the agreement that sealed a cease-fire at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Reports from Gaza describe mass damage to homes, infrastructure and public buildings, which they say explain the large number of civilian casualties – particularly women and children. A Hamas militant told Haaretz that "claims to have hit the organization's infrastructure by bombing buildings and offices is ridiculous, because in the last two days we have witnessed attacks on buildings in which only families and civilians were present.
According to Palestinian sources, 17 people were killed early Thursday in two separate attacks, one on a café and the other in a family home.
3:18 P.M. The IDF says it has attacked 60 targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Some of the strikes were carried out by naval ships, which bombed ammunitions warehouses and installations from the beach. The air force also attacked tunnels, rocket launchers, homes of senior militants and military installations.
2:49 P.M. Security guards arrest a Palestinian driver on Route 5, connecting West Bank to northeast of Tel Aviv, after spotting a suspected explosive charge in his car. Sappers have closed the area for traffic and are making sure the bag in the man's car indeed contains explosives. The Palestinian said in his preliminary interrogation that he was on his way to perform a terrorist attack. (Haaretz)
2:25 P.M. An Israel Air Force strike hits Ayman Siam, head of Hamas' rocket arsenal in Gaza. Siam is the highest-rankling Hamas militant to be killed in this operation so far, IDF says.
Gaza Health Ministry, however, denies Siam was killed, Ma'an reports. (Amos Harel)
According to Gaza Health Ministry, 81 people were killed in the Gaza Strip since the operation began, including 22 children, 15 women and 12 elderly people. 537 were wounded. (Haaretz)
2:17 P.M. Environmentalist groups demand hazardous materials silos in Haifa area removed due to the rocket fire. (Zafrir Rinat)
1:59 P.M. Egypt partially opens Rafah Crossing to allow passage of wounded to its territory, Al Ahram news website reports, citing Palestinian embassy in Cairo.
1:44 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts eight rockets in last major barrage fired at southern, central Israel. One rocket fired at Be'er Sheva was also intercepted, another landed without causing damage. One rocket lands in Ashkelon, no damage or casualties reported. (Gili Cohen, Shirly Seidler)
1:18 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that a cease-fire with Hamas is not on the agenda. "I am not talking to anybody about a cease-fire right now," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu added that he had ordered an increase in air strikes on the Gaza Strip by emphasized that Israel could not allow itself to take such steps, like other countries do in war. "We can't to what the Russians did to the Chechens," he said. (Barak Ravid)
1:14 P.M. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon holds situation assessment with top officials in security establishment, says: "Hamas will continue to suffer harsh blows in coming days, with the power and extent necessary, until calm returns to the southern communities.
"We continue to systematically attack Hamas and terrorist organization and strike them and their assets hard. We'll continue until they realize escalation is not worth it, and that we won't tolerate fire toward our communities and citizens. (Gili Cohen)
1:12 P.M. Rocket sirens sound in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Iron Dome intercepts rocket above Ashdod (Shirly Seidler)
1:00 P.M. Rocket alerts sound in multiple cities in south Israel and to its immediate north, including Ashkelon, Lod and Ben Shemen.
Sirens also sound in Ramle, Ness Ziona, Gadera, Tzrifin, Mazkeret Batya and other areas in central and southern Israel.
1:00 P.M. Three Palestinians were killed in a joint IDF-Shin Bet strike on their vehicle in the northern Gaza Strip, raising death toll to 80 since operation began. (Gili Cohen, Jack Khoury)
12:53 P.M. IDF confirms a strike hit near a Hamas-controlled part of the Erez Crossing, but notes that this section lies deeper inside the Strip, beyond the part controlled by the Palestinian Authority. According to the IDF, no significant damage was caused to the crossing and passage has not been halted. (Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen)
12:49 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts a rocket in the Sdot Negev Regional Council area. Earlier, rocket sirens sounded in Sha'ar Hanegev and Sdot Negev regional councils.
Palestinian report: IDF bombs home of Hamas senior official Yahya Asnwar. (Jack Khoury)
12:39 P.M. Rocket explosion sparks fire in Merhavim Regional Council. Councilhead Shai Hajaj criticizes decision to hold matriculation exams under rocket fire, urges Education Ministry to allow students to take additional exam. Sapir Academic College announces gates will be closed next week as well. (Shirly Seidler)
12:30 P.M. Israel permits 240 Palestinians with foreign citizenship – American, Swedish, Serbian, Greek and Romanian – to leave Gaza Strip. (Gili Cohen)
12:15 P.M. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor says Hamas is firing rockets from "within houses and streets and neighborhoods which are populated with civilians ... exposing these civilians to retaliation and to backfire." (Reuters)
12:00 P.M. Foreign Minister Lieberman writes his international counterparts, says expects them to back Israel's right to self defense (Haaretz)
11:47 A.M. Palestinian report: Israel Air Force bombs Palestinian side of Erez Crossing. IDF denies claim. (Jack Khoury, Gili Cohen)
11:39 A.M. Two rockets fall in open areas in Tel Aviv region. None wounded and no damage caused. (Gili Cohen)
11:30 A.M. Two rockets explode in an open area in Eshkol Regional Council. Fire breaks out in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council after rocket explosion. (Shirly Seidler)
11:23 A.M. Rocket siren sounds in Tel Aviv (Haaretz)
11:12 A.M. Security cabinet to convene at 12:00 P.M. (Barak Ravid)
11:03 A.M. Ben Gurion International Airport is operating as usual despite the multiple rockets fired at the greater Tel Aviv area. A Haaretz inquiry found that there were no disruptions to air traffic during the rocket fired at 8:30 A.M. An Israel Airports Authority source said that the siren did not sound in the airport and that there was no reason to evacuate passengers to protected spaces. (Zohar Blumenkrantz)
10:55 A.M. A Five-year-old boy, Abdullah Abu Gazal, is killed in Israel Air Force strike in northern Gaza Strip, raising death toll to 77. (Jack Khoury)
10:31 A.M. Three rockets fired at Mitzpeh Ramon. Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, takes responsibility for rocket fire, says it was targeting an Israeli army base.
Another rocket explodes in Sha'ar Hanagev, causing no damage. (Shirly Seidler, Jack Khoury)
10:24 A.M. Rocket explodes outside home in Netivot. Woman suffers from shock. (Shirly Seidler)
10:07 A.M. Israeli army source says an Israel Air Force aircraft fired at two Hamas members, engaged in rocket fire from the Jabalya area to the north of the Strip. At least one of them was hit, says the source. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad confirms three of its members were killed Thursday morning while driving in the center of Gaza City. (Gili Cohen, Jack Khoury)
10:04 A.M. Rocket siren sounded in Mitzpeh Ramon, Dimona, Yeruham, and in Ramat Negev Regional Council. Two rockets land in Eshkol Regional Council.(Haaretz)
9:34 P.M. Fire erupts in open area of Sdot Negev Regional Council after rocket falls. Firefighter now en route to the site. (Shirley Seidler)
9:21 A.M. Death toll from IDF attacks on Gaza Strip rises to 75, Gaza Health Ministry says. (Jack Khoury)
7:57 A.M. Siren heard in central Israel. Iron Dome intercepts at least one rocket. Hamas takes responsibility for two M-75 rockets launches. (Gili Cohen)
7:29 A.M. Preliminary report: Three Islamic Jihad members are targeted in a joint operation of the IDF and the Shin Bet in Gaza Thursday morning. The three, who were involved in rocket production according to the Shin Bet, are believed to have been killed.
Rocket sirens were sounded in the Eshkol, Sdot Negev, Sha'ar Hanegev and Merhavim Regional Councils. A rocket exploded in an open area in the Sdot Negev Regional Council, none were wounded. (Gili Cohen, Shirly Seidler)
7:02 A.M. The IDF says it is possible that Wednesdays' suspected scuba-diving infiltration was a false alarm.
On Tuesday, five armed Palestinians crossed the border into Israel near the beach of Kibbutz Zikim and were killed by IDF soldiers. (Gili Cohen)
6:42 A.M. Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that 68 people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes since the start of Operation Protective Edge, and over 600 people wounded.
6:38 A.M. Gaza strikes to be escalated, says top IDF officer, "since there are still many more targets to attack. The operation has thus far been carried out via aerial strikes, and in the next 24 hours it will stay that way." (Gili Cohen)
6:30 A.M. Since midnight, eight rockets have been fired toward Israel, and IDF forces have struck 54 targets within the Strip.
6:16 A.M. Rocket alerts sounds in Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council.
2:52 A.M. One rocket intercepted over Ashkelon, three land in open areas near city.
2:37 A.M. Rocket alerts sound in Eshkol and Hof Ashkelon regional councils.
2:26 A.M Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes tonight in the vicinity of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. According to the report, which is based on a statement made by the Gaza ministry of health, women and children are among the dead.
1:32 A.M. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief the UN Security Council on Thursday on the escalating Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, which he described as a "troubling and volatile" situation.
"Gaza is on a knife edge," Ban told reporters Wednesday. "I firmly condemn the multiple rocket attacks launched from Gaza on Israel. Such attacks are unacceptable and must stop... I also urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to exercise maximum restraint and to respect international obligations to protect civilians. I condemn the rising number of civilian lives lost in Gaza."
Ban spent the day speaking with regional and world leaders, including Netanyahu, Abbas, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the king of Saudi Arabia and the emir of Qatar.
"Regional leaders have a vital role to play and I urged President Sissi and others to help facilitate a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement," Ban said. "The risk of violence expanding further still is real. Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war."
1:26 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets over Be'er Sheva; One rocket lands in open area; none wounded. (Gili Cohen)
1:17 A.M. Rocket alert sounds in Be'er Sheva area, Hof Ashkelon Regional Council (Haaretz)
00:30 A.M. All told, 82 rockets and mortar shells hit Israel on Wednesday, and 21 rockets were intercepted. The IAF struck 326 targets in the Gaza Strip throughout the day. (Gili Cohen)
00:04 A.M. Two rockets intercepted above Kiryat Malachi. (Shirley Seidler, Gili Cohen)