The security cabinet met for three hours Thursday afternoon regarding the cease-fire in Gaza, which was extended another five days Wednesday night. The ministers were scheduled to reconvene again at 8:30 A.M. Friday and continue discussing the Egyptian proposal for truce in Gaza.
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A Palestinian announcement was made as a previously agreed-upon 72-hour cease-fire neared its deadline on Wednesday night. According to an Israeli official, Israel had agreed to the extension but ordered the Israel Defense Forces to strike once rocket fire breached the truce.
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Latest updates [Thursday]:
11:44 P.M. The long-term truce being negotiated in Cairo calls for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, a senior Egyptian official told Haaretz on Thursday. Also, Hamas and Islamic Jihad delegates to the Cairo talks said the emerging truce carries no time limit, lifts the blockade on Gaza, and includes talks on construction of a Gazan seaport and airport within a month after the deal is signed. In addition, they said Israel asked Egyptian mediators to take its demand for the demilitarization of the Strip to the Palestinian negotiators, but the Egyptians declined. (Zvi Bar'el) Read the full article here
11:33 P.M. The Israeli peace camp will hold a demonstration on Saturday in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, a week after police banned a similar demonstration. (Jonathan Lis)
11:30 P.M. The U.S. State Department confirmed Thursday that the Obama administration was taking extra care in supplying weapons to Israel in the wake of Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.
Deputy State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said that the U.S. was concerned about civilian deaths in Gaza. "We thought Israel could do more to prevent civilian casualties," she said. "Due to the crisis in Gaza we took additional care like we would take in any crisis. We took steps to look at (munitions) deliveries. We wanted to look at things a little bit harder."
Harf tried to minimize the significance of the move, saying this wasn't an extraordinary measure. There was "no change in policy" regarding the U.S. supply of arms to Israel, she said, adding, "The additional care we are taking is not permanent. The U.S. commitment to Israel's security is unshakable." (Barak Ravid) Read full article here
9:46 P.M. Thursday's security cabinet meeting dealt with the situation in Gaza and the cease-fire negotiations. The three-hour meeting mainly focused on briefings, and no decisions were made. The ministers will reconvene on Friday at 8:30 A.M. (Barak Ravid)
8:47 P.M. Speaking at the rally in Tel Aviv, Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi says: "We are tired of promises and declarations and we fear diplomatic agreements that will again result in compromise – compromise on our lives and future. Our blood is not cheap."
Davidi calls on the Israeli government to set bringing back quiet and security to the south as its primary goal. "Not an illusion of calm and not a partial sense of security. As the mayor of Sderot and as a resident of the city I ask to bring an end to this situation once and for all." (Ilan Lior)
8:20 P.M. Thousand gather in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square for solidarity protests with residents of southern Israel. Read full article here
7:09 P.M. The Turkish Health Ministry is planning to bring 200 more Gazans injured during the Israel-Hamas conflict for treatment, said Turkey's Deputy PM Besir Atalay on Thursday, the Anadolu Agency reported. Some 25 are already in the country. Read the full article here.
6:30 P.M. Israel in recent days has been holding discussions with the American administration, including at the very highest levels, in attempt to resolve the crisis between the two countries and to remove limitations placed by Washington on weapon shipments to Israel as a result of the fighting in Gaza, senior officials in Jerusalem told Haaretz.
Netanyahu and Obama held a telephone call Wednesday afternoon, and later Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon spoke on the phone with his counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The Israelis initiated both calls, and were attempts to solve the most recent crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations. (Barak Ravid)
5:53 P.M. Security cabinet meeting begins, ministers will discuss Gaza war and crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. (Barak Ravid)
4:54 P.M. One of spokesmen for the Hamas leadership that resides outside the Gaza Strip asserts that Israel's responses so far in Cairo have not met the Palestinians' minimal demands, and no real progress has been made.
He did not rule out the possibility that the fighting would be renewed "to force Israel to acquiesce to Palestinian demands."
In contrast, a Hamas delegation member, Khalil Al-Hayya, who returned to Gaza from Cairo, said just a little while ago that there is still a chance of reaching an agreement. He expressed hope that the Egyptian mediator would succeed with his intensive efforts to secure a deal.
"In any event, we won't sign an agreement that won't meet the demands of the Palestinian people," he said. Al-Hayya added that during the negotiations Egypt sent a message that it would ease restrictions to Palestinians at the Rafiah border crossing. (Jack Khoury)
4:23 P.M. Labor head Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Knesset opposition, accused the Netanyahu government of completely losing its diplomatic senses.
"Every day another front is opened against our friends in the world," he said. "There is total lack of faith between Netanyahu and President Obama, [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman long ago forgot that he is supposed to be a foreign minister, and [Finance Minister Yair] hands out marks like a commentator."
"Ties with the U.S. are an economic and strategic asset for Israeli citizens and this government has managed to destroy those too. The stones that government ministers are throwing even a thousand wise men couldn't extract from a well. We are not obligated to agree with the U.S. on every matter, there are serious issues that Israel has full right to determine for itself, and there are issues of style and protocol. This government has consistently failed at both." (Barak Ravid)
2:45 P.M. Israel is prepared to respond to any breach of the cease-fire by Hamas, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon told New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a meeting the two held this morning.
Ya'alon said the upholding by Hamas of the agreement would be a good thing- but warned that Israel has no patience when it comes to rockets aimed at its civilians.
The Palestinian delegation asked to prolong the cease-fire at 11 P.M. last night, said Ya'alon, who described the internal dynamics encumbering the work of the Palestinian delegation, made up of several members of different factions.
Israel agreed to the Palestinians' request, Ya'alon said, and shortly afterwards was hit by six missiles – and the Israeli air force hit back immediately. (Barak Ravid)
12:32 P.M. The Palestinian delegation to the cease-fire talks in Cairo will begin internal consultations with the Palestinian leadership, in an attempt to finalize the wording of its stance before returning to the talks on Monday.
The Fatah representatives to the talks, headed by Azzam al-Ahmed, and the other delegates from the West Bank will return to Ramallah for discussions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Islamic Jihad representatives will meet with their leader Ramadan Abdullah Shalah in Beirut, and the Hamas representatives will meet Khaled Meshal in Doha.
These separate consultations are aimed at coordinating the Palestinian stance over the course of the cease-fire and consolidating a final draft to present to Egypt before the talks begin again, which Israel can then evaluate and deliver its reponse. (Zvi Bar'el)
11:56 A.M. B'Tselem rights group stripped of right to hire national service volunteers, following the latter's declaration that it "operates against the state." (Gili Cohen)
11:23 A.M. Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On blasts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Bibi is weak in the face of the violent and strong against the moderates – Bibi is good for Hamas. The accomplishments he handed Hamas during the arrangement talks underway in Cairo he could have given Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] by recognizing the Palestinian unity government, based on the principles of the Quartet, and not with violence and death." (Barak Ravid)
10:46 A.M. The security cabinet will convene at 5 P.M. (Barak Ravid)
Thousands of demonstrators are expected to participate in a rally in support of the citizens of Israel's south planned to take place this evening in Tel Aviv. The protest will take place in Rabin Square at 7:00 P.M., and will feature speeches by municipal leaders from Israel's south, as well as residents of towns and cities near the Gaza border, who are suffering most from the rockets and mortar shells being fired from within the Strip.
The event's organizers sought to stress that the event is not a political one, but rather a display of solidarity with residents of the south. (Ilan Lior)
10:13 A.M. The Israel Defense Forces says rocket sirens were false alarms. Police initially reported that a rocket struck an open area, and then released a statement confirming that it was in fact a false alarm.. (Shirley Seidler and Gili Cohen)
10:03 A.M. Rocket siren sounds in Kerem Shalom, on Gaza border. (Haaretz)
8:19 A.M. The White House instructed the Pentagon and the U.S. military to halt a transfer of Hellfire missiles that Israel had requested during its recent operation in the Gaza Strip, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the report, during Israel's Operation Protective Edge, White House officials were dismayed to discover how little influence they wield over the topic of Israeli arms replenishment, against the backdrop of the U.S. government's unhappiness with the widespread damage inflicted upon Palestinian civilians.
Officials in the White House and the State Department are now demanding to review every Israeli request for American arms individually, rather than let them move relatively unchecked through a direct military-to-military channel, a fact that slows down the process.
"The allegations are unfounded," Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was quoted as saying by the WSJ, in response to the Wall Street Journal's description of a significant "fraying of relations" between the two nations' leaders. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome." (Barak Ravid)
7:58 A.M. Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon updated U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel regarding the Israel-Hamas cease-fire on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by the Pentagon, the U.S. Defense Secretary "reiterated his support for Egypt's mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel's security and addresses Gaza's humanitarian crisis."
6:56 A.M. IDF forces arrest 20 Palestinians overnight in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. Among them are two suspected Hamas operatives, arrested in Beit Lakia and Qalandia. (Gili Cohen)
6:10 A.M. The IDF has struck rocket launchers and other targets in the Gaza Strip overnight. (Gili Cohen)
2:10 A.M. A Hamas official accuses Israel of violating the newly agreed-upon truce by shelling the coastal enclave.
"There is no violation of the calm from any Palestinian side and nobody in Gaza has heard rocket fire," Izzat Reshiq, a Hamas official who is in Cairo for Gaza truce talks, said.
"We denounce the Israeli shelling of Gaza which is continuing. This is a violation of the calm." (Reuters)
1:50 A.M. Two rockets hit open areas in Eshkol Regional Council shortly before 1 A.M. (Shirley Seidler)
1:16 A.M. The Palestinian news agency Ma'an reports that the IDF has struck Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip's north, as well as targets in the enclave's center and east.
1:05 A.M. After midnight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office informed security cabinet ministers that Israel has agreed to extended the cease-fire in Gaza by five days. Senior officials in Jerusalem note, however, that Israel is waiting to see if Hamas observes the truce following the IDF's retaliation to the evening's rocket fire.
"Israel is now examining how serious Hamas is about the cease-fire," a senior official says. (Barak Ravid)
00:56 A.M. According to an Israeli official, Israel had agreed to the cease-fire extension but ordered the IDF to strike Gaza once rocket fire breached the truce.
00:34 A.M. The Israeli army strikes targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on Israel.
"The IDF has been prepared for this possibility, and is determined to continue to maintain the security of the citizens of the State of Israel," the military said in a statement.
00:20 A.M. Officials: Prior to midnight, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon ordered the army to respond to Hamas' violation of the cease-fire. (Barak Ravid)
00:13 A.M. Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk confirms cease-fire extension.
00:07 A.M. A Western diplomat confirms: Cease-fire extended by five days. (Barak Ravid)
11:58 P.M. Two rockets hit open areas in Sdot Negev Regional Council. (Shirley Seidler)
11:52 P.M. Sirens sound in Sdot Negev and Shaar Hanegev regional councils moments after Palestinians announce extension of cease-fire. (Haaretz)
11:44 P.M. Azzam Al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, tells the press on his way out of the negotiating room that the two sides have agreed to extend the cease-fire by five days, not 72 hours as Egypt reported earlier.
Al-Ahmad said that there is agreement on most of the key issues, and that only a few points here, a few points there remain. He also said that at the moment the discussion is focused on the wording of the agreements. He added that Palestinian delegation is returning to the West Bank to consult with President Mahmoud Abbas.
A Gaza port and airport are at the center of discussions, Al-Ahmad said, and we will not allow Israel to ignore them. Regarding the Rafah crossing, he said that this is an Egyptian-Palestinian issue, and that he hopes Egypt will uphold its promises regarding the Palestinian unity deal, which stipulates it would open the crossing when a trusted Palestinian government is established. This government has already been established, and now the promise has to be fulfilled, he said.
Al-Ahmad highlighted that the members of the delegation were appointed by Abbas personally and that the Palestinian government will be responsible for carrying out the agreement as signed. Israel has dealt with the cease-fire talks in Cairo as if there were no Palestinian reconciliation deal, and wants to keep seeing the division, he said.
Al-Ahmad also went to the effort of removing from Egypt the responsibility for the formulation of the proposals, and said that Egypt is a mediator, and all its efforts have been directed at bridging the gaps between the two sides. (Haaretz)
11:33 P.M. Egyptian officials say that Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to extend the cease-fire by three days. A senior Hamas official confirmed the announcement, saying that negotiations over a more permanent truce will continue over the next 72 hours. (Zvi Bar'el)