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Gaza in crisis, updated August 20

Fr. Jack Sullivan MM has prepared the following round-up of information about the current bombings in Palestine and Israel. See News Nosh from Americans for Peace Now for more.

The temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed on August 19. The following four articles note that collapse, the on-going conflict, competing narratives of its cause, implications of a continuing siege of Gaza, and a call from Desmond Tutu for a global boycott of Israel, and a plea to Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land. Click on the link in the headline to read the entire piece.

1) News Nosh: The Israel-Gaza Crisis
Americans for Peace Now, August 20, 2014

A few rockets and the collapse of the Gaza talks, the end to the ceasefire and the renewal of mutual violence was the top story in today's Hebrew papers.
Just before 4 PM, Palestinians reportedly shot three rockets into Israel that landed in an open field outside Beersheva. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas and responded by withdrawing the Israeli delegation from the Cairo talks and declaring the end of the ceasefire. Hamas said that it knew of no rockets that were shot. ...

2) Eyeless in Gaza
Uri Avnery, Truth Out, August 19, 2014

The trouble with war is that it has two sides. Everything would be so much easier if war had only one side. Ours, of course.

There you are, drawing up a wonderful plan for the next war, preparing it, training for it, until everything is perfect. And then the war starts, and to your utmost surprise it appears that there is another side, too, which also has a wonderful plan, and has prepared it and trained for it.

When the two plans meet, everything goes wrong. Both plans break down. You don't know what's going to happen. How to go on. You do things you have not planned for. And when you have had enough of it and want to get out, you don't know how. It's so much more difficult to end a war than to start a war, especially when both sides need to declare victory. ...

3) UN: Unless blockade ends, Gaza faces years of misery
Reuters, Ynetnews, August 18, 2014

Unless negotiations to end the Gaza war succeed in lifting a blockade of the territory, Gazans will not see any improvement in their lives for at least another 15 years, the head of a UN relief agency said on Monday.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are in Egypt trying to secure a permanent ceasefire after a month of fierce fighting in the Gaza Strip destroyed whole neighborhoods and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

One of the core demands of Hamas, which controls Gaza, is the end to a long-running, Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the enclave that has stymied the economy and slowed or prevented the import of even basic building materials. ...

4) My plea to the people of Israel: Liberate yourselves by liberating Palestine
Desmond Tutu, Ha'aretz, August 14, 2014

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in an exclusive article for Ha'aretz, calls for a global boycott of Israel and urges Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land.

The past weeks have witnessed unprecedented action by members of civil society across the world against the injustice of Israel’s disproportionately brutal response to the firing of missiles from Palestine.

If you add together all the people who gathered over the past weekend to demand justice in Israel and Palestine – in Cape Town, Washington, D.C., New York, New Delhi, London, Dublin and Sydney, and all the other cities – this was arguably the largest active outcry by citizens around a single cause ever in the history of the world.

A quarter of a century ago, I participated in some well-attended demonstrations against apartheid. I never imagined we’d see demonstrations of that size again, but last Saturday’s turnout in Cape Town was as big if not bigger. Participants included young and old, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, blacks, whites, reds and greens ... as one would expect from a vibrant, tolerant, multicultural nation.

I asked the crowd to chant with me: “We are opposed to the injustice of the illegal occupation of Palestine. We are opposed to the indiscriminate killing in Gaza. We are opposed to the indignity meted out to Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks. We are opposed to violence perpetrated by all parties. But we are not opposed to Jews.”

Earlier in the week, I called for the suspension of Israel from the International Union of Architects, which was meeting in South Africa. I appealed to Israeli sisters and brothers present at the conference to actively disassociate themselves and their profession from the design and construction of infrastructure related to perpetuating injustice, including the separation barrier, the security terminals and checkpoints, and the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. “I implore you to take this message home: Please turn the tide against violence and hatred by joining the nonviolent movement for justice for all people of the region,” I said. ...


August 8 -- Four new links are listed below. Please use the link in the headline to read the entire piece on the originating website.

1) Who are the true Jewish allies of Hamas?
Peter Beinart, Ha’aretz, Aug. 6, 2014

Every day on social media, someone calls me an ally of Hamas. I find the accusation odd since I’ve not only repeatedly denounced the organization, but chided other progressives for not doing so more forcefully. But upon reflection, maybe the critics have a point. Sad as it is to admit, Hamas does have unwitting allies among our people. There are Jews who through words and deeds strengthen a group that oppresses Palestinians and tries to kill Israelis. …

2) Amnesty International: U.S. must stop supplying fuel to Israeli forces
Reuters, August 5, 2014

… “By continuing to supply fuel for [Israeli] military vehicles and fighter jets being used in attacks resulting in mounting [Gazan] civilian deaths and horrific injuries, the U.S. government will have more blood on its hands,” [Amnesty International’s] arms expert Brian Wood said.

“Instead of continuing to send shipments of fuel and arms to the Israeli military, the USA must immediately suspend all such transfers and back an international investigation into the atrocities being carried out by both sides,” the expert added. …

3) Jimmy Carter: World powers should rethink approach to Hamas
Ma’an, August 6, 2014

… "Hamas cannot be wished away, nor will it cooperate in its own demise," an op-ed written by [former U.S. president Jimmy] Carter and former Irish president Mary Robinson said. "Only by recognizing its legitimacy as a political actor -- one that represents a substantial portion of the Palestinian people -- can the West begin to provide the right incentives for Hamas to lay down its weapons," the op-ed, published in Foreign Policy, said. "Ever since the internationally monitored 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power in Palestine, the West's approach has manifestly contributed to the opposite result." …

4) The Israel-Gaza Crisis, August 8, 2014
Americans for Peace Now

The tension over whether the ceasefire would be extended or the rocket fire would renew was the big story in Hebrew newspapers today. The papers reported that the Cairo talks between the Palestinians and Israel were stalled. Israel refused to agree to Hamas' demands. Yedioth and Ynet listed Hamas' demands. Hamas warned that without an end to the blockade over Gaza it would renew fire and Israel warned back that it would respond with heavy fire. [UPDATE: And, indeed, that is what happened this morning, when militants shot rockets into Israel and Israel fired near a mosque in Gaza killing a boy. - OH] Interestingly, Maariv reported that Israeli officials were unfazed by the Hamas threats, believing that Hamas would not renew fire. "They have too much to lose," an Israeli official told Maariv. "It's a negotiation tactic." The papers also noted that U.S. President Barack Obama said, "Gaza cannot remain closed forever." ...


August 5 -- New articles added; use the links in the headlines to read the entire piece on the originating websites.

1) Gaza Names Project

Jewish Voice for Peace and the Institute for Middle East Understanding have put together this moving video memorial for the victims of Israel's latest military operation in Gaza.  The video is narrated by Wallace Shawn; other participants include Angela Davis, Roger Waters, Chuck D, Mira Nair, Naomi Klein, Michael Ratner, Tony Kushner, Jonathan Demme, Urvashi Vaid, Jody Williams, Desmond Tutu, and Gloria Steinem, among many others.

According to this BBC report, more than 1,400 Palestinians have been killed and 450,000 have been forced to leave their homes since July 8. The Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, has gone to court to win the right to publicize the names and ages of some of the children who have been killed. Apparently, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned B'Tselem from running its radio ad because its content is "politically controversial."

2) For the sake of the burning children of Gaza
Naim Ateek, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem
July 30, 2014

One of the most common refrains repeated by President Obama and other western leaders since the beginning of Israel’s massive military offensive against Gaza is “Israel has the right to defend itself.” This refrain is not new and has been declared so often, it has become a cliché. Some leaders parrot it without even thinking. Israel has used such clichés as a justification for its actions as well as an excuse to further its carnage. …

The Palestinian rockets from Gaza have an important message that Israel refuses to understand and the western powers, especially the United States, are unwilling to comprehend. The message of the rockets addresses the core issues and the root causes of the problem – STOP THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION AND FREE PALESTINE.  If this does not happen, the war will occur again and again and again, and the casualties will be mainly women and children. This conflict will continue to flare up, despite anyone’s best efforts to contain it, unless the systemic injustice of occupation is dismantled. A recent statement from Israeli academics cuts straight to the point: “Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.” (Read it here.)

3)Links from News Nosh, from Americans for Peace Now
August 5, 2014

Israel agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire with the Palestinians that began today (August 5) at 8AM, and which could turn into a long-term arrangement, and one Israeli was killed and a soldier was severely wounded in two separate attacks in the capital making the top stories in Hebrew papers today. Meanwhile, Israel violated a seven-hour humanitarian ceasefire on Monday, killing a child and Islamic Jihad commanders. Ha’aretz and Maariv military reporters quoted the IDF for a story about the humanitarian toll on Palestinians and how Israel was trying to help, while Maariv's Yasser Ukabi wrote from the Palestinian side and shared some interesting details. …

More links:

  • UK reviewing arms exports to Israel over Gaza conflict - Move similar to partial arms embargo undertaken by UK following Cast Lead; Gov't-approved UK contracts - which include body armor, drone components, and missile parts - are worth over $13 billion. (Ha'aretz)

  • U.S. allocates $225m to replenish Iron Dome - U.S. Congress allocates $225m to replenish Iron Dome parts; funding measure passes both houses in separate legislation after initially getting held up in wrangling over other spending provisions. (Ha’aretz+)

  • Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki says after meeting prosecutors at the International Criminal Court that there was "clear evidence" that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. … Malki said his administration was making efforts to have Palestine become a member of the court, a legal step that would grant the ICC jurisdiction over alleged crimes in the territory. He will visit the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands as he pushes for a war crimes case against Israel. (Reuters)

August 1-- Today we add the following five articles; use the links in the headlines to read the entire piece on the originating websites:

1) Eight Israelis wounded by mortar fire near Gaza border; two injured by rocket in Kiryat Gat
Ha’aretz, July 31, 2014

As Israel's Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, the security cabinet has ordered the military to press on with the offensive in the Gaza Strip, focusing on the destruction of Hamas' tunnel network. …

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared Gaza a "humanitarian disaster area" and urged the international community to protect and provide relief to the battered enclave. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, he accused Israel of committing war crimes.

2) The war on Gaza and the cycle of impunity: If Israel is not brought to justice, it will commit the same crimes again and again
Editors, The Nation magazine, July 16, 2014

… Israeli officials boast of their precision targeting, but the high civilian casualty rate, stemming from deliberate attacks on homes as well as a hospital, school, cafe, a rehab center for the disabled, mosques and other nonmilitary infrastructure, calls to mind the conclusion of Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy, who wrote, “The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to restore the calm; the means: killing civilians. The slogan of the Mafia has become official Israeli policy.”

… Reflexive U.S. support for Israel by politicians from both parties is of long vintage and no surprise to anyone. Even so, it was shocking and shameful to hear White House and U.S. diplomats repeatedly voice support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” as it rained bombs and missiles down on the people of Gaza.

… [Unless] the deeper issues are addressed, the cycle will continue—the cycle not of violence, but of impunity. Impunity is what happens when an aggressor fractures the norms of international law and basic human rights yet is never held to account, and so is free to commit the same crimes again and again.

That is what we’re seeing now, and that is exactly what the Goldstone Report—the findings of the UN investigation of Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09—so presciently warned against. It said then that bringing to justice those who committed war crimes—Israel as well as Hamas—was perhaps the only effective way to prevent another round of violence.

It was the United States that prevented Goldstone’s recommendations from getting a fair hearing in the UN—and it’s the United States, the world’s sole superpower, the key bankroller of Israel’s military, and the unconditional defender of Israel in international forums, that bears deep responsibility for the continuation of the decades-long occupation. Congress and the White House may seem to be an impregnable fortress to those struggling for justice on this issue. But never underestimate the power of sustained grassroots action. …

3) End the Gaza blockade to achieve peace
Washington Post, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN-5), July 29, 2014

… [Many Gazans have no association with Hamas; they] aren’t rocket shooters or combatants. For the past several years they have lived in dreadful isolation. The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom. This is not an attractive future. Gazans want and deserve the dignity of economic opportunity and freedom to move. This can be accomplished only with an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which must be considered within the framework of a cease-fire. Israelis likewise deserve to live free of rocket fire and terror attacks. In order for Israelis to live safely and securely in their homes, Hamas must give up its rockets and other weapons.

I have traveled to Gaza three times since 2009 and have visited hospitals and schools there. As I have talked with ordinary Gazans, I have not encountered anyone representing Hamas. During one visit, I had the opportunity to meet Scott Anderson, deputy director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Anderson, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said it best when I spoke to him again this week: “Unless there is material change to the status quo, you’re just resetting the clock for another cycle of violence.” Continuing to block goods and services to and from Gaza keeps the keys to opportunity away from the people who just want to live, work and travel. …

4) It’s all Hamas’ fault, right Israel?
Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz, July 31, 2014

It’s so easy to be an Israeli; your tender conscience is pure as the driven snow: Everything is Hamas’ fault. The rockets are the fault of Hamas; that can be taken for granted. Hamas started the war, for no reason; that, too, “goes without saying.” Hamas is a vicious terrorist organization, beasts in human form, born to kill, fundamentalists – and apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

… We’ll leave the root causes of this cursed repression and denial to the psychologists. Since the days when Israel accused the Palestinians of killing their own children by means of the Israel Defense Forces, we haven’t seen such denial. After incubating for years, the disease is now a raging epidemic whose carriers are now symptomatic. The national conscience hasn’t moved a muscle in response to this atrocity, and there are forces working to keep it that way. …

5) Gaza myths and facts: What American Jewish leaders won't tell you
Peter Beinart, Ha’aretz, July 30, 2014

If you’ve been anywhere near the American Jewish community over the past few weeks, you’ve heard the following morality tale: Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005, hoping the newly independent country would become the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, Hamas seized power, ransacked greenhouses, threw its opponents off rooftops and began launching thousands of rockets at Israel.

American Jewish leaders use this narrative to justify their skepticism of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. But in crucial ways, it’s wrong. And without understanding why it’s wrong, you can’t understand why this war is wrong too. …


July 16 -- The rockets from Gaza continued, killing an Israeli citizen; this is the first Israeli death in this current round of bombings, which the IDF has named Operation Protective Edge.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had no problem passing the ceasefire draft in the security-cabinet Tuesday morning. Israeli pundits agreed it was good for Israel and Egypt and bad for Hamas and the Palestinians. Ha'aretz+ writes that while the Netanyahu hammered out the deal with the Egyptians, Hamas and most of the Israeli cabinet were kept out of the loop.

From the Institute for Middle East Understanding: FAQ on failed effort to arrange ceasefire between Israel and Hamas

Only Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett opposed it. Lieberman held a press conference afterward and called to take "full control of the Gaza Strip." Likud hawk Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and MK Miri Regev both slammed Netanyahu's agreement for a ceasefire. Danon said, "A ceasefire is a slap in the face for the Israeli people." It cost him his job. Netanyahu could not dismiss Lieberman because it would cost the premier his coalition, the papers wrote.

Most Hebrew Israeli newspapers did not discuss why Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejected the Egyptian ceasefire draft. Indeed, political sources in Jerusalem told Yedioth that the rejection gave Israel unprecedented legitimacy to harshen the attacks on Gaza.

Ha'aretz+ and Ynet reported that Egypt did not consult either of the two organizations in preparing the draft, nor did it answer any of Hamas' demands. Those demands include lifting the siege on Gaza, ending the military activity in the West Bank, releasing all of those rearrested after being released in the Shalit prisoner exchange and the Hamas MPs, and improving the conditions of the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, Ha'aretz+ reported. Nonetheless, the Islamic parties said they were mulling over the draft, but analysts said that what they hoped for was mediation from Qatar and Turkey.

Even non-Hamas Palestinian officials slammed Egypt's efforts to negotiate a cease-fire with Israel, claiming that the mediators' proposal ignored Hamas entirely. "The Egyptians coordinated the initiative with Abbas and ignored Gaza," a senior PLO told Haaretz. "Hamas leaders felt humiliated by the fact that the proposal was released without them being consulted about its contents ahead of time."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas praised the ceasefire and will travel to Cairo today to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, and discuss the implementation of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. On Friday he will discuss the subject in Turkey with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdogan reportedly said Israel's policies regarding the Palestinians were no different from the mentality of Hitler. Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair also praised the truce bid and called for a long-term peace push.

Meanwhile, the shooting from Gaza continued and Israel restarted its attacks on Gaza, which it had ceased at 9AM Tuesday. The IDF dropped leaflets at 11:30 PM last night telling 100,000 Gaza residents living along the Israeli border to evacuate their homes. A senior army official told Ynet that a ground offensive was necessary to combat terror tunnels and that it could take between a week and two weeks. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the "brazen" Hamas rockets and urged a ceasefire; Israeli President Shimon Peres defended Israeli air strikes on Gaza, despite the "moral problem."

Operation Protective Edge, Day 8 roundup from Ha'aretz:

Since the operation began, Israel has launched more than 1,300 air strikes in Gaza which killed 202 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,100 people. Gaza hospitals are reporting a dire shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. More than 900 rockets and mortars have landed within Israel. Only a fraction landed in urban regions. The Iron Dome, which is only meant to intercept rockets that are headed for such areas, has an 87 percent success rate and has shot down 180 rockets over the course of the operation. Ha'aretz has an excellent update of Day 8, with no paywall.

Some of the Israeli newspaper websites ran videos where people could watch Palestinian militants' homes being bombed.

July 14 -- Israeli security officials said Hamas has been badly struck by Israel and that Israel could agree to a ceasefire. The IDF is prepared for a ground invasion that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to put off, while discussions continued over a ceasefire.

(See update from CARITAS, attached as PDF at bottom of page)

Meanwhile, the IDF continued with aerial attacks on Gaza; the death toll in Gaza is now 181 and hundreds of Gazan families in the north of the Strip are fleeing their homes.

Today the newspapers are stressing how “Hamas got hit hard.” Israeli security officials are quoted saying that Hamas is in dire straits and now Israel can make a ceasefire or go in with a ground invasion and attack all of the rockets and rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip. The decision must be made within a day or two, write the military analysts. (NOTE: Israeli security officials may have told the Israeli reporters that Hamas got hit hard in order to prepare Israelis for pulling out and ending this operation despite not having a big showy victory.)

The ceasefire would be based in part on a return to the ceasefire agreement of 2012's Pillar of Defense. Maariv writes that Israeli political sources say that Israel won't be satisfied with just returning to the understandings of 2012, like Egypt and the U.S. are offering. Netanyahu's position is still not formulated and he is waiting for the international efforts to continue. But Israeli sources have already passed messages to the various mediators (Egypt, U.S. and possibly Qatar) that Israel wants the long-range missiles removed from Gaza and wants an international system created to supervise and guarantee the implementation of the understandings and the demilitarization of Gaza.

Yedioth military analyst Alex Fishman writes that in the next 24 hours a few formulas will come up by which to narrow the differences between the two sides. "If no catastrophe takes place that causes a lot of deaths on either of the sides, it is likely that the fire will die down this week," he wrote. Yedioth also writes that Turkey, Qatar, Norway and Italy all have offered to mediate, but Israel wants only Egypt, "which can deliver the goods."

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry spoke with Netanyahu on July 13, urging him to agree to a ceasefire. Obama criticized the intensity of the military operations in Gaza, reported Maariv. Obama emphasized that the diplomatic path is preferable over massive bombing of the Gaza Strip, which would lead to severe reactions against Israel. Kerry also spoke about a ceasefire based on the 2012 agreement. He is expected here later this week to advance a ceasefire. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to discuss the situation.

In the security cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu did not give a green light for a ground operation in Gaza, despite the urging of right-wing ministers. But the cabinet decided to continue mobilizing troops while persisting in carrying out aerial attacks. Some 40,000 out of the authorized 48,000 reservists have been called up so far. As part of discussions around a potential ceasefire, the security cabinet is expected to deliberate the details of a new $50 billion economic initiative in exchange for demilitarization of Gaza put forth Sunday by former defense minister and IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz.

Since Operation Protective Edge began a week ago, the Israeli military has struck more than 1,300 targets in Gaza and brought the Palestinian death toll to 167 in six days. Ha’aretz's coverage focused on the Palestinian side. The front page reported that 13 more people were killed in Gaza and that hundreds of families fled their homes after Israeli dropped warning leaflets on neighborhoods of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, calling on them to evacuate ahead of a significant military move aimed at targeting rockets and launchers. Gaza's Interior Ministry urged residents to ignore Israel's warnings and to stay in their homes, saying the announcement was Israeli "psychological warfare" and an attempt to create confusion.

Ha’aretz+ reported on the distressing situation of Gaza's hospitals where there is an extreme shortage of medicine and equipment, particularly for trauma injuries. Hundreds of Gazans with foreign passports also fled, but they got to leave the Strip altogether. Ha’aretz+ interviewed some of them at the crossing; it has an excellent summary of Day 6 of Operation Protective Edge.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the UN to stop the Israeli operation in Gaza. Ha’aretz's+ Jack Khoury writes that Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki will ask his colleagues to draft a resolution calling for an end to the Israeli operation in Gaza that would be submitted to the Security Council for a vote later this week, or next week. The U.S. blocked the Palestinian effort to get the Security Council to pass such a resolution last week, while it was still in preliminary stages. In addition, the Palestinian Authority will ask the Swiss government to hold an emergency meeting of countries that are signatories to the Geneva Convention, which the Palestinians joined recently, to discuss the situation in Gaza.

July 11 -- Israel is striking the Gaza Strip heavily from sea and air, hitting 550 targets in Gaza since early Tuesday morning (July 8). IDF says it destroyed at least 120 concealed rocket launchers and demolished homes of Hamas regional commanders. According to one Air Force officer, Israel struck more Hamas targets in two days than it did in the entire 2012 offensive. The officer told Ha’aretz+ that Israel struck 400 targets in the Gaza Strip - dropping more than 400 tons of explosives - in 36 hours, in a bid to destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure.

The second day of Operation Protective Edge was marked by Israel's intense bombing of Gaza, doubling the Palestinian casualties, and by Gazan missiles reaching farther north and also near to the sensitive location of Israel's nuclear reactor, with no casualties and limited damage.

Gaza missiles fell north of Zichron Yaakov and were intercepted by Iron Dome near the nuclear reactor in Dimona, making the top story in Israeli papers. Over 225 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since Operation Protective Edge began, meaning about 100 each day. They only made two direct hits, both in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council: one to a house, in which the family was out. The other to an art gallery. In general, there were no injuries and little property damage from the Gazan rockets. That was mainly due to the success of Iron Dome, which intercepted 90 percent of the rockets.

**The Israeli government decided to target homes of leaders in Hamas' military wing. This has killed numerous civilians. By Wednesday night the Palestinian death toll reached 53 with over 450 people injured, most of them civilians. With the exception of Ha'aretz, that fact was almost lost on the other newspapers. Maariv did not even mention it in a sub-title on its front page. Ha'aretz and Maan give details of some of the homes bombed killing civilians:

  • There was the home of Islamic Jihad operative Hafez Hamed, who was killed along with five other family members, among them two women and two children. "Now there's only the grandfather and one of his sons left," said a relative.
  • The Al-Nawasra home in the Almagazi refugee camp killed four relatives, including a woman and her two sons, one of them a toddler. Two other children are missing.
  • A woman and her three-year-old daughter were killed when a house was blown up in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City.
  • Two children were killed in the city’s Saja’iyeh neighborhood.
  • A mother and son were killed in Beit Lahiya. 
  • The most deadly was the attack on the Kaware family home in Khan Younis, which killed eight non-combatant family members and wounded 25. The Israeli army opened a preliminary investigation and said their deaths were "in error." More details here.

The IAF has been using what it calls the “knock on the roof" method before bombing the houses: a small missile, without an explosive warhead, is fired onto the building’s roof in order to warn the residents to leave because a bomb is going to come.

However, a high-ranking IDF officer said that the defense establishment would continue to bomb the homes of senior Hamas operatives, even if it means killing the residents, when they try to prevent the bombings by standing on the roof as human shields. “We will take down those houses," he said. Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi accused the IDF of committing war crimes in Gaza by “purposefully wiping out entire families.” 

Israel began its campaign to draft the support of the international (Western) community. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. White House Spokesman John Ernst said, "No country can accept rocket shooting targeting its citizens and we support Israel's right to defend itself against these attacks." Nevertheless, the West is already calling for an immediate calm, Maariv reported. Ki-Moon called for a stop and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton slammed the shooting from Gaza, but also condemned "the high number of civilian victims, among them children, caused by Israel's retaliatory fire."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel was waging “not a war against one faction, or against Hamas, but against the entire Palestinian people and accused Israel of committing 'genocide' in Gaza. Palestinian officials urged Abbas to apply for membership in the International Court of Justice.

Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal told Israelis that Netanyahu was was the reason they were in bomb shelters and he accused Netanyahu of starving people by blocking the payment of salaries in Gaza and by ignoring the recent hunger strike by the administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. called on the international community to make it clear to Netanyahu that the Palestinians will not live under occupation. He reiterated that Hamas had no clue as to who had kidnapped the three teens in Gush Etzion, but welcomed the attack, Ha'aretz+ reported. “The kidnapping was the start of things as far as Netanyahu is concerned. As if the occupation, the settlements and the siege (on Gaza) don’t constitute a blatant violation of Palestinian rights,” he said. Meshaal also said, "If the occupation does not end, we will hit Haifa," Maariv reported.

Where to now? The Israeli political establishment relayed to the international community and to Hamas yesterday that Operation Protective Edge will expand in the upcoming days. One political source told Maariv that a ground invasion remains on the table. Meanwhile, the left-wing is calling for Netanyahu to avoid a ground invasion, while the right-wing is calling on him to increase actions. One political source told Maariv that Hamas will not be deterred at this point and will continue firing as well.

One question now is whether Egypt will mediate the ceasefire as it has done in the past. Abbas phoned Egyptian President Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi to intervene to save the Palestinian people in Gaza, Maan reported.It appears that Hamas is also trying to get the Egyptians on their side. Hamas' military wing dedicated the missile attacks on Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to the Egyptian soldiers who were killed in the October 1973 war. But AFP writes that while urging an end to the violence, Egypt "has signaled a more hands-off approach in the latest conflict, which comes at a time of mounting tensions between the new government in Cairo and Hamas." Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said, "Egyptian diplomatic efforts are aimed at immediately stopping Israeli aggression and ending all mutual violence. (Egyptian) contacts have not yet achieved a result."

Gaza crisis quickees:

  • Hamas firing long-range M-302 rockets at Israel, capable of 150-km distance - Rockets smuggled into Gaza before Klos-C cache discovered are considered more accurate than makeshift projectiles made in the Strip; Hadera struck by M-302, dozens are estimated to exist in Gaza arsenal. (Haaretz
  • IDF strikes 550 targets in Gaza - IDF says it destroyed at least 120 concealed rocket launchers, demolished homes of Hamas regional commanders, with over 165 rockets being launched from Gaza; Palestinians say old women, children killed in attacks. (Ynet)
  • Almoz: IDF has thousands more targets in Gaza - IDF Spokesperson's Unit chief says 'everything is on the table' as Gaza rocket fire continues, warns Hamas 'if there is no quiet we will act.'  (Ynet)