15 November 2012, 11:18

Israel and Gaza: new war? (UPDATES)

Israel and Gaza: new war? (UPDATES)

Hostilities between Islamist militants and Israel entered a sixth day on Monday as diplomatic efforts were set to intensify to try to stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and Israeli air strikes on Gaza.

Update 16.19

Tev Aviv behind missile shield

The Israeli military has deployed elements of its Iron Dome missile defence system to protect Tel Aviv from rockets fired by Hamas.

So far, search teams have failed to discover any fragments of the rockets that were allegedly fired on Tel Aviv on Thursday. Many believe the rockets fell into the sea.

Update 14.04

Russia, Jordan urge Israel, Palestinians to cease fire at once

Russia and Jordan have urged Israel and Palestinians to show restraint and have come out for an immediate end to hostilities.

This came in a telephone conversation between the two countries’ Foreign Ministers.

Sergei Lavrov and Nasser Joda voiced grave concern about the escalation of violence, the continued shelling of Israeli territory and disproportionate strikes on the Gaza Strip, the exacerbation of humanitarian problems of the population.

The armed confrontation around the Gaza Strip has been drastically aggravated in recent days.

Rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel and retaliatory strikes delivered for the fourth day now. Some 40 Palestinians have died since the hostilities erupted.

Three Israeli civilians have also died in a Palestinian rocket attack. Yesterday, the Israeli government put some 75,000 reservists on alert and vowed to intensify air raids into the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a rocket attack on Jerusalem.

Update 13.16

Death toll raises to 38 in Gaza

An Israeli air strike on Rafah in southern Gaza killed four people on Saturday, Palestinian medics said, raising the overall death toll from the aerial campaign to 38.

The attack came as the Tunisian foreign minister crossed into southern Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.It followed hot on the heels of other strikes elsewhere in the city which killed one, and a raid on a refugee camp in central Gaza which killed another three, medics said.

The latest strikes raised the overall death toll in Gaza to 38 as a relentless Israeli air campaign against Gaza militants entered its fourth straight day.The identities of the four killed in the latest Rafah strike were not immediately clear.

Earlier, medics said three people had been killed in Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza and another man had died in a raid on Tel al-Sultan neighbourhood in Rafah.

"Three men died in an Israeli air strike on Maghazi camp in central Gaza," said emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya.

Palestinian security sources said that all four were Hamas militants.

Update 12.04

Tunisian FM arrives in Gaza

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem arrived in Gaza on Saturday morning, crossing via the southern Rafah border point, on a brief solidarity visit, a Hamas spokesman said.

"The Tunisian delegation led by Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem has arrived in Gaza and is en route to the headquarters of the government destroyed by the occupation this morning, where he will meet with government officials," interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan said.

Update 10.59

Israel raid kills 3 militants in Gaza, hiking toll to 33

An Israeli air strike killed three Palestinians in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday, medics said, with Palestinian security sources confirming they were Hamas militants.

The latest deaths raised the overall death toll in Gaza to 33 as a relentless Israeli air campaign against Gaza militants entered its fourth straight day.

"Three men died in an Israeli air strike on Maghazi camp in central Gaza," said emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya.A Palestinian security source said that all three were militants from the armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Update: 09:05

Israel air strikes hit Hamas HQ

Israeli aircraft have delivered strikes on the HAMAS movement headquarters in the Gaza Strip.

The building, which hosted Palestinian Autonomy Prime Minister Ismail Haniya’s Office, was almost razed to the ground. There have been no reports so far of anyone killed or injured.

A day earlier, the Egyptian Prime Minister, Hisham Qandil, visited the HAMAS headquarters and described the situation in Gaza as Israeli aggression.

Meanwhile,Israel has been pounding on Gaza for the fourth day today. At least 30 Palestinians have been killed over the period.

Three Israeli civilians also died in Gaza rocket fire. Yesterday, the Israeli government put 75,000 reservists on alert and vowed to intensify air raids into the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the rocket attack on Jerusalem.

Israel resumes large-scale bombardment of Gaza

Israel resumed its massive bombardment of the Gaza Strip earlier today amid preparations for a likely ground invasion into the Palestinian enclave.

Yesterday, the Israeli Air Force delivered over 200 strikes on Gaza, killing 11 Palestinians. The overall death toll of the last three days of airstrikes has grown to 29.

According to the Palestinian Al-Aqsa radio station, the Israeli Air Force fired several missiles at the building of the chief police headquarters in the city of Gaza following a four-hour lull.

Air raids shelling by naval ships have also been reported from the cities of Rafah, Khan Yunis, Deir al-Balah and the El-Bureij refugee camp.

Israel has so far resorted to missile and artillery fire, but the Israeli authorities do not rule out a ground invasion into Gaza.

Yesterday, the Israeli government authorized the army to call up 75,000 reservists.

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had a telephone conversation to take up the situation in Gaza and reiterated the need for urgent action to speedily end the violence.

Update: 05:30

Gaza conflict: UN concerned about child casualties

The United Nations has voiced concern about the number of child casualties resulting from Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

At least four Palestinian children have been killed and over 60 injured in Israeli airstrikes since Wednesday, according to the UN.

An 11-month-old boy and a pregnant woman are among the dead.

The organization also believes that 50 Israeli civilians including children have been injured by Hamas rockets fired into Israel.

The UN special body for the protection of children has called for an immediate end to the bloodshed. “I call on all parties to immediately stop the violence and to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect girls and boys from the fighting,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui.

Update: 03:40

Panic in Gaza, humanitarian situation deteriorating - UN

According to the UN, panic is starting to spread in the Gaza Strip after the massive bombardment by Israeli Air Force and Navy. The population is stocking up on food and fuel, medical supplies are running out.

All schools are closed; delivery of humanitarian goods has been blocked.

According to some reports, the UN Secretary-General intends to visit the area on Tuesday. He will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Since November 14, Israel has been conducting its military operation "Pillar of Cloud” in Gaza, aiming to wipe out the militants and their infrastructure.

According to the UN, the attacks have killed 27 people, leaving around 200 wounded.

Update: 02:05

Putin and Erdogan discuss Gaza

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Friday discussed by telephone the situation in Gaza. The parties reaffirmed a need for urgent efforts to end the violence as soon as possible, and return the situation to a peaceful course, reports the press service of the Kremlin.

"Due to escalation of the armed conflict, the Russian President and Prime Minister of Turkey agreed to further coordinate their actions – both bilaterally, and in collaboration with all sides concerned," says the statement.

Putin and Erdogan also exchanged views on topical issues in Russian-Turkish relations in the context of the forthcoming meeting of the Cooperation Council.

Update: 00:52

Russia urges Israel to defuse situation in Gaza

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged Israelis and Palestinians to show restraint and "not allow violence to spiral out of control" in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday the minister held telephone talks with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman.

The Russian Foreign Minister reminded that the conflict claimed, besides others, "lives of innocent civilians."

Update: 22.24

Palestinians shoot down Israeli fighter jet in Gaza

Palestinian fighters have downed an Israeli warplane flying over the Gaza Strip as retaliatory rocket attacks from the enclave continue to sound alarms across Israel.

According to Hamas sources, the Israeli F-16 fighter jet was shot down on Friday.

Meanwhile, several Israelis were injured after three rockets fired from Gaza hit the Zionist settlement of Gush Etzion in al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Palestinian missiles and rockets have also hit the other Israeli cities of Tel Aviv, Eshkol, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Be'er Sheva.

Hospitals across Israel are now in state of emergency.

Palestinians have fired over 550 rockets and missiles into Israel since Wednesday after Tel Aviv launched a major military strike against the besieged Palestinian territory, killing scores of people, including women and children.

The Israeli Army says it has hit more than 600 targets in Gaza during the past three days.

According to Israeli sources, the Iron Dome missile shield has only intercepted one-fifth of the rockets fired from the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, residents of the besieged Gaza Strip say they are getting text messages warning of military escalation as reports suggest that Israeli military forces are preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza.

Update: 21:46

Israel’s Defense Minister seeks further troop mobilization

Defence Minister Ehud Barak sought government approval on Friday to mobilise up to 75,000 reserve troops for Israel's Gaza campaign, political sources said, in a sign of preparations for a possible ground offensive.

The sources, speaking after Palestinian rockets were fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, said ministers were being polled by telephone by the cabinet secretary to approve the call-up.

Since November 14, Israel has been conducting the military operation "Pillar of Cloud” in the Gaza strip, which seeks to wipe out militants and their infrastructure.

The fighting has already claimed the lives of 24 Palestinians and three Israelis.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry has announced that within a day or so troops may begin a ground phase of the operation.

Update 21.26

Un Chief to visit Palestinian territories soon: Abbas

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will visit the Palestinian territories "in two or three days," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Friday in a televised address.

"The UN secretary general will be with us in two or three days," Abbas said in remarks made after 48 hours of bloodshed in and around the Gaza Strip, where Israel is pressing a relentless bombing campaign against militants.

Update 19.43

Moscow urges immediate end to Gaza conflict

Moscow has urged Palestine and Israel to put an immediate end to the Gaza conflict, the country’s Foreign Ministry stated Friday.

Russia is extremely concerned over the situation and urged the warring parties to stop strikes which cause civilian deaths, the Ministry said in a statement.

Update 19.18

Rocket hits settler bloc south of Jerusalem

A rocket fired by militants in the Gaza Strip hit a West Bank settlement bloc just south of Jerusalem, Israeli police said on Friday, with the army saying it had called no injuries or damages.

"Preliminary information shows that a rocket fell in Gush Etzion in Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank) and police are on their way over there," spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

The army confirmed that a rocket fire from Gaza had landed "outside of Jerusalem" but would not specify further."A rocket fired from Gaza hit an open area outside of Jerusalem, causing no injuries or damage," a spokesman said.

Rocket landed outside Jerusalem - Israeli media

A rocket fired toward Jerusalem from the Gaza Strip landed outside the city, Israeli media reports said.

Hamas militants in Gaza said they fired a long-range rocket at Jerusalem.

Update 18.58

Air raid sirens sound in Jerusalem

Air raid sirens sounded in Jerusalem on Friday and Israeli Army Radio said the alert was intended for Israeli towns near the holy city.

Air raid sirens wailed across Jerusalem on Friday as press reports spoke of three blasts in the city, just hours after a rocket fired by militants in Gaza landed in the sea off Tel Aviv.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli police or the army, with both saying they were checking into the incident.

The armed wing of Islamist group Hamas said it fired a Qassam rocket towards Jerusalem, minutes after air raid sirens sounded around the holy city.

Update 17.57

Gaza ground op can bring many deaths: ex- Israeli Commander

Ran Ronen Peker, the former Commander of the Israeli Air Force, is against a ground operation in Gaza.

He stated this in an interview with the Yedioth Ahronot daily Friday, saying that an operation can cause numerous deaths both among Israeli troops and Gaza residents.

Earlier, Israeli troops have been reported ready for a possible operation in the Gaza Strip.Some 16,000 reserve troops across Israel are being mobilized.


Voice of Russia correspondent in Israel Evgeny Erlikh reports on situation in Tel Aviv

These moments, news agencies are receiving urgent messages. Today the air raid alert sounded again in Tel-Aviv. Sometime later, the sound of an explosion was heard. According to the preliminary data, two missiles were fired in the direction of the city, and both of them blew up, not having reached the city. Now this information is being verified. Our Middle East correspondent Eugeniy Ehrlich reports live from Israel.

Hello, Eugeniy. You said that the missiles had not reached Tel-Aviv.

We should give some explanations here. The thing is that Tel-Aviv is a small city. There is such a notion as “Gush Dan” that means a big city. So, as regards its terrirory, Tel-Aviv is, probably, a big city that can be compared with Moscow. And it incorporates such towns as Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, Bat Yam, and Holon.

We have no reports of casualties so long, thank God. But it should be noted that the mere fact of Tel-Aviv’s bombardment completely changes the status of this military operation, of this anti-terrorist operation against the Gaza Strip, and, in general, of this whole war.

Tel-Aviv was last bombarded in 1992. It is a peaceful city, as well as all the surrounding towns. And now that we say it’s the second time a missile was fired at Tel Aviv, we mean that now this war has indeed become a people’s war. And it is clear that the army will react differently. We still do not know, whether the commander-in-chief will decide for a ground operation – landing of the Marines in the Gaza Strip. But with every missile shot at Tel Aviv we understand that this step is becoming closer. And it seems that in the near future this war will cease to be just a tactical war with the use of missiles, and will become a full-scale war.

Eugeniy, there are reports about 16 thousand reservists being recruited in Israel now. Is it so?

It is true. No one hides. The Israeli army, the Israeli Command openly says and shows, what is really happening. All the information is open. We watch it on TV. The Israeli reservists are now to replace the regular army units in the North of the country, and these regular units will be actively moved forward to the Gaza Strip, where there already are two divisions in full combat readiness. Given the size of the country, the General Headquarters believes that all the forces necessary for this operation can be gathered there in a few hours. As a rule, the troops enter Gaza at night. And after the second bombardment of Tel-Aviv it is not excluded, that this operation can begin this night.


Update 17.45

Israeli troops ready for Gaza ground op

Israeli troops are ready for a possible ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces reported Friday.

The Givati infantry brigade and paratroopers are 100% prepared for a potential op and are on alert, ready to enter Gaza if such necessity arises, says the Defense Forces website.

Update 17.26

Gaza op to last till bitter end- Ambassador

Israel can so far give no specific terms or duration of the Gaza ground operation, the country’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Russia Dorit Golender stated Friday.

She said that if Israel launches an anti-terrorist ground operation it should last till the bitter end and this can take two weeks or a month.

On Friday, Israel started drafting 16000 reservetroops, as part of the Gaza Strip operation. Earlier, the government approved mobilizing 30,000 troops near the border.

Update 16.43

Putin lauds Egypt’s peacemaking in Gaza

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Mohammad Mursi have held a telephone conversation on the escalating crisis in Gaza, the Kremlin reports.

Mr. Putin said he welcomed Cairo’s initiative to rein in the flaring conflict around the Gaza strip.

The two heads of state also “discussed urgent bilateral issues and stressed that Egypt and Russia were equally interested in a tighter cooperation between the two nations.”

Mohammad Mursi accepted Putin’s invitation to visit Russia.

Update 16.07

Gaza shelling is no war - Israeli ambassador

Israel's ambassador to Russia Dorit Golender has stressed that the fire on Gaza is an anti-terror operation and not a war.

Mr. Golender underscroed the starting point goes back further than November 14. It is an answer to Palestinians’ shelling and assaults on Israeli troops that happened as early as two weeks ago, he said.

Update 15.56

One killed in new Gaza strike

One Palestinian was killed and another injured in a new Israeli air strike on the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis on Friday, emergency services in the territory said.

"The citizen Ismail Qandil was martyred and one other person was moderately injured," an emergency services statement said.

Update 15.38

Sirens off in Tel Aviv again

Air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv on Friday and an explosion was heard, witnesses said, and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip said they had fired a rocket at Israel's commercial centre.

A police spokesman acknowledged an explosion had been heard but said there was no initial indication a rocket had struck the city nor any immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The armed wing of the Islamist Hamas movement said it had fired a Qassam rocket at Tel Aviv.

Palestinian militants in Gaza launched two rockets toward the city on Thursday.

One fell in the sea, a security source said, and the other landed in a Tel Aviv suburb, causing no damage or casualties.

Update 15.17

Gaza ready for truce with Israel

Palestine’s government controlling the Gaza Strip is ready for truce with Israel but wants ceasefire and no-border raids guarantees in exchange, Hamas deputy PM Ziad al Zaza told reporters Friday.

Earlier, Hamas totally rejected the truce option saying that Israel has to pay the price for the killing of the head of Hamas military wing, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari.

Update 15.10

Tunisian FM to visit Gaza Saturday

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem will visit Gaza on Saturday, the presidency said, in a statement denouncing Israeli "aggression" on the Palestinian enclave.

"The presidency of the republic has informed the president of the government in Gaza that a high-level delegation headed by the foreign minister and including the (Tunisian) president's chief of staff will be sent to Gaza tomorrow," it said.


Voice of Russia correspondent in Israel Evgeny Erlikh reports on today’s events 

Could you please describe the situation on the Israeli-Palestinian border? Is Tel Aviv intent to go on with its military campaign?

I said “Good morning” for a reason because this morning was, to my mind, particularly good to us. Our monitoring services reported only eleven missiles fired at Israel last night for the first time since the escalation of conflict. Under any other circumstances, a bunch of eleven rockets falling on the heads of Israelis wouldn’t have seemed an amount to be trifled with but, compared to the past few days and nights, rocket fire at Israel has significantly decreased.

On the other hand, one shell exploded in a parking lot in the city of Ashdod. Residents allegedly required medical and psychological assistance. Another missile hit an industrial building and burned it down to the ground. So, as you see, we can say there’re fewer rockets coming our way but it’s still a war going on here.

The Israeli artillery was busy last night pounding Gaza. According to the army’s press office, it destroyed 150 targets in the Gaza strip. The aim of this shelling, the military say, is to reduce the intensity of Gaza fire. If the army sticks to its goals and if you believe the Israeli press office, you can say they have reached their aim, judging by what was going on overnight.

Still, we saw rocket fire intensify at 8.15am local time, or at 10.15am MST. Four shells were fired at the Ashkelon district, although they were intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system. It’s a brand new system. The Iron Dome was deployed a year and a half ago and it really made the life of Israelis better. It calculates the expected hit point and intercepts only the missiles that are a threat to residential compounds. The system shot down over 150 rockets over the span of four days, that’s potentially one Israeli life for each rocket because they were targeting residents. So the Israeli people are very grateful to those who designed this anti-missile shield.

And indeed we were all shocked by what happened yesterday when Hamas showed they actually had rockets that were capable of reaching the heart of the country, cities like Tel Aviv and Rishon LeZion. A total of three missiles made it into what we call Gush Dan, the center of Israel. These regions have never been under fire before. Several education centers deep in the country were closed today.

It’s clear now that the war has taken on a new turn. Now it’s a “people’s war,” if you will. Previously, only the areas within 40 kilometers of Israel's border with Gaza used to come under fire and we knew that people there were forced to live in bunkers. But everyone got used to such reports. This zone has recently expanded to 75 kilometers. Considering the size of Israel, it means half of the country is now under fire, which makes a big difference in the war.


Update 14.41

Israel suspends fire on Gaza for 2 hours

The Israeli military claims to have been holding fire for the past two hours during the visit of Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to the Gaza strip.

Israel underscored that it had suspended its offensive in Gaza despite the 50 missiles that were launched against its southern territories from the Gaza territory over the same period.

Palestinian media reported that two people had allegedly been killed in an Israeli airstrike following Qandil’s arrival.

The Israeli military said it wouldn’t jeopardize the prime minister’s security.

Update 13:13

Egypt to intensify truce efforts to halt 'aggression': PM 

Egyptian premier Hisham Qandil vowed Friday to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a truce and end Israel's "aggression" in Gaza, after a strike killed two as he visited the strip.

"Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce," he said at a press conference in Gaza City's Shifa hospital after seeing some victims from the latest strike.

Update 12:56

Egypt's PM in Gaza denounces Israel's attacks as "aggression" 

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, on a brief visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday, denounced Israel's attacks on the Palestinian territory as aggression.

"This tragedy cannot pass in silence and the world should take responsibility in stopping this aggression," Kandil said during a visit to a Gaza hospital. Fighting continued along the Israel-Gaza border during Kandil's three-hour visit.

Update 12:38

Israel strikes 'kill 2 in Gaza' as Egypt PM visits 

Israeli war planes bombed northern Gaza on Friday morning, killing two as Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil paid a visit, Palestinian security sources and medics told AFP.

"The occupation's planes bombed a group of citizens in the Nazila area" in northern Gaza, the source said, shortly after Israel accused Hamas of failing to observe a ceasefire during the Egyptian premier's visit.

Update 12:25

Hamas not respecting lull as Egypt PM visits: Israel 

Hamas militants are not respecting a temporary lull in the fighting around Gaza which was agreed to by Israel on Friday for the duration of a brief visit by the Egyptian prime minister, an Israeli official said.

"Hamas does not respect the Egyptian PM's visit to Gaza and violates the temporary cease fire that Israel agreed to during the visit," said Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Update 11:08

Israel calls 16,000 reserve troops to arms 

Israel has summoned 16,000 reserve troops to invade the Gaza strip after the military were given a government’s permit Thursday to mobilize some 30,000 soldiers, giving way to rumours of a possible ground operation on the Palestinian territory.

The call-to-arms sounded in the wake of Operation Pillar of Cloud, launched on Gaza after days of escalating tensions.

Israel's media report that Israeli infantry, including units of the elite Givati Brigades, are being moved towards the Gaza strip.

Israel last carried out a land invasion in Gaza four years ago as part of Operation Cast Lead 2008-2009, which claimed the lives of over a thousand Palestinians. Most of the civil losses resulted from the ground attack.

Update 11:00

Egyptian prime minister arrives in Gaza  

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil arrived in the Gaza Strip on Friday to show solidarity with the Palestinian people following a two-day Israeli military offensive in the enclave, an Egyptian official said.

Israel has said it will suspend all military action during Kandil's three-hour visit so long as the Islamist group Hamas also halts fire. 

Update 10:12

Israel agrees to stop strikes at Gaza during Egyptian PM visit

Israel will stop its offensive action in the Gaza Strip during a three-hour visit by the Egyptian prime minister to the territory on Friday, a senior Israeli government official said.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to an Egyptian request to cease all offensive operations in Gaza during the visit of the Egyptian prime minister there this morning, which is supposed to last for about three hours,” Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said.

“In the answer that has been forwarded to Egyptians, we've said that the Israel Defense Forces will cease fire on the condition that there won't be fire from Gaza into Israel during that period,” the official said.

Update 10:02

Protests in US cities against Israel Gaza operation 

Protests were held in several US cities Thursday against Israel’s large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. In New York, dozens gathered outside Israel’s consulate general to support Palestinians and criticize Israel and Washington, which backs Tel Aviv.

The protesters were US citizens, Arabs and Jews. The protests in New York were organized by the Al-Auda public organization, which is pressing for a return of Palestinians to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands. Similar protests have been reported from Boston and Washington.

Update 9:47

Israeli aircraft delivered up to 130 strikes on Gaza last night 

Israeli combat aircraft delivered up to 130 strikes on the Gaza Strip last night following a missile attack on Tel Aviv by Palestinian radicals.

The air raids were conducted as part of the Cloud Pillar operation, which was launched Wednesday to stop the Palestinian rebels’ attacks.

Both parties to the conflict have already suffered casualties. In Gaza, 16 Palestinians died, while 150 others were wounded. In Israel, three civilians were killed by rocket fire, while 45 others were injured.

To boost the operation, the Israeli command has moved the Givatielite infantry brigade to the administrative border of Gaza. Givati has already fought in the Gaza Strip and, according to the UK media, is best prepared to fight the rebels of HAMAS radical movement. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has already ordered the call-up of 30,000 reservists.

Update 9:33

Palestinians repeat call for UN action on Israeli strikes 

The Palestinian Authority renewed its call on Thursday for the U.N. Security Council to take action to stop Israel's attacks against the Gaza Strip, a day after the 15-nation body held an inconclusive emergency meeting on the escalating conflict.

"The mobilization of Israeli occupying forces on the ground, including the amassing of tanks, armored vehicles and buses near the Gaza border are cause for serious concern and demand the attention of the international community," the Palestinian U.N. observer, Riyad Mansour, wrote to the U.N. Security Council.

"We thus reiterate our urgent appeal to the Security Council to uphold its (U.N.) Charter duties and to act now to protect the Palestinian civilian population under Israel's occupation in accordance with international humanitarian law," he wrote to Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the Security Council this month.

Update 08.30

Israel strikes at Gaza

Israeli Air Force struck out about seventy times at suspected militant targets in Gaza Thursday evening, following reports of a rocket landing outside the town of Rishon le-Zion, 15 kilometers from the Israeli capital killing no one.

Both sides have suffered considerable losses since the start of Operation Pillar of Cloud with three Israelis killed and 45 injured and 19 people killed and 150 injured in Gaza.

The Israeli military has been moving ground troops and armor towards the Gaza Strip and has already been authorized to call up 30,000 reservists in case of need.

Update 06.15

Hamas reports one IDF strike near a graveyard in the Al Shujaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City, also two strikes in Rafah and in Khan Younis, as well as IAF shelling in the Strip. No injuries reported.

Since beginning of the operation in Gaza, Magen David Adom rescue services has treated 54 Israelis wounded, including the three Israeli casualties in Kiryat Malakhi.

Update 04.55

Hollande has begun talks with Netanyahu

French President Francois Hollande has begun talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders in an attempt to avert an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ayrault said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also spoke to Netanyahu, saying Hamas bore the principal responsibility for the crisis.

The United States has asked countries that have contact with Hamas to urge the group to stop its recent rocket attacks from Gaza, a White House adviser said on Thursday.

Update 04.30

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon notifies Israeli government of an upcoming visit to Jerusalem, Cairo, and Ramallah, to take place on Tuesday, following the escalation of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Ministry adds that at this stage, the UN Secretary General is not expected to visit Gaza. In addition, it is still unclear if Ban will arrive equipped with a plan for a cease-fire.

Red alert sounds in Ashkelon

Update 04.00

Missiles fall near PM’s house in Gaza as Israel intensifies attacks

A targeted missile strike launched from an Israeli Navy warship has hit a vehicle near the home of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, according to Israeli media. This comes as Israel intensifies its attacks on Gaza.

Residents say the strike also destroyed an electricity generator near Haniyeh’s house. It was unclear whether he was at home at the time of the assault. No casualties have been reported in the latest attack.

Meanwhile Israeli Defense Force spokesperson has said in an official Twitter: “During the past hour, the IDF targeted approx. 70 underground medium range rocket launching sites in Gaza. Direct hits were confirmed.”

Update 02.30

Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip targeted Tel Aviv on Thursday in the first attack on Israel's commercial capital in 20 years, raising the stakes in a showdown between Israel and the Palestinians that is moving towards all-out war.

Earlier, a Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 19, six of them children.

In its latest update the IDF said more than 300 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel, and that the Iron Dome program had intercepted 120.

Israel moves elite brigade towards Gaza

Israel has moved units of the elite Givati Brigades towards the Gaza Strip on the second day of its counter-terror operation Pillar of Cloud.

The Givati Brigades have ample experience of fighting Hamas radicals in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier authorized the call-up of reservists for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory after a long-range rocket, fired from the enclave, landed in Tel Aviv.

Local police have not yet found any traces of the missile’s landing either in or outside the city.

Update 01.15

Israeli Defense Minister approves summons of 30,000 soldiers for Gaza operation

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has reportedly approved the summons of 30,000 reserve soldiers. The troops can be called into action by the military at any point, an IDF spokesman told Israel’s Channel 2 TV, as quoted by AFP.

Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai said the army was in the process of expanding the Gaza operation.

Some of those called up would be dispatched to replace existing units in their routine duties.

According to Mordechai, the army plans to continue its attacks on terror targets in Gaza until the operation’s goals are met. He added that it was “far too early to talk about a ceasefire.”

Journal of Turkish Weekly reports quoting The Associated Press about Israeli infantry and armored units being moved towards the enclave’s borders. Israeli forces last entered Gaza in winter 2008 during Operation cast Lead which left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead.

Update 00.10

Hezbollah leader is delivering a speech on the crisis in Gaza

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is attacking Arab leaders for not providing more support to Gazans. He says Israel is taking advantage of the Syrian conflict in order to wage an assault on Gaza.

He says things have changed since 2008. At the time Hezbollah could provide support to Gaza through Syria, he said. This time, because of the fighting in Syria, that's not possible, he says.

There have been no reports of the Lebanese group, to Israel's north, trying to ferry aid into Gaza in the current conflict.

Update 23.30

A video just uploaded to YouTube purports to depict the interception of rockets by Israel's Irone Dome system in area of Be'er Sheva. People can be heard counting the rockets in the video, which was shot in the dark.

Within the last half hour Haaretz reported a home in the city was hit by a rocket and that one person is being treated for shock.

Gaza rocket strikes outskirts of Tel Aviv

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck an Israeli city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv on Thursday, exploding in an open area within the municipal limits of Rishon Lezion, the army said.

Air raid sirens sounded in Rishon Lezion, a city some 12 km (seven miles) south of Tel Aviv, and an explosion was heard. A military spokeswoman said the rocket hit an uninhabited area.

There were no reports of damage or casualties. Israeli media reports said the rocket came down near an amusement park in sand dunes on the edge of Rishon Lezion, a city of 300,000 people.

It was the northernmost point struck by a rocket since Israel's Gaza offensive began on Wednesday.

Islamic Jihad claims rocket fire at Tel Aviv

The armed wing of the radical Islamic Jihad on Thursday said it had fired an Iranian-built rocket at the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.

"The Quds Brigades hit the occupied city of Tel Rabea (Tel Aviv) with a Fajr 5 rocket causing a large explosion to shake the city," the group said in a brief statement.

Gaza rocket fired at Tel Aviv, lands in sea

A rocket fired at Tel Aviv from the Gaza Strip on Thursday landed in the sea, an Israeli security source said.

Air raid sirens sounded in Israel's commercial centre during the evening rush hour, sending commuters scurrying from buses to seek shelter, and an explosion was heard.

Israel's chief military spokesman said no rocket had struck the city. A security source said it fell into the Mediterranean.

Update 21.05

Tel Aviv on bomb alert

Tel Aviv residents are asked to go to bomb shelters, the VoR correspondent in Israel reports.

An air raid siren went off in Tel Aviv Thursday. This was the first time the siren has sounded since the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for the shelling.

Earlier, more blasts have been reported in southern Tel Aviv and the cities of Yaffo, Bat Yam, Holon and Rehovot.

Hamas militants have fired over 380 rockets at Israel, some of them were long-distance ones and hit the suburbs of Dimona, 75 km of the Gaza Strip.

One rocket struck Rishon Lesion located near Tel Aviv. No casualties or damage have so far been reported.

The militants allegedly used Fajr-5 missiles that the Israeli troops have been seeking to destroy since the launch of the Gaza operation.

According to the local military, the Iron Domesystem intercepted some 100 rockets targeting large cities in southern Israel.

The region is still under sporadic fire.

Update 20.44

US blames Hamas for Gaza conflict

The United States on Thursday blamed Hamas for an explosion of violence in Gaza after salvoes of rockets were fired into Israel in retaliation for the killing of the group's military chief.

Expressing regret for the victims on both sides of the conflict, White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was "no justification" for the violence on the part of Hamas, saying it "does nothing to help the Palestinians."

Update 20.32

Putin urges Palestine, Israel not to escalate the conflict

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has urged Palestine and Israel to be reserved and prevent the Gaza conflict escalation.

Putin talked the Gaza strikes with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone Thursday.

Putin expressed hope that the warring parties will do their best to return things back to normal and expressed concerns over civilian deaths.

On November 14, the Israeli air force eliminated the head of Hamas military wing, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, and announced the launch of the Pillar of Defense operation striking Gaza cities. Some 16 Palestinians have been reported dead and over 100 injured.

In response, Hamas militants counterstruck southern Israel with 200 rockets. Casualties have been reported.

Update 19.51

Egypt PM to visit Gaza on Friday

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil will visit the Gaza Strip on Friday as Israel presses a major air campaign against the territory, the ruling Hamas government said on Thursday.

"The Egyptian leadership informed us that Prime Minister Hisham Qandil will visit Gaza tomorrow, accompanied by a number of ministers. We welcome this visit and appreciate this courageous stand," Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said.

Update 19.38

Gaza rocket strikes outskirts of Tel Aviv

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck an Israeli city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv on Thursday, exploding in an open area within the municipal limits of Rishon Lezion, the army said.

Air raid sirens sounded in Rishon Lezion, a city some 12 km (seven miles) south of Tel Aviv, and an explosion was heard. A military spokeswoman said the rocket hit an uninhabited area.

There were no reports of damage or casualties. Israeli media reports said the rocket came down near an amusement park in sand dunes on the edge of Rishon Lezion, a city of 300,000 people.

It was the northernmost point struck by a rocket since Israel's Gaza offensive began on Wednesday.

Update 18.48

Hamas rejects truce talks with Israel for now

Gaza's Hamas rulers on Thursday said they would not consider a truce with Israel for now, as Israeli planes pounded Gaza and militants fired hundreds of rockets into the Jewish state.

"We will not be exposed to further tricks by the occupation.

We consider talk of a truce at this time an attempt to provide more cover for the continuation of the escalation on Gaza," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at a press conference.

Update 18.06

Israel to defend its citizens by 'whatever action necessary': PM

Israel will take "whatever action is necessary" to defend its citizens from Palestinian rocket attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday as the military pressed a massive operation in Gaza.

Israel will "continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people," he said at a televised press conference in Tel Aviv.

Update 17.08

Israel will never defeat Gaza - Hamas chief

Israel will never defeat Gaza, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled chief of the Hamas movement which rules the Palestinian territory, said in a defiant speech in Sudan on Thursday.

"This enemy is weak and cannot vanquish Gaza," Meshaal told a major conference of Sudanese Islamists.

Update 17.04

Tech-savvy Israel starts media war on Gaza via FB, Twitter

Israel has launched an unprecedented propaganda war on the Gaza-rooted Hamas movement while setting warplanes against the troubled Palestinian land.

Global media report tech-savvy Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to have blanketed all sorts of social networks with their take on the attack, posting Facebook updates, live-tweets and YouTube videos.

The violence erupted Wednesday when Israeli military took out a Hamas top-flyer and chief of its armed wing, Ahmed Jaabari, triggering a deadly confrontation that has already taken the lives of 15 Gaza civilians.

Since that killing, IDF’s twitter account @IDFSpokesperson has been sending multiple updates on the military operation using the hashtags #IsraelUnderFire or #PillarOfDefense. The messages are also tweeted in French (@Tsahal_IDF) and in Spanish (@FDIonline).

It has sent a warning to Hamas, reading: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

Hamas answered the threat with a text from @AlqassamBrigade, saying the Israelis have “opened hell gates on yourselves.”

Update 16.47

Death toll in Gaza conflict rises to 15

Two more Palestinians were killed in Israeli air strikes on Thursday as militants fired some 250 rockets over the border, killing three Israelis, officials on both sides said.

Hamas health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said a strike in the northern town of Beit Lahiya had killed a 60-year-old man, and the emergency services announced that a child had died of wounds he sustained in a morning strike on Khan Yunis earlier Thursday.

The latest violence raised to 15 the total number of Gazans killed in 22 hours of Israeli air strikes, which also left at least 150 people injured, medics said.

Update 16.14

Hamas leader vows to put up resistance after Jaabari takeout

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal on Thursday condemned the killing of military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari and vowed to continue the "resistance" against Israel after the Jewish state launched an offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza.

"Men and women in Palestine, we will continue the resistance," Meshaal said at a meeting of Islamic leaders in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

Update 16:05

Russia’s Putin concerned over Gaza crisis

Russia has voiced its concern about the escalating conflict in the Gaza strip where Israel launched a special military operation on Wednesday.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is reported to be closely following the situation in the region and is planning a series of international contacts in this regard, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said.

“We are following the situation very closely. President Vladimir Putin is receiving information online. Of course, we are all very concerned,” Mr. Peskov told reporters.

 

Israel is moving troops to the Gaza strip border

It doesn’t exclude a large-scale military operation. Israel is currently only using its air fleet but the army has already deployed its land troops in the border area and is waiting for a command to act.


"If the East is a ‘delicate matter,’ the Middle East is unpredictable as well,” Voice of Russia’s special correspondent Yevgeny Erlikh says. “Even several hours before the launch of Israel’s full-scale attack against Hamas rebel fighters this scenario still seemed most unlikely to the Israeli military. The decision was taken by top officials who were doubtful till the eleventh hour.”

“Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is gearing up in the run-up to the parliamentary elections. His fate will be sealed in January, so he’s reluctant to risk the lives of his soldiers and his reputation of a politician who is both wise and determined. Almost all experts agree that it won’t come to a war,” the Voice of Russia correspondent says.


Irina Zvyagelskaya, Professor of Oriental Studies at the Moscow Institute of International Relations, has commented the situation in the Middle East in an interview to the Voice of Russia. 

How possible do you think is an Israeli land invasion in the Gaza strip? 

I don’t think we should exclude this possibility, although I hope it’s not regarded as the only way out. I hope they’ll manage to do without an invasion. 

What’s the reason behind this escalation of tensions? 

As you know, Israel has called this operation Pillar of Cloud. It began with the killing of a brigadier general with Izzadin Al Kassam brigades, a man who commanded Hamas’s armed wing and soon started limiting the power of Palestine’s political leadership, including Prime Minister Hania, who has proved to be a very pragmatic leader. This has long been a source of concern for Israel’s political and military elite. I believe it was a preemptive attack to take out a person who was responsible for military command. 

UN Security Council ad hoc meeting was convened today and there is an opinion that the present escalation could help the Palestinian Authority in its bid for independence. Do you agree with it? 

I wouldn’t be so sure because, as you might know, it’s not easy to gain statehood. The process also involves negotiations. There’s no dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian leadership at the moment.


Israeli police said the three died when a Palestinian rocket hit a four-story building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, some 25 km (15 miles) north of Gaza. They were the first Israeli fatalities of the latest conflict to hit the coastal region.

Israel on Wednesday assassinated Hamas's military mastermind and shelled the enclave from the land, sea and air, killing 13 people, including five militants, three children and a pregnant woman. More than 100 were wounded.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting late on Wednesday to discuss the Israeli assault. It called for a halt to the violence, but took no action.

Expecting days or more of fighting, Israel warned Hamas that all its men were in its sights and dropped leaflets in Gaza telling residents to keep their distance from militants and Hamas facilities.

"The leaflets stress that Hamas is dragging the region toward violence, and that the IDF is prepared to defend the residents of the State of Israel until quiet is restored to the region," the military said in a statement.

Israel weathered censure from influential Arab powers Egypt and Qatar. The United States condemned Hamas, shunned by the West as an obstacle to peace for its refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Hamas has said the killing of its top commander, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, would "open the gates of hell" for Israel. It also appealed to neighbouring Egypt to halt the "barbaric" assault.

Egypt FM calls on US to end Israeli assault on Gaza

Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr has called on the United States to intervene and end "Israeli aggression" on the Gaza Strip, state media reported on Thursday.

Amr "requested that the United States immediately intervene to stop Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza", MENA news agency reported, adding that Amr spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by telephone.

Analysts predict war between Israel, Palestine

Most of political analysts on the Middle East predict war between Israel and Palestine amid the recent aggravation of tension between the parties of the conflict. The Israeli troops are on alert on the border with the Gaza Strip waiting for the order to launch an offensive, the Voice of Russia correspondent reports.

On November 10, Islamists opened mortar fire at the Israeli army jeep which led to mutual attacks which lasted for two days.

On Wednesday, after a short break Palestinians resumed missile attacks on Israel.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council held an emergency session on the Gaza Strip. Russia’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that a number of countries including Russia urged restraint and an end to the violence.

UN Security Council finishes session on Gaza Strip

The UN Security Council has finished a 2 hours closed-door emergency session on the situation in Gaza. The ambassadors of Israel and the Palestinian administration spoke at the meeting. The representatives of 15 countries members of the UN Security Council exchanged opinions on the situation.

“In general the meeting was not useless”, Russia’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters Thursday. He said that a number of countries including Russia urged restraint and end of violence.

On Wednesday, Israel announced plans to hold a large scale military operation in the Gaza Strip as a response to Palestine’s missile attacks.

Israeli army may mobilize reservists

The Israeli army command has not ruled out that in order to destroy the missile arsenals of the Palestinian movement Hamas they might need not only the Air Force, but possibly to launch a ground operation into Gaza, therefore they have authorized the Army to call up reservists.

The Israeli Air Force struck dozens of targets on the Gaza Strip as part of a large-scale operation codenamed "Protective Pillar", which resulted in 12 Palestinians being killed, including the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed al-Jabari.

In response, Palestinian forces, according to various estimates, launched from 50 to 80 rockets into southern Israel, where two people were injured.

Hospitals in Sinai, Egypt which is located across the border from Gaza are on high alert and are expecting victims.

UN Security Council emergency meeting over Gaza violence underway in New York

The United Nations Security Council has called an emergency meeting to discuss escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in a telephone conversation expressed concern over the situation in Gaza.

While the UN Secretary General confirmed that he strongly condemns rocket fire from Gaza, he stressed that he expects a "weighed" response from Israel, "not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed that could result in more casualties among the civilian population."

Ban Ki-moon has urged both sides to exercise "maximum restraint and to respect international law."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a resumption of negotiations by the Middle East "Quartet" is necessary to create conditions for negotiations between Palestine and Israel."

Voice of Russia, AP, Lenta.ru, RIA, Haaretz, Reuters, guardian, AFP, RT, TASS

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