TIME Israel

Israel-Hamas Talks Show Changing Imperatives as Cease-Fire Nears End

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: A Palestinian look a heavy destruction in Al Shaaf neighbourhood during a 72 hours ceasefire on August 11, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
A Palestinian man looks at heavy destruction during a 72 hours cease-fire in Al Shaaf neighborhood of Gaza City on Aug. 11, 2014 Alessio Romenzi for TIME

A 72-hour cease-fire is set to end Wednesday night

Almost three decades ago, Benjamin Netanyahu was the editor of a new book called Terrorism: How the West Can Win. He was then Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, and the 1986 book was part of the doctrine he was developing for himself and for Israel: We don’t negotiate with terrorists.

Times have changed.

Today Israel’s negotiators are in Cairo, where they’re engaged in indirect negotiations with the militant group Hamas—as well as other Palestinian factions—in an effort to reach a cease-fire agreement to end more than a month of war in Gaza. The stakes are high, with the latest temporary cease-fire set to expire Wednesday night. The talks are part of the search for an exit strategy from Operation Protective Edge, which Israel launched on July 8 in response to a barrage of rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas says it acted in retaliation for the arrests of its activists in the West Bank. But the very fact that Israel and Hamas are participating in a version of proximity talks—where the parties don’t sit in the same room but are close enough for a mediator to facilitate negotiations—shows how far both sides have come from their hardline positions.

Israel has made its stance clear: It will not negotiate with Hamas, which both Israel and the U.S. view as a terrorist organization. Hamas, for its part, doesn’t recognize Israel and calls in its charter for the destruction of the Jewish State, but has recently offered a 10-year truce, an idea that dates to the time of the Prophet Mohammed.

And yet, the two sides are talking, albeit indirectly.

Netanyahu, now Israel’s Prime Minister, has continued to emphasize that Israel sees Hamas as a force to be ostracized—in the same category as ISIS or Boko Haram, he told foreign reporters last week. Even the most pro-peace member of Netanyahu’s cabinet, Tzipi Livni, said earlier this week that giving in to Hamas’ demands would be “a signal of weakness” that would only encourage yet another round of fighting. “Nobody can afford to send a message to Hamas that those who act with terror towards civilians can get what they want,” Livni told reporters.

Rhetoric aside, though, Israel has found itself faced with two basic choices, says Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the IDC Herzilya, a university near Tel Aviv. Either continue with its military campaign, with an eye toward toppling Hamas and possibly re-occupying Gaza—a move bound to engender intense international censure as well as soaring casualty counts—or negotiate with the very people Israel says no one should recognize as legitimate. Netanyahu, Spyer notes, has decided not to go the route of regime change by force, despite pressures from hard-liners to do so. As such, there is nothing to do but to negotiate over the terms.

“If Israel decides that it’s not going to try to destroy Hamas, [it] then [has] to deal with this semi-sovereign enclave between Israel and Egypt, and you end up with a situation of ongoing conflict with a neighboring entity: a situation of no peace but now war, or maybe a war of attrition,” Spyer tells TIME. To let the war drag on indefinitely, he notes, would also be seen in Israel as a failure.

“If the Israeli communities on the border of Gaza become ghost towns, then we have a de facto disengagement from the south of Israel, and I don’t think any Israeli prime minister wants that,” he said.

The majority of Israelis who live in communities that surround the Gaza border, which have borne the brunt of more than 3,500 rocket and mortars fired at them from Gaza over the past month, have been seeking shelter in the center and north of the country. If Netanyahu wants to make good on his pledge to “bring back quiet,” there is no way to get there without doing business with Hamas.

While some analysts commend Netanyahu’s decision to choose cease-fire talks over further military action, he has also come under criticism. Writing in the New York Times, military analyst Ronen Bregman argued that the war has done “significant damage” to Israel’s deterrence. “And as much as Israel is seeking to marginalize Hamas and empower the weakened Mr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, Hamas is, for the first time in its history, on the verge of being internationally recognized as an equal party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” Bregman writes.

Zvi Bar’el, a writer for the left-wing Haaretz daily newspaper, said Netanyahu’s policies have painted Israel into a corner, forcing it to negotiate with Hamas. “Israel’s insistence on viewing the Palestinian unity government as a ‘terrorist entity,’ or at the very least ‘a Hamas government,’ has actually trapped it, and once again forced it into negotiating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad while pushing Abbas into the position of an observer who is not authorized to sign an accord, should one be reached,” Bar’el writes. The end result will likely be to revive Hamas’ popularity, he predicts.

Mark Heller, an analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, says the international censure coming down on Israel has steered the country’s leadership away from rhetoric around destroying Hamas, choosing a negotiated solution instead. “Israel has the ability to reoccupy Gaza and destroy Hamas, if it’s willing to pay the price, but one of the prices is the lives of troops and Israel’s international standing,” Heller says. “As Hamas still has effective control of Gaza and decides whether or not there will be firing from Gaza, the only way to pursue the possibility of a cease-fire is to speak with them.”

The latest 72-hour truce, meanwhile, expires Wednesday night—and it’s far from certain that the gaps between the two sides will be bridged before then.

TIME Gaza

Palestinians Mull Egyptian Proposal for Gaza Truce

Gaza Strip, Gaza City: Palestinians are seen inside their destroyed by strikes house in Al Shaaf neighbourhood during a 72 hours ceasefire on August 11, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
Palestinians roam a destroyed house in Al Shaaf neighborhood in Gaza City on Aug. 11, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

Although an Egyptian proposal that called for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza was tabled on Tuesday, Palestinian negotiators say that they considered the proposal and would try to improve it

(CAIRO) — Palestinian negotiators were mulling over an Egyptian proposal to end the monthlong Israel-Hamas war as the latest 72-hour cease-fire in the Gaza Strip was due to expire on midnight Wednesday.

Since the truce went into effect Sunday, Israel has halted military operations in the coastal territory and Gaza militants have stopped firing rockets.

The cease-fire was meant to give the two sides time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a roadmap for the coastal territory.

A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said Wednesday that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled on Tuesday. Egyptian mediators have been were ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt overcome the differences between the sides.

The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas’ demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.

The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it.

“We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed,” he said.

The Palestinian officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss negotiations with the media. An Israeli government spokesman had no comment on the negotiations.

The war began on July 8 with Israel’s air campaign against Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel blamed for the kidnapping and murder in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.

The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.

The latest outbreak of fighting is the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since Hamas took over control of the densely-populated territory in 2007. Hamas has been consistently pushing for an end of an Israeli Gaza blockade, which Israel says is necessary to prevent the group from gaining access to weapons and munitions it deploys against Israelis.

TIME Gaza

Israeli Tactic to Stop Soldier Capture Criticized

Mideast Israel Captured Soldiers
Palestinians look for their belonging after houses were destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 2, 2014 Hatem Ali—AP

An Israeli military tactic that allows soldiers to unleash air strikes and artillery fire to prevent the abduction of Israeli troops is receiving criticism after causing the death of 100 Palestinians in Gaza

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli military tactic that allows overwhelming fire to stop the capture of soldiers — even at the risk of killing them — is facing criticism after its use in the Gaza war killed some 100 Palestinians.

The military used the “Hannibal Procedure” after soldiers feared militants had captured an officer, unleashing heavy shelling on the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Now, a group is calling on the military to abandon the practice, saying it puts captured soldiers at unreasonable risk and can lead to civilian deaths.

In an army with a strong ethos of “no soldier left behind,” there is a near obsession with preventing the abduction of Israeli troops, in part because past cases have ended in painful, lopsided prisoner exchanges after years of protracted negotiations. New recruits learn that if they see a soldier being captured and rushed away in a car, they should shoot at the vehicle to stop its progress, even if it risks the soldier’s life.

The “Hannibal Procedure” was designed in the mid-1980s by Yossi Peled, then head of Israel’s Northern Command, after Hezbollah guerrillas captured two soldiers in southern Lebanon.

The actual order was drafted along with two of his top staff officers, Col. Gabi Ashkenazi, who later became the Israeli military chief, and Col. Yaakov Amidror, who recently ended a term as Israel’s national security adviser. Hannibal was a legendary military commander who battled the ancient Romans, though officials say the name was selected randomly by a computer.

Peled declined to comment, but Amidror stood behind a rationale he said was often misinterpreted. He said it gives young soldiers on the ground clear guidelines for such a situation.

“The order is that you cannot kill the soldier, but you can endanger him. A soldier in that situation knows he is in danger anyway,” he said. “How is it any different than giving a soldier an order to charge forward into live fire? You are also putting his life in danger that way. That’s what soldiers do.”

However, its application in the Gaza war has angered critics who say it may have led to the deaths of scores of Palestinians on Aug. 1, when Israeli soldiers feared militants had captured Lt. Hadar Goldin.

Hamas fire killed Goldin and two other Israeli soldiers near Rafah, along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, shortly after an internationally brokered cease-fire took effect.

According to Israeli media reports, three bodies were found at the scene shortly after the ambush, but upon closer inspection troops realized that one of them was a Hamas militant disguised in an Israeli uniform — raising fears that Hamas had captured Goldin.

That’s when “Hannibal” allegedly went into effect, with Israel unleashing a massive barrage of airstrikes and artillery fire aimed at blocking any potential escape routes of the kidnappers. Defying protocol, a fellow officer rushed into one of the tunnels and found some personal effects belonging to Goldin that helped the military later rule him dead.

The military would not officially confirm whether “Hannibal” was enacted after Goldin’s disappearance, but multiple officials say the rare order was given. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.

The heavy shelling leveled the area in Rafah, killing some 100 Palestinians, Palestinian health officials say. They could not offer a breakdown of the number of civilians and militants killed.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a prominent rights group, asked the government this week to strike down the doctrine and investigate its use.

“A protocol that puts the life of the captured soldier in jeopardy to thwart a kidnapping is fundamentally unacceptable,” ACRI wrote to Israel’s attorney general on Monday. “Implementing this protocol in populated areas, wherein the soldier and his captors are surrounded by a civilian population that is not taking part in hostilities, is strictly prohibited.”

Israel’s Justice Ministry declined to comment, merely saying it received the letter.

The fear of being captured runs deep in Israeli society, where military service is mandatory for most Jewish males. Islamic militant groups have put a premium on capturing soldiers. When they have succeeded, they have not extended international prisoner of war rights, preventing visits from the Red Cross and keeping word of their captives’ status secret.

Asa Kasher, a philosophy professor who authored the military’s official code of conduct in the 1990s, said the “Hannibal Procedure” has been grossly misunderstood and strikes a delicate balance between protecting the lives of soldiers and carrying out military responsibilities. Much of the directive remains classified, but Kasher stressed the conventional wisdom of a “dead soldier being better than a captive soldier” was a fallacy.

“That is just an awful saying and totally untrue. It goes against every value of the” Israeli military, he said.

However, Tamar Feldman, an ACRI lawyer, said the practice violates the potential captive’s human rights. When employed in a crowded area like Gaza, it raised even more questions.

“A command that subjugates the life of a soldier to an unknown political gain … is both cynical and revolting,” she wrote. “Activating this protocol in the heart of an urban and civilian environment is particularly grave; it shakes the foundations of law and morality and must be absolutely condemned.”

TIME Middle East

U.N. Names Gaza War-Crimes Panel

Amal Alamuddin, human rights lawyer attends the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit in London June 12, 2014.
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin attends the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit in London on June 12, 2014 Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

George Clooney's fiancée Amal Alamuddin was one of three tapped to investigate international-law violations in Gaza, but she says she can't join the team

Updated 5:33 p.m. ET

The U.N. named three experts to investigate possible war crimes and human-rights violations committed by both Israelis and Palestinians during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the organization announced Monday.

One of the members, however, British-Lebanese human-rights attorney Amal Alamuddin, says she won’t be joining the group.

“I was contacted by the UN about this for the first time this morning,” the attorney, who also happens to be George Clooney’s fiancée, said in a statement. “I am honoured to have received the offer, but given existing commitments — including eight ongoing cases — unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavours.”

A Canadian international-law professor, William Schabas, will lead the panel, Reuters reports. Doudou Diène, a Senegalese lawyer who has previously worked with the U.N. on numerous cases, was also named.

The team will look at “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014” and present a report in March 2015, according to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Israel of violating international law in attacking U.N. safe sites, though Israel has said the U.N. is biased against the country. The U.N. has also claimed Hamas forces in Gaza violated international laws as well by indiscriminately launching rockets at Israel.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are engaged in peace talks after a recent cease-fire agreement appears to be holding. The conflict has so far seen nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed.

[Reuters]

TIME Israel

Gaza War Cease-Fire Holds as Negotiators Gather

Palestinians remove rubble in Martyr Imam Hassan al-banna mosque in Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City, following an overnight airstrike on Aug. 9, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

The cease-fire will allow the parties to resume indirect talks on a long-term cease-fire arrangement

(CAIRO) — An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire halting the Gaza war held into Monday morning, allowing Palestinians to leave homes and shelters as negotiators agreed to resume talks in Cairo.

The truce took effect just after midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighborhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

On Monday morning, high school students in Gaza filed the streets as they headed off to pick up their graduation certificates after the Education Ministry said they’d be ready. People waited to buy fuel for generators as power and communication workers struggled to fix cables damaged in the fighting. Long lines formed at ATMs.

In Cairo, negotiators said talks would resume at 11 a.m. (0800 GMT). The four-member Israeli delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport earlier Monday morning.

The monthlong war, pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants, has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers, officials there say.

The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.

Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced by Egypt and Israel. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports. Unemployment there is more than 50 percent.

Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian delegation member, said he was optimistic ahead of Monday’s talks.

“We hope to reach a deal within the 72 hours, based on ending the blockade and opening the crossings,” Salhi said.

Israeli officials had walked away from negotiations over continued fire from Gaza. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said it killed a suspected Palestinian militant early Monday morning in the West Bank village of Qabalan, south of Nablus. Palestinian medical officials identified the dead man as Zakariah al-Aqrah, 21.

The military said he was killed after he opened fire on an Israeli force that had come to arrest him in connection with shootings targeting Israeli soldiers two weeks ago.

___

Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Nasser Ishtayeh in Nablus and Peter Enav in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

TIME Israel

Rockets, Airstrikes After Gaza Truce Collapses

Gaza Strip, Gaza City:  Smoke rises after the impact of an Israeli airstrike Ansar neighbourhood in Gaza City, on August 10, 2012. ALESSIO ROMENZI
Smoke rises after the impact of an airstrike in the Ansar neighborhood in Gaza City on Aug. 9, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

Israeli airstrikes struck more than 20 targets Saturday in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior Hamas member, as militant rocket fire continued following the collapse of a three-day truce aimed at ending the war between Israel and Hamas

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli airstrikes struck more than 20 targets Saturday in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior Hamas member, as militant rocket fire continued following the collapse of a three-day truce aimed at ending the war between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas officials said Israel airstrikes hit houses, mosques, its warehouses and training sites. Three bodies were found under the ruins of the al-Qassam mosque in Gaza, including that of senior Hamas official Moaaz Zaid, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The Israeli military said militants in Gaza fired five rockets Saturday toward Israel, for a total of 70 since the truce expired. In response, Israel has targeted more than 30 sites in Gaza since Friday, it said.

The Islamic militants resumed their rocket attacks Friday shortly before the 72-hour truce expired, injuring two Israelis and drawing a wave of retaliatory airstrikes. The fighting shattered a brief calm in the monthlong war and dealt a blow to Egyptian-led efforts to secure a long-term cease-fire between the bitter enemies.

Palestinians remove rubble in Martyr Imam Hassan al-banna mosque in Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City, following an overnight airstrike on Aug. 9, 2014. Alessio Romenzi for TIME

More than 1,900 Gazans have been killed in the war, roughly three-quarters of them civilians, according to Palestinian and United Nations officials. Israel disputes that breakdown, saying more militants have been killed. Sixty-seven people have been killed on the Israeli side, including three civilians from rocket fire.

The war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, sending in ground troops nine days later to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel. Gaza militants have fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel.

Hamas, which violently seized control of Gaza in 2007, rejected several cease-fire offers throughout the fighting. Its primary demand is the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after they seized power. Militants had warned they would resume fighting after the cease-fire expired unless there was a deal to ease the restrictions.

The blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza, has led to widespread hardship. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, and the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

Israel has said that the militants must disarm first, a demand dismissed by Hamas.

Hamas entered the Cairo talks from a position of military weakness, as Israel has said Hamas has lost hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rocket arsenal and all of its tunnels under the border with Israel during the war. Egypt also has destroyed a network of smuggling tunnels that was once Hamas’ economic and military lifeline.

A delegation of Palestinian negotiators remained in Cairo in hopes of salvaging the talks. But participants said the negotiations were not going well. The Palestinian delegation met again late Friday with Egyptian mediators.

Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation, said the delegation would stay in Egypt until it reaches an agreement that “ensures” the rights of the Palestinian people. “We told Egyptians we are staying,” he told reporters.

The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks left Egypt on Friday morning, and it was not clear if it would return. “There will not be negotiations under fire,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry urged restraint by both sides and called for a new cease-fire to resume negotiations. The ministry said progress had been made in the talks but did not explain.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep disappointment” at the failure to extend the cease-fire and urged the parties to swiftly find a way back to the negotiating table, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

TIME Israel

Israel, Hamas Resume Fire After 3-day Gaza Truce

The new round of fighting came after a three-day truce expired on Friday morning

+ READ ARTICLE

(GAZA CITY) — Israel and militants from Gaza resumed cross-border attacks on Friday, after a three-day truce expired and talks brokered by Egypt on a new border deal for the blockaded coastal territory hit a deadlock.

It was not clear if the renewed fighting would derail the Cairo negotiations, which are aimed at reaching a sustainable truce, or whether the Egyptian mediators can find a way to prevent a further escalation and a return to full-out war.

Militants from Gaza fired first after the temporary truce expired at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), launching 21 rockets toward Israel. Most landed in open fields, but two were intercepted over the coastal city of Ashkelon.

The Israeli military said it responded with strikes “across Gaza.”

In Gaza, police said Israel launched 10 airstrikes, with most of them hitting empty lands and farms but that seven people were hurt. Police also reported fire from Israeli tanks on northern Gaza and from Israeli gunboats at the central area of the strip.

The resumption of violence cast doubt over the Cairo negotiations.

Both Israel and Hamas are under international pressure to reach a deal. As part of such an arrangement, Israel wants to see Hamas disarmed or prevented from re-arming, while Hamas demands Gaza’s borders be opened. No progress was reported in all-night talks that ended before dawn Friday.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said that while his group did not agree to an extension of the truce, it was willing to continue the talks.

Hamas, which has seen its popularity boosted for confronting Israel, entered the Cairo talks from a point of military weakness after losing hundreds of fighters, two-thirds of its rockets arsenal and all of its attack tunnels.

With no definitive statement that it would return to open war, the group appeared to be keeping its options open while several smaller Gaza militant organizations claimed responsibility for Friday’s rocket fire.

The Israeli delegation left Cairo earlier on Friday morning, according to a Cairo airport official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not say whether Israel is interested in extending the cease-fire or if it will respond to the rockets.

Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the cease-fire.

“The cease-fire is over,” Regev said. “They did that.”

Also, in response to the rocket fire, the Israeli army said it was prohibiting gatherings of more than 1,000 people in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other areas within 80 km (50 miles) of the Gaza border.

The three-day truce came after a month of Israel-Hamas fighting, the third cross-border confrontation in just over five years.

Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory on July 8, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Since then, Israeli strikes on Gaza killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, devastated large areas along Gaza’s border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people.

Sixty-seven people, all but three of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.

Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites and military tunnels, and carried out close to 5,000 strikes.

The U.N. said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once. The Israeli military said initial estimates show at least 40 percent of those killed were fighters.

Previous rounds of Israel-Hamas fighting ended inconclusively, setting the stage for the next confrontation because underlying problems were not resolved, particularly the stifling border closure ofGaza.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007, and have since enforced it to varying degrees.

The closure led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory, home to 1.8 million people. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza’s borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza or manufactures them there.

Hamas, in turn, has rejected Israel’s demands that it disarm. The militant group has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to lead Gaza reconstruction efforts but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.

The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

___

Daraghmeh reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City and Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

TIME Gaza

Gaza Rockets Fired as Israel-Hamas Truce Expires

Mideast Israel Palestinians
A Palestinian walks into a house destroyed by an Israeli strike in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah, Gaza Strip on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis—Associated Press

The Israeli amy says that at least ten rockets were fired from Gaza on Friday as a 72-hour ceasefire ends, leading to a likely resumption of hostilities

(GAZA CITY) — Gaza militants renewed rocket fire on Israel after a three-day truce expired on Friday and negotiations in Cairo on a new border deal for the coastal strip hit a deadlock.

The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets were fired at Israel after the temporary truce expired at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). One rocket was intercepted over the city of Ashkelon, while the others hit open areas.

In Jerusalem, government spokesman Mark Regev blamed Gaza militants for breaking the cease-fire.

“The ceasefire is over,” Regev said. “They did that.”

He would not say whether Israel was interested in extending the ceasefire, or whether Israel would respond to the rockets.

Earlier, a senior Hamas official said the militant group would not extend the cease-fire. He said that Israel had rejected all of Hamas’ demands in the Egyptian-brokered talks, including a guarantee in principle thatGaza’s borders would be opened. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he had not yet delivered Hamas’ response to Egyptian officials.

The talks in Cairo followed a month of bitter Israel-Hamas fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians, wounded more than 9,000, devastated large areas along Gaza’s border with Israel and displaced tens of thousands of people. Sixty-seven people, all but three of them soldiers, were killed on the Israeli side, and Gaza militants fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the past month.

Israel said it was going after Hamas targets, including rocket launching sites and military tunnels, and carried out close to 5,000 strikes. The U.N. said most of those killed in Gaza were civilians and that in dozens of cases, strikes hit family homes, killing multiple members of the same family at once. The Israeli military said initial estimates show at least 40 percent of those killed were fighters.

It was not clear if Friday’s renewed rocket fire and tough messages from Hamas were negotiating tactics or the beginning of a return to fighting.

According to one Palestinian media report, Egypt had proposed that even without a formal extension of the truce, the two sides would hold their fire in coming days to allow for a continuation of the negotiations.

The expiration of the temporary truce was preceded by all-night meetings between Egyptian mediators and the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, which continued on Friday morning.

The Israeli delegation left Cairo on Friday morning, according to a Cairo airport official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Cairo talks focused on new border arrangements for Gaza, including the lifting of a blockade by Israel and Egypt and reconstruction of the battered territory. Israel and Egypt had enforced the blockade to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.

Israel has said it is willing to consider easing the border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm, a condition the Islamic militant group has rejected.

Hamas has said it is willing to hand over some power in Gaza to enable its long-time rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to lead Gaza reconstruction efforts, but that it would not give up its arsenal and control over thousands of armed men.

Israel argues that it needs to keep Gaza’s borders under a blockade as long as Hamas tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

The closure has led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory. Movement in and out ofGaza is limited, the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.

The Gaza war grew out of the killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.

On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Shortly before the truce expired Friday, Israel’s international airport halted all incoming and outgoing flights for 30 minutes, apparently as a precautionary measure. Airports authority spokeswoman Liza Dvir said after the half hour, operations resumed as normal. There was no further comment on the measure. Last month, the Federal Aviation Authority canceled U.S. airline carriers’ flights to Israel for 36 hours because a rocket had landed near the Tel Aviv airport.

TIME Security

Off the Battlefield, Hackers Are Waging Cyberwar Against Israel and Palestine

Hacktivist attacks against Israel quintupled as violence swept across Gaza, but are the hackers doing any damage?

Fighting in the Gaza Strip hit a lull this week as a 72-hour cease-fire ends its third and final day Thursday — but a digital war has still been raging as hackers pay little mind to the temporary truce. Cyberattacks directed against Israel have increased dramatically since it invaded Gaza in early July, intensifying last month as the violence peaked, according to a report released this week by the security research firm Arbor Networks.

Websites of Israeli civilian governmental agencies, financial services and military agencies—including the legendary intelligence agency Mossad and the Prime Minister’s office—were targeted as part of the sharp uptick in attacks that began in July, when the total number of strikes increased by 500%.

Whether those online attacks had much of an impact, however, is a subject of debate. U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned in an interview on CBS News’ Face the Nation late last month that cyberattacks against Israeli websites could present a risk to the country’s security. “So far I think Israel has done a great job of defending from these cyberattacks, but the sheer volume and intensity as it grows could spread from what is a conflict between Israel and Gaza to some cybereffort to try to shut these operations down, and that’s always a concern,” Rogers said.

But some experts said the attacks were doing little substantial harm against the Israeli government. The attacks are primarily targeting external, user-facing websites, perhaps increasing the time it takes to load a webpage or temporarily shutting the page down altogether by jamming up the works with bogus traffic. But the attacks have not yet affected the Israeli agencies’ internal operations, researchers said.

“To be able to do something effective against the [Israeli] government you have to be a very sophisticated hacker,” said Giora Engel, vice president of LightCyber, a security firm that provides security for Israeli government agencies. “A group of activists can’t do any damage.”

Most of the the recent and mostly harmless attacks against prominent Israeli websites are known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Carrying out a DDoS involves flooding websites or servers with traffic to deny other, legitimate users access to those websites. Hackers that conduct such attacks usually control a wide array of third-party computers which they instruct to do their bidding; the owners of those machines rarely know their devices are even involved.

The number of denial of service attacks against Israel increased from an average of 30 per day in June, before the violence began, to 150 per day in July, while the armed conflict raged on. The number of attacks peaked on July 21, with a total of 429 attacks. Researchers haven’t been able to definitively track the attacks back to any particular groups, but the timing of the incidents correlate with rising violence.

“There’s a clear increase not only in number of attacks but in the size of attacks and how long they’re lasting,” said Kirk Soluk, manager of threat intelligence and response at Arbor. “Interestingly enough, when there’s a cease-fire, the attacks seem to drop off.”

Cyber attacks have increasingly accompanied political conflicts in recent years, with actors like the Syrian Electronic Army notoriously hacking BBC News, eBay and other sites. There has also been an increase in attacks associated with recent disputes over the South China Sea.

In the case of the recent attacks against Israel, Arbor said the third-party computers used to strike Israeli government sites are scattered across the globe in countries including the U.S., Myanmar, Russia, Mexico, Great Britain, and others. However, that does not mean the attacks originated in those countries—it just means those are the locations of computers hackers have commandeered to stage attacks against Israel.

So where are the attacks coming from? One clue could be that the structure of the attacks bears a resemblance to a certain kind of attack that targeted U.S. banks en masse in 2012, Arbor said. U.S. security forces later linked those attacks to Iranian hackers. Meanwhile, the hacking group Anonymous claimed to have attacked Israeli sites, but it’s unclear if the organization is just taking credit for others’ work.

The attacks appear not just to be one-sided, however, as an Israeli civilian group called the Israeli Elite Force (IEF) has said that it’s attacking Palestinian websites. In the early days of the figthing, the IEF regularly updated its Twitter with reports of attacks on Palestinian websites, posting email addresses of what it said were login codes at the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

If a cease-fire holds and violence ends, cyberattacks may dwindle in the short term, but hacking has become a permanent feature in conflicts. “Cyber has joined land, air, sea, and space as the fifth domain of modern warfare,” said Chris Petersen, the co-founder of security firm LogRhythm.

TIME Gaza

Hamas Says It Will Continue Fight After Ceasefire

An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014.
An armed Hamas militant walks through a street in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City on July 20, 2014. Wissam Nassar—The New York Times/Redux

“We are ready for a long war”

Hamas reiterated late Thursday that it plans to continue fighting after a temporary cease-fire ends Friday morning, if its demands are not met.

“The resistance is ready to pay the price and the people are behind the resistance,” Abu Obaida, a spokesman for the military wing of Hamas, said on Hamas-run television, CNN reports. “We are ready for a long war.”

Earlier Thursday, Hamas held a public rally in Gaza City and a top Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, declared to the crowd that Hamas would continue to fight until the seven-year-old blockade on Gaza by Israel and Egypt is lifted, the Associated Press reports.

A three-day truce mediated by Egypt has largely quieted the three-week-long conflict that killed more than 1,860 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel. The truce is scheduled to end Friday at 8 a.m. local time, though representatives of Hamas and other Palestinian factions are in Cairo indirectly negotiating with Israel for a permanent ceasefire.

But hours before the ceasefire is set to end, talks have faltered, with Hamas demanding an end to the blockade and Israel saying the militants must first disarm, a condition Hamas has so far rejected.

[CNN]

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