TIME Israel

Israeli Raid in Gaza a Sign of Things to Come

Neither the Israeli forces nor Hamas seem interested in pursuing the cease-fire proposed by the UN Security Council

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If Israel had been planning to hit Hamas and its infrastructure only with air strikes, which the Israel Air Force can do from a comfortably safe distance, it wouldn’t have called up 40,000 of its reserves last week. A country as small as Israel doesn’t fight militants in a territory as tiny as Gaza with tens of thousands of soldiers unless they’re planning to send them in the old-fashioned way, on foot and by tank.

This much-anticipated ground invasion began gradually on Sunday, when Israeli commandos entered the northern Gaza Strip and attacked a site apparently used for launching rockets. Later, with four soldiers lightly injured in an exchange of fire with Hamas gunmen, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) declared mission accomplished.

That particular mission, anyway. Sunday’s minor foray of forces into the Gaza Strip looks certain to be the shape of things to come over the next week, with what is widely expected to be a rolling ground invasion aimed at the long-range rocket launchers in the hands of Hamas and other militant groups. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked tough following his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday and showed no interest in pursuing a cease-fire as the UN Security Council urged the two sides to do a day earlier – and neither did Hamas.

“We are striking Hamas with increasing strength. We are hitting commanders, militants, arsenals and command centers…but one must understand how our enemy operates. Who hides in mosques? Hamas. Who puts arsenals under hospitals? Hamas. Who puts command centers in residences or near kindergartens? Hamas. Hamas is using the residents of Gaza as human shields and it is bringing disaster to the civilians of Gaza; therefore, for any attack on Gaza civilians, which we regret, Hamas and its partners bear sole responsibility,” Netanyahu said.

He added that the goal of the campaign, which Israel launched last Tuesday and named Operation Protective Edge, is “long-lasting quiet with a significant damage to Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza Strip.” He seemed to be preparing Israel’s citizens, who have been scrambling into bomb shelters as Hamas has demonstrated an ability to fire off more rockets simultaneously than ever before, and most importantly, with a far longer range: rockets were fired at Haifa for the second time Sunday.

“We don’t know when it will be over,” Netanyahu said. “It might take a long time.”

“A long time” in Israeli-Palestinian terms might be three weeks. That’s about the length of the last little war that included a ground invasion, Operation Cast Lead, which ended in Jan. 2009. By the time the two sides reached a ceasefire, 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were dead. In 2012, there was a repeat of intense Israel-Hamas hostilities that lasted just over a week, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense.

Sound annoyingly repetitive? It is for Israelis and Palestinians as well. The fact that tensions periodically escalate into these deadly mini-wars are what seems to be driving some in the Israeli security establishment to argue that rather than go into Gaza briefly and “mow the lawn” again, they need to “rip up the weeds”—or perhaps get out the bulldozers—to borrow from the language being bandied about on talk shows and in op-eds. But Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom, a former director of the Strategic Planning Division of the IDF, says he can’t see a positive upshot to an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

“I am not so sure that there are good objectives to such an operation,” Brom told TIME. To really hit at Hamas, he said, Israel would need to carry out a wide-scale operation taking control of large parts of the Gaza Strip. That would be costly, both financially and in terms of “collateral damage — civilian casualties,” he said. “And then it will mean also that we will have to continue to be in this area for at least several months, to look for the Hamas operatives, and that also may mull us into a complete re-occupation of the Gaza Strip.”

In other words, the quick cease-fire solution that makes so much sense virtually everywhere else in the world sounds to some Israelis like a recipe for endless rounds of lethal tit-for-tat. Unlike some of the hawks in his cabinet, however, Netanyahu tends to be cautious, Brom says, and is well aware that support for his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, dropped precipitously – both locally and internationally – after the war with Hizbollah in 2006 as well as Cast Lead in 2009.

Meanwhile, the IDF gave residents of the northern Gaza Strip, from where most of the rockets are launched, until midday Sunday to leave the area, causing thousands to flee south. The IDF told reporters in briefings that with most civilians out of the area, they could carry out an intensive campaign against Hamas infrastructure. Hamas has been ordering civilians to return to their homes, telling them to ignore the IDF’s orders, according to an Israel Radio report. Even so, about 4,000 Palestinians left their homes in the north of the strip and are taking shelter in schools run by UNRWA, a United Nations agency. With a cease-fire nowhere in sight, the death toll in Gaza keeps rising – according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, on Sunday it hit 166.

TIME 2016 Election

Here Are The Questions Chris Christie Doesn’t Want To Answer

Chris Christie
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a town hall meeting at Winston Churchill Elementary School, April 9, 2014, in Fairfield, N.J. Julio Cortez—AP

He is making moves to prepare for a presidential run but declines to answer questions like a presidential candidate.

Sometimes the straight-talking governor of New Jersey doesn’t talk all that straight.

Gov. Chris Christie casts himself as a decider, steering his state through rough economic waters, while setting himself up for a run for the White House. At the National Governors Association meeting in Nashville on Saturday, Christie lambasted the Obama administration’s Middle East policy and its inability to negotiate with Congress.

But he skipped as many issues as he took on. Just what he would do when faced with some of the nation’s hardest policy challenges remains unclear. The man who hopes to one day inhabit the Oval Office repeatedly noted that he doesn’t yet have the job—a rhetorical crutch to avoid saying what he’d do if he got it.

Here’s the list of the questions he dodged from reporters:

On raising the gas tax to pay for transportation infrastructure:

“Since I’m not in Congress or the White House I’m going to let them make those decisions. I have to make those decisions in my state. They can make those decisions down there.”

On whether the unaccompanied minors cross the border illegally into the united states should be sent back:

“I’m not going to get into all that. Again, that’s Washington’s job to figure these things out.”

Should the United States intervene militarily against Hamas?

“I’m not going to give opinions on that. I’m not the president.”

Has he decided on whether illegal immigrants in the United States should be presented with a path to citizenship as part of an immigration reform package?

“No, not as Governor of New Jersey I have not.”

He’s brusque, he’s brash. He’s famous for his back-and-forth exchanges with protestors and hecklers. And even in dodging questions, Christie has a matter-of-fact speech and abrupt delivery that suggest candor. But sometimes he still doesn’t want to answer the questions.

 

TIME Israel

U.N. Calls for Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire in Gaza Bombardment

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Female relatives of Palestinian Mahmud al-Sewati mourn during his funeral in Gaza City on July 12, 2014. Mahmud Hams—AFP/Getty Images

As the death toll continues to mount

The United Nations Security Council called Saturday for a ceasefire in the Palestinian-Israeli bombardments as casualties in the Gaza Strip continue to rise.

All 15 Security Council members approved of a statement that called for a de-escalation of violence. The statement also suggested direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution, the Associated Press reports.

The Security Council did not give a timeline for a ceasefire, but Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour said it should be understood to go into effect immediately.

Israeli airstrikes have killed over 120 people in the Gaza Strip since bombardments began this week. Over half of the casualties are civilians, including women and children. A mosque and a center for the disabled were struck Saturday, while Israel later said the mosque was being used to store rockets to be fired at Israeli territory.

In total, around 1,000 Palestinians have been killed or wounded in recent bombardments of the Gaza Strip, said Mansour. No Israeli civilians have been killed as a result of the nearly 700 rockets fired into Israeli territory over the past several days.

The Security Council said it was concerned with the “the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides” and called for “respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”

 

TIME Foreign Policy

Officials Say Iran Is Hamas’ ‘Enabler’ in Fight Against Israel

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A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows a militant rocket being launched from the Gaza strip into Israel, on July 11, 2014. Menahem Kahana—AFP/Getty Images

Tehran's fingerprints are all over Hamas's rocket arsenal, officials say

In a reminder of the Middle East’s intertwined nature, the latest violence between Israel and Hamas has U.S. and Israeli officials lamenting the role of a key actor hundreds of miles east of Gaza: Iran.

“Who is the enabler for Hamas? Where do they get those rockets?” asked House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce Friday morning. “It’s Iran.”

American and Israeli officials have long accused Iran of helping Hamas build up its massive arsenal of rockets, including some with a particularly long range, which it is now firing into Israeli cities and towns.

“Iran continues to do everything it can to push rockets into Gaza,” says Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer. “Iran obviously is a supporter of Hamas. And Islamic Jihad is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Iran” (Islamic Jihad is militant group smaller than Hamas that also operates within Gaza.)

The current wave of violence was triggered after the murder of several teenagers, three Israelis and then one Palestinian, apparently by extremists on both sides. More broadly, it is the product of the historical conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But it also represents the latest chapter in an intermittently violent cold war between Israel and Iran, which has long funded and supplied arms to Palestinian militants who attack Israel.

At issue now is Iran’s shipments of rockets into Gaza, shipments that are thought to have gone on for years. The rockets are transported by ship from Iran to Sudan, driven into Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, and then smuggled into Gaza through secret underground tunnels that run from Egypt into Gaza. Israel has blockaded Gaza’s borders ever since Hamas—which openly calls for Israel’s destruction—assumed power there in 2007.

Hamas can probably thank Iran for some of the most dangerous rockets it fired into Israel this week. They appear to be M-302s, whose range of 100 miles is longer than most in Hamas’s arsenal—which typically travel about ten miles—and can threaten northern Israeli cities. In March, Israel interdicted a ship carrying forty M-302 rockets it said were destined for Gaza; a United Nations report concluded last month that the rockets originated in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Israeli officials don’t believe that shipment was the only one of its kind.

The good news from Israel’s perspective is that smuggling arms to Hamas has become harder since last summer’s military coup in Egypt deposed a pro-Hamas Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo. The new regime of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who strongly opposes Hamas, has mostly sealed the tunnels into Gaza (Both Hamas and Iran have denied such shipments.)

Hamas isn’t solely reliant on outsiders for its weapons. “A lot of the rockets are coming now from being domestically manufactured,” said Dermer on a conference call with reporters Friday. “That was not the case 18 months ago. Eighteen months ago, most of the rockets were coming from outside.”

However, even those homemade rockets bear Iranian fingerprints, say Israeli officials. Tehran has assisted Hamas and Islamic Jihad in developing their own manufacturing capabilities inside Gaza. “Iran is the principle source of know-how” for such efforts, an Israeli military intelligence official said in June.

There is no sign that Israel intends to retaliate against Iran. But some analysts believe that Israel uses confrontations like this one to send a message to Tehran, which also arms the anti-Israel group Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and whose nuclear program some Israeli leaders declare an existential threat. When Israel last clashed with Hamas in November of 2012, for instance, one columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz wrote that Israel’s response “seems to be aimed at the Palestinian arena, but in reality it is geared toward Iranian hostility against Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may see the current crisis as an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to Hamas, which one former Obama administration official with Middle East expertise describes as “desperate” now that Egypt has sealed many of its underground smuggling routes. Hamas’s relationship with Iran has also wobbled over the Syrian civil war, as the the Sunni Palestinian group and Tehran’s Shi’ite clerical regime have supported different sides in that sectarian conflict (although the two have recently struck a friendlier tone.)

Iran’s stake in the Israel-Hamas fight means that Tehran has a hand in three live conflicts at the moment. In addition to its strong support of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, Iran has provided military aid to Iraq’s Shi’ite ruler, Nouri al-Maliki, who is fending off an invasion from Sunni radical group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its Iraqi Sunni allies.

Meanwhile, Iran’s support for groups that oppose and attack Israel will remain a thorny issue in U.S.-Iranian relations as Washington tries to strike a nuclear deal with Tehran. Many of the economic sanctions currently imposed on Iran are based on the country’s support for terrorism and weapons proliferation.

Iran’s supply of rockets to Hamas “does raise the issue of how Iran is a proliferator,” said Chairman Royce, who spoke at a breakfast with reporters in Washington. He said any talks with Iran should include the question of “how do you stop this penchant for proliferation?”

TIME

Pictures of the Week: July 4 — July 11

From Israel’s deadly air offensive in Gaza and Brazil’s humiliating World Cup exit to French Fashion week’s modern attitude and a double wedding for wounded Ukrainian paratroopers, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 11

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Palestinian death toll nears 100; Nigerian schoolgirls; Border crisis; House Republicans to sue Obama over ACA employer mandate delay; Congress moves to save Highway Trust Fund; Berkeley to give free marijuana to the poor

  • Palestinian Death Toll Nears 100 as Hamas Promises More Attacks on Israel [NYT]
    • “Mr Netanyahu’s mistake—compounded by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians on the West Bank—is to think that their versions of normality can be sustained simply by managing the conflict. A stand-off is always liable to tip into violence.” [Economist]
  • How to bring back the Nigerian schoolgirls, three months on [New Yorker]
  • “Thousands of children from Central America are undertaking a perilous journey to the U.S. border despite warnings from the U.S. that they will be sent back. In fact, many will get to stay.” [WSJ]
    • Obama, Senate Democrats Clash Over How to Handle the Border Crisis [Hill]
    • “Immigration officials and Border Patrol agents will run out of money if Congress doesn’t approve emergency funds to deal with the flood of young migrants at the southwest border, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told senators Thursday.” [L.A. Times]
  • “House Speaker John Boehner announced Thursday that the chamber will sue President Barack Obama for delaying the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate last year.” [TIME]
    • “The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured.” [Politico]
  • “Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to save the country’s main highway fund, but differences in plans from the House and Senate are likely to spur a congressional showdown in the coming weeks.” [TIME]
  • “The Bear is Loose”: Is Obama Breaking Free or Running Away? [WashPost]
  • Don’t Laugh: Berkeley Plans to Give Free Marijuana to the Poor [NYT]
TIME Israel

Lebanese Rockets Hit Israel, Offensive Toll Reaches 95

In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border and the military responded with artillery fire toward the source in southern Lebanon, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

(JERUSALEM) Gaza rocket fire struck a gas station and set it ablaze Friday in southern Israel, seriously wounding one person as rocket fire also came from Lebanon for the first time in the four-day offensive.

The attack on the gas station in Ashdod looked to be the most serious attack in Israel in the four days of fighting that has seen Israel deliver a heavy blow to Gaza’s Hamas leaders. The military have carried out more than 1,000 strike strikes against Gaza targets that have killed at least 95 people, including dozens of civilians.

The explosion in Ashdod sent plumes of smoke high into the air, leaving a trail of charred vehicles in its wake. Israeli health officials said the blast wounded three people, including one in serious condition. Rocket fire continued in earnest from Gaza toward various locations in southern Israel and around Tel Aviv.

In northern Israel, rocket fire struck near the Lebanese border and the military responded with artillery fire toward the source in southern Lebanon, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

The Lebanese military said three rockets were fired toward Israel around 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) and the Israelis retaliated by firing about 25 artillery shells on the area.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said that one of those suspected of firing the rockets was wounded and rushed to a hospital. The Lebanese military said troops found two rocket launchers and dismantled them.

Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has battled Israel numerous times. However, recent fire from Lebanon has been blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah has not been involved in the ongoing offensive.

A Lebanon-based al-Qaida-linked group, the Battalions of Ziad Jarrah, claimed responsibility in the past for similar rocket attacks on Israel.

Gaza militants already have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel in the four-day offensive. Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system has intercepted most of those aimed at major cities but some have slipped through.

Frequent air raid sirens sounded across Israel on Friday, including for the first time in the northern city of Haifa. Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets thus far.

Israel launched the Gaza offensive to stop incessant rocket fire that erupted after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank and a Palestinian teenager was abducted and burned to death in an apparent reprisal attack.

The military says it has hit more than 1,100 targets already, mostly what it identified as rocket-launching sites, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes.

In Gaza, an Israeli airstrike Friday hit the home of a well-known Islamic Jihad leader. Gaza health officials said five people were killed in the strike.

Lerner said the military was doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, calling inhabitants ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks. He said Israeli forces also fire “non-explosive munitions” at roofs as a warning and looks for people to leave before destroying a structure.

Lerner blamed Hamas for the death of innocent bystanders by firing from heavily populated areas.

Israel’s military “uses its weapons to defend its civilians. Hamas uses its civilians to defend its weapons,” he said.

Israeli leaders are mulling whether to launch a ground assault in Gaza to target Hamas. Such a move, though, would likely involve a rise in Palestinian civilian casualties and put Israeli troops at risk as well.

During a ground incursion in early 2009, hundreds of civilians were killed and both sides drew war crimes accusations in a United Nations report

Israel has mobilized more than 30,000 reservists to supplement the potential ground operation.

Amos Yadlin, a retired general and former head of military intelligence, said Israel has already re-established a deterrent factor against Hamas and should offer a cease-fire and aim to wrap up its campaign in the coming days.

“If the Israeli offer is turned down, Israel will refill its stock of legitimacy in such a way that will enable a significant expansion of the objectives and scale of the operation,” he wrote in a column published Friday in the Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper. “Hamas has taken severe blows since the start of the round of violence and has failed in almost every step it took. … However, one rocket that hits an Israeli population center will be enough to change the picture completely.”

Gaza militants already have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel in the four-day offensive. Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system has intercepted most of those aimed at major cities but some have slipped through.

Frequent air raid sirens sounded across Israel on Friday, including for the first time in the northern city of Haifa. Israel has shot down at least 110 incoming rockets thus far.

Israel launched the Gaza offensive to stop incessant rocket fire against it. The military says it has hit more than 1,100 targets already, mostly what it identified as rocket-launching sites, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes. Israeli military attacks on Gaza have killed at least 95 people, including dozens of civilians.

TIME Israel

U.S. Willing to Negotiate Israel Cease-fire

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US President Barack Obama(R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 3, 2014. Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama told Israel's leader that the United States is willing to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is telling Israel’s leader that the United States is willing to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (neh-ten-YAH’-hoo) on Thursday, as Israel was intensifying an bombardment of the Gaza Strip in an attempt to thwart rocket fire targeting Israel.

The White House says Obama condemned the rockets and said Israel has the right to self-defense. But Obama also urged both sides not to escalate the crisis and to restore calm.

Obama also relayed concerns about a Palestinian-American teenager who was detained and apparently beaten by Israeli authorities. Obama says Israel has worked to resolve that situation.

The two leaders also discussed Iran. Obama says the U.S. won’t accept any deal that doesn’t ensure Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful.

TIME Israel

Civilian Casualties Rise as Israel Hammers Gaza From the Air

Palestinian relatives of eight members of the Al Haj family, who were killed in a strike early morning, grieve in the family house during their funeral in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on Thursday, July 10, 2014.
Palestinian relatives of eight members of the Al Haj family, who were killed in a strike early morning, grieve in the family house during their funeral in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, July 10, 2014. Khalil Hamra—AP

Raising questions of how long air campaign can go on

Updated 7:06 a.m. E.T. on July 11

The death toll among Palestinians scrambling under a relentless Israeli air assault in the Gaza Strip passed 80 Thursday and edged close to 100 Friday, including at least 14 children.

Meanwhile, the barrage of rockets Gaza militants launched toward Israeli cities failed to produce a significant casualty on the third day of Israel’s offensive Thursday. A media report that a missile had critically injured someone in a car in Ashdod, a coastal city near Gaza, was withdrawn by smartphone alert 28 minutes later. An rocket fired from Gaza struck a gas station in southern Israel on Friday, seriously wounding one, as rocket fire also came from Lebanon for the first time in the latest fighting.

Everything about the latest offensive is moving fast, especially relative to the last round of fighting. That November 2012 air campaign — dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense by Israel — lasted eight days. Israel’s current offensive, Operation Protective Edge, has bombed more than half as many targets in Gaza in less than half the time — 860 in three days compared with 1,500 in eight days last time. The Israeli military said it destroyed more buildings in the first 36 hours of the current campaign than in all of Pillar of Defense. More people are dying too: the 80 fatalities reported so far is, once again, more than half the reported death toll from the longer bombing two years earlier.

All of it raised the question of how long the Israeli bombardment can go on.

Israel’s wars have a half-life, a variable that slides with circumstances and unscheduled events, but which is decided, to a significant degree, by how the world views the fight. So long as it sees a democracy defending its people against terrorism, Israel enjoys considerable leeway. And that’s how most of the Gaza wars start out: Gaza, a coastal enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians patrolled on three sides by Israeli forces, which also parcels out its electricity, water and food, is a hotbox for militants. Those militants want to hit Israel any way they can, and the way that works best is missiles. More than 500 rockets have roared out of Gaza since Tuesday. Each triggers a siren somewhere in Israel, and often sympathy from some parts of the world moved by photographs of panicked mothers scrambling to shelter their children.

That is the imperative Israeli officials cite at the start of the campaign. “This operation started because in spite of our efforts to get Hamas to give up launching rockets against innocent civilians in the lower half of Israel, Hamas ignored our message and decided to escalate the situation,” Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said in a conference call Thursday. “We have to make sure that we end this confrontation with a clear result, that Hamas stops the launching of rockets and terrorist attacks on Israel, and that it has no appetite to resume this kind of activities in the future. That is the goal of this operation.”

But the operation is a brutal one — 1,000 targets means 1,000 deafening explosions, bowel-shattering concussions in one of the most crowded urban centers on the globe — and there comes a point when the world’s perspective shifts. Israel tries to delay this shift as long as possible. Compared with any other military, its armed forces take exceptional care to avoid civilian casualties. If a house is going to be bombed, a call is placed to it announcing this fact, and explicitly warning civilians to get out. A pilot might also drop a “door-knocker” on the roof — a nonlethal sound bomb also intended to announce an impending attack. The real bomb that’s then loosed on the target is often a munition, sometimes quite small, specifically selected to contain damage to the target and spare the neighbors.

But even surgical strikes involve a great deal of blood, and mistakes are inevitable. Israeli officials chose to declare an end to the 2012 offensive two days after eight members of the Dalou family, including four children, were killed by an Israeli bomb. The day’s total civilian death toll of 31 was more than the four previous days’ combined. Israeli officials insisted they won that war, but the World Press Photo of the Year was of Palestinians carrying dead children.

So it was that the U.N. Security Council convened in an emergency session on Thursday, at the request of the Palestine Liberation Organization. PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Palestinian Authority that nominally governs Gaza, had labeled Israel’s campaign “genocide.” The hope is to activate international public opinion on the side of the dead. “Absolutely,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a PLO spokesman. “If [Israelis] don’t stop, we have an experience [in] 2012, we have an experience [in] 2009, in 2006, of what kind of things can happen.”

But in his remarks Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon put equal emphasis on the missiles coming out of Gaza, and Israeli officials said they expected to prevent an admonitory resolution from the full council.

“This is not a classic Arab-Israeli conflict, where it goes on for a couple of weeks and then the great powers intervene,” said Dore Gold, a former Israeli U.N. ambassador who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Hamas, he noted, is not only listed by Europe and Washington as a terrorist organization, it also lacks backing in the Arab world, which is preoccupied with sectarian divisions and leery of its Muslim Brotherhood roots. Its political weakness moved the militant group to make the concessions required to complete a long-promised unity government with the secular Fatah faction led by Abbas, but the deal has failed to produce any evidence at all that “bringing Hamas in to the tent” would moderate its behavior. “They’re not acting like a terror group on its way to governing,” Gold said. “They’re behaving in the worst possible way.”

The U.S., which has been urging restraint in the conflict and brokered a cease-fire in 2012, has not called on Israel to halt air strikes in Gaza and refrained from doing so again during a phone call Thursday between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The President reiterated the United States’ strong condemnation of continuing rocket fire into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza and reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks,” the White House said in a statement describing the call. “The President expressed concern about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm. The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”

Indeed, Israel’s military says Hamas is promoting civilian deaths in Gaza, not only by operating from private homes but through posters and slogans actually urging people to cluster around targets as human shields. In one instance Tuesday, by numerous accounts local residents ran toward a building that had just received a phoned warning it was about to be bombed, apparently counting on their presence to protect. And it might have worked: an Israeli military spokesman said an effort was made to divert the incoming missile, but it was too late.

“It is a tragedy indeed,” Lieut. Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters Thursday, “and not what we intended.”

— Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Israel

Israel Says 6 Rockets Fired at It Every Hour

But Israel has hit approximately 800 targets in the Gaza Strip during recent conflict

+ READ ARTICLE

Over the last three days, 401 rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, according to a military spokesman.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson Peter Lerner told TIME that since 8pm local time Monday, rockets have been entering Israel at a rate of around six every hour.

In response, Israel has ramped up its assault on Gaza, striking 60 targets since the early hours of Thursday. “Israel has hit approximately 800 targets since the operation began,” a second IDF spokesperson told TIME. “These include underground terror tunnels, terror infrastructure and military compounds.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said Thursday that 81 Gaza citizens have been killed as a result of the recent conflict. Included in this toll are 15 women and 22 children.

Israel has suffered no reported fatalities and only a few injuries. The IDF credit this in part to their Iron Dome defense system which their spokesperson called “a literal lifesaver”. Iron Dome has intercepted 70 rockets since the beginning of the operation.

The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has intensified this week after the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, missing for over two weeks, were found dead on June 30. Israel has blamed Hamas for their deaths but the Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied the charge.

In apparent retaliation, a group of Israeli men abducted and killed Palestinian teenager Abu Khdair on July 2. His death sparked days of violent protests between the Palestinian youth and Israeli police.

Amidst these deaths, Islamist groups increased rocket fire into Israel, prompting the Israeli military to retaliate. The escalating conflict has ended years of relative calm in the region.

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