TIME Israel

Israel Escalates Aerial Offensive on Gaza, Family of 8 Killed

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel struck more than 320 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites

+ READ ARTICLE

(JERUSALEM) — Israel dramatically escalated its aerial assault in Gaza Thursday hitting hundreds of Hamas targets, and the Palestinians said a family of eight was killed in a strike that destroyed their home. Israel’s missile defense system once again intercepted rockets fired by militants at the country’s heartland.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel struck more than 320 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites. That brought the total number of targets hit to 750 in three days of the massive offensive. At least 75 Palestinians have been killed.

Lerner said Israel has already mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximizing its air campaign. A ground invasion could lead to heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side while putting Israeli ground forces in danger.

Neither side is showing any sign of halting their heaviest fighting since an eight-day battle in late 2012. Israel says that Hamas must cease rocket fire from Gaza for Israel to consider a truce. Militants have fired hundreds of rockets, striking across the length of Israel and disrupting life across the country. No one has been seriously harmed as the “Iron Dome” defense system has intercepted at least 70 of the projectiles destined for major population centers.

“The ground option needs to be the last option and only if it is absolutely necessary. It is a carefully designed plan of action,” Lerner said.

Palestinian medical officials said a strike early Thursday struck a home in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, killing eight members of a family. The Israeli military also said it struck a car in Gaza carrying three Islamic Jihad militants involved in firing rockets. The militant group confirmed that its men were killed in the strike.

At least 20 civilians have been among the 75 deaths reported by the Health Ministry in Gaza, though the exact number is not known.

Israel accuses militants of deliberately endangering civilians by using homes and other civilian buildings for cover. The military has also directly targeted the homes of known militants that it says are used as command centers, though it says it contacts the families first to evacuate.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Hamas is firing rockets from “within houses and streets and neighborhoods which are populated with civilians … exposing these civilians to retaliation and to backfire.”

After an overnight lull, militants resumed their barrage toward central and southern Israel. Remnants of a long-range rocket fired from Gaza landed in a gas station in south Tel Aviv after being shot down by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system.

The longer range of the rockets fired from Gaza has disrupted life across southern and central Israel, where people have been forced to remain close to home, and kindergartens and summer camps have closed.

Besides firing toward Israel’s two largest cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas also launched a rocket that reached the town of Zichron Yaakov, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza.

Even as the Israeli military pummeled Palestinian targets Wednesday, the region saw its first diplomatic efforts to end the heavy fighting.

Egypt, which has mediated before between Israel and the Hamas militant group, said it spoke to all sides about ending the violence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in touch with Israel to try to lower tensions. And the United Nations chief warned of a “deteriorating situation … which could quickly get beyond anyone’s control.”

As the Palestinian death toll rose to at least 75, neither side showed any sign of halting their heaviest fighting since an eight-day battle in late 2012.

Israel began the offensive Tuesday in response to weeks of rocket launches, and officials said the airstrikes would continue until the firing stops. At least 20 civilians were among the at least 75 deaths reported by the Health Ministry in Gaza. There have been no serious casualties on the Israeli side.

Thousands of Israeli troops massed near the Gaza border, the possibility of a ground invasion grew larger — along with the risk of heavier casualties on both sides.

“Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. “If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching.”

The government has authorized the army to activate up to 40,000 reservists, and Israeli TV stations said about a quarter of those forces had been called up, signaling a decision on a ground invasion could still be days away.

In the first indication that cease-fire efforts were underway, the office of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he held “extensive contacts with all active and concerned parties” to end the fighting.

It said the two sides discussed the “critical conditions and the need to stop all military action, and to stop the slide” toward more violence. It called on Israel to protect Palestinian civilians.

Egypt negotiated a cease-fire that ended the 2012 fighting, but the situation has changed since then. At the time, Egypt was led by the Muslim Brotherhood, a regional movement that includes Hamas. Following a military coup last year, el-Sissi was elected president, and the new government is far more hostile toward Hamas.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he spent Wednesday calling Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, el-Sissi and other regional leaders to push the two sides toward a cease-fire.

“This is one of the most critical tests the region has faced in recent years,” Ban told a news conference. “Gaza is on a knife-edge. The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get beyond anyone’s control.”

In Washington, the State Department said Kerry spoke by phone with Netanyahu and planned to talk to Abbas to urge both sides to de-escalate the crisis.

If the offensive drags on, Netanyahu could find himself under increased pressure to halt it, especially if the civilian death toll mounts.

The airstrikes have demolished dozens of buildings. Among the latest dead were an 80-year-old woman, an 11-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy and two young children. Israel has accused militants of endangering civilians by using homes and other civilian buildings for cover.

Mohammed al-Nuasrah of the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza described a scene of horror after an airstrike flattened a nearby home.

“Four people from the family died, and we’re sitting looking for the remains of the kids. One is 3 and one is 4 years old,” he said. “These children were just sleeping in their beds. What crime did they commit? Only God can judge you, Israel.”

In a statement broadcast on Al-Jazeera, Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Mashaal, called on all Palestinians to resist Israel and urged the international community to put pressure on Israel.

“Yes, our enemy is stronger than us, but we are up to the task of facing them, God willing,” he said. “We do not threaten or promise. Our right is to defend our lives.”

The longer range of the rockets fired from Gaza has disrupted life across southern and central Israel, where people have been forced to remain close to home, and kindergartens and summer camps have closed.

Besides firing toward Israel’s two largest cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas also launched a rocket that reached the city of Hadera for the first time. The city, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza, was struck in 2006 by missiles fired by Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

“We got it from both directions,” said Maayan From, a 25-year-old Hadera resident. “Our enemies have developed, and it is getting scary.”

In the West Bank, Abbas accused Israel of committing “genocide” due to the mounting civilian death toll and said it raised questions about Israel’s commitment to peace.

Tensions have been rising since the June 12 kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Israel accused Hamas of being behind the abductions but provided no proof.

Israel then cracked down on the group’s members in the West Bank and arrested hundreds of people. Hamas, which controls Gaza, responded by stepping up rocket fire.

The situation deteriorated last week after the bodies of the three were found, followed a day later by the abduction in Jerusalem of a Palestinian teenager who was found burned to death in what Palestinians believe was a revenge attack. Six Jewish Israelis were arrested in the killing.

Adding to the tension, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American cousin of the slain teenager was beaten by Israeli police at a protest. Israel’s Justice Ministry said one of the officers would face criminal charges.

TIME Foreign Policy

Here’s What John Kerry Can Learn From Hillary About Israel’s New Crisis

Clinton writes that Obama was "understandably wary" about intervening the last time violence flared

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, amid rising fears that the confrontation between Israel and Hamas could escalate to new levels of bloodshed. But Kerry might also want to talk to his Foggy Bottom predecessor about how the last round of violence in the intractable conflict was defused.

When Israel and Hamas last fought in Gaza in November 2012, President Barack Obama dispatched then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to broker a cease-fire. As Israel called up 75,000 reservists for a possible ground invasion, Obama was “understandably wary” of the U.S. taking a direct mediation role, Clinton writes in her new book, Hard Choices.

“If we tried to broker a cease-fire and failed, as seemed quite likely, it would sap America’s prestige and credibility in the region,” Clinton says. American involvement might also risk undercutting Israel, whose “right to defend itself” Clinton underscores. Obama officials also worried a U.S. role might “elevate” the conflict’s profile, leading both sides to harden their negotiating positions.

Even so, Clinton and Obama concluded that it was “imperative to resolve the crisis before it became a ground war.” Clinton knew that Netanyahu didn’t want to invade Gaza — but that he faced domestic pressure to do so and had no clear “exit ramp” that would allow him to de-escalate without seeming to back down, Clinton writes.

Just over 18 months later, many of the same dynamics apply as Obama weighs whether Kerry can — or should — broker a deal like the one Clinton struck.

For now, Obama officials have two public messages. One is that Israel is entitled to hit back at Hamas when the hard-line Palestinian group launches rockets at its territory. “No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we certainly support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday. The other is that the two sides should rein in the violence — which now takes the form of Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes. “We’re continuing to convey the need to de-escalate to both sides,” Psaki said.

That may not happen on its own, warns Dennis Ross, a former Obama White House aide who has handled Middle East issues for multiple Presidents. “Even if neither side wants it to spin out of control, the potential for that is quite high,” Ross says.

That’s why Obama has to decide whether to step in, especially given growing signs of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza. Israel’s 2009 incursion into the Hamas-governed coastal territory left 1,400 dead, and badly damaged Israel’s international image. A second invasion was averted in November 2012 only by the Clinton-brokered cease-fire, a deal struck just 48 hours before Israeli troops planned to swarm into Hamas’ stronghold.

Just before Thanksgiving that year, Clinton flew to the region and met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. She also saw Egypt’s then President Mohamed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood government was friendly with Hamas. The result was a mutual cease-fire, overseen by Egypt, with the promise of future negotiations about Hamas’ rocket arsenal and Israel’s Gaza blockade. Those talks never went far. But the cease-fire held. (Netanyahu won another concession, Clinton recalls: a phone call from Obama promising U.S. help against rocket smuggling into Gaza. “Did [Netanyahu] take some personal satisfaction from making the President jump through hoops?” Clinton wondered.)

Obama faces a different calculus today, including the recent collapse of Kerry’s push for a Middle East peace deal, and a new Egyptian regime that is decidedly hostile to Hamas, making Cairo unlikely to mediate again.

But many of the core principles that Clinton says swayed Obama in 2012 likely still resonate at the White House: that peace in the Middle East is a key U.S. national-security priority, that a ground war in Gaza would be disastrous, and that there is “no substitute for American leadership.” Indeed, Clinton writes that after the 2012 cease-fire deal, an Israeli official told her that “my diplomatic intervention was the only thing standing in the way of a much more explosive confrontation.”

The burning question for Obama is whether the same holds true today.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 9

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

In the news: Israel airstrikes Gaza; President Obama's $3.7 billion request to handle border crisis; Citigroup to pay $7 billion for shoddy mortgages; Which Muslim Americans leaders the NSA and FBI spy on; GOP's 2016 Cleveland convention; Germany beats Brazil 7-1 in World Cup

  • “Rockets continued to fall over central Israel on Wednesday and Israel carried out more airstrikes in Gaza, as the military and political confrontation between Hamas and Israel showed no signs of abating.” [NYT]
  • “President Barack Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion Tuesday to handle the thousands of child migrants on the southern border, and he’d like lawmakers to treat the emergency request as a simple matter of human compassion.” [TIME]
    • “Now Republicans have leverage, and they have a few requests of their own. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wants to require employers to verify electronically that new hires are in the country legally and the government to put in place an electronic entry-exit system at points of entry at the border…” [National Journal]
  • “The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.” [The Intercept]
  • “The Justice Department and Citigroup are close to a deal for the bank to pay about $7 billion to settle allegations it sold shoddy mortgages in the run-up to the financial crisis …” [WSJ]
  • “More than 100 faith leaders asked President Barack Obama on Tuesday not to include a religious exemption in his upcoming executive order to ban job discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation among federal employees.” [TIME]
  • Lawrence Lessig on His Super PAC to End Super PACs [TIME]
  • 5 Reasons to Be Delighted and Worried About a GOP Convention in Cleveland [TIME]
    • “Democrats are considering hosting their convention in Birmingham, Cleveland, Columbus, New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix, with a decision expected early next year. Cleveland will likely be cut from contention now that it has been selected by Republicans.” [TIME]
  • House GOP Stuck on Obamacare Alternative [Politico]
  • Teachers Union Turn Against Democrats [NYMag]
  • “Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has upset some Democratic senators by backtracking on his commitment to put spending bills on the floor this summer.” [Hill]
  • The Craziest, Costliest Political Campaigns Are the Ones You’ve Never Heard Of [WaPo]
  • “Germany beat Brazil 7-1 on Tuesday, ending the host country’s run in the World Cup semifinals. The German team scored four goals in less than seven minutes (23′, 24′, 26′, 29′). Germany’s Miroslav Klose also became the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer during the game. ESPN reports that this is just second time ever that Brazil has conceded 7+ goals in a game. (The first was against Yugoslavia in 1934.) It was also the worst ever loss by a host country.” [SI]
TIME Israel

Israel Hits Key Hamas Targets in Gaza Offensive

Israel is mobilizing troops for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory to stop the rocket fire

+ READ ARTICLE

Update: July 9, 1:04 p.m. ET

(JERUSALEM) — Israel stepped up its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Wednesday, pummeling scores of targets and killing at least 22 people as Israeli leaders signaled a weeks-long ground invasion could be quickly approaching.

The military said it struck about 200 Hamas targets on the second day of its offensive, which it says is needed to end incessant rocket attacks out of Gaza. Militants, however, continued to fire rocket salvos deep into Israeli territory, and Israel mobilized thousands of forces along the Gaza border ahead of a possible ground operation.

“The army is ready for all possibilities,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after holding a meeting of his Security Cabinet. “Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens. The security of Israel’s citizens comes first. The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns.”

The fighting stepped up as Egypt, which often serves as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, said it was in contact with both sides to end the violence. It was the first indication since the offensive was launched on Tuesday that cease-fire efforts might be under way.

The offensive has set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas since an eight-day battle in November 2012. As the death toll continued to rise, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of committing “genocide.”

Israeli leaders warned a ground invasion could be imminent.

“Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army,” Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. “If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching.”

The government has authorized the army to activate up to 40,000 reservists for a ground operation. An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing Israeli tactical strategy, said the reservists would be sent to the West Bank to allow active duty troops to amass near the Gaza border.

Despite the tough threats, Israeli security officials are still hesitant about ordering a ground invasion due to the many risks. Entering Gaza could lead to heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side while putting Israeli ground forces in danger.

It remains unclear whether the international community would support such an operation, or how Israel would end it. Officials have little desire to retake control of Gaza, a densely populated territory of 1.8 million people from which Israel withdrew in 2005.

Since the offensive began Tuesday, Israel has attacked at least 560 sites in Gaza, the military said. Militants have fired more than 160 rockets at Israel, reaching further north than ever before.

Palestinian medics say a total of 49 people have been killed in Gaza, including 22 on Wednesday. Of the total dead, medical officials have confirmed at least 15 are civilians and 10 militants, with the remainder uncertain. The rocket fire from Gaza has not caused any serious Israeli casualties.

The Israeli onslaught has caused panic in Gaza. A number of airstrikes aimed at wanted militants have also killed family members and bystanders. Many residents have huddled indoors or moved from hard-hit areas to relatives in areas that are believed to be safer.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Qidra said that an 80-year-old woman was among those killed Wednesday.

Hamas official Musheer al-Masri said Israel had “crossed all the red lines” and warned that Hamas would strike back fiercely. “What the resistance showed today is only part of what it is capable of,” he said.

The increasing range of the rockets from Gaza has disrupted life across a wide swath of southern and central Israel, where people have been forced to remain close to home and kindergartens and summer camps have been forced to close.

Besides firing toward Israel’s two largest population centers in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas also fired one rocket that reached the northern Israeli city of Hadera for the first time, effectively putting the entire country under rocket range from the north and south. The city is more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Gaza and was struck in 2006 by missiles from Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

“We got it from both directions,” said Maayan From, a 25-year-old Hadera resident. “Our enemies have developed and it is getting scary. We have to put an end to this.”

On Wednesday, Hamas rockets reached even further north than Hadera.

“It’s still hard to digest that we are within their range. It changed the way you think,” said Ina Marchovsky, 43. “We are full of hope that was the first and last rocket we will see. But I don’t know.”

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought numerous times over the years. But until recently they had been observing a truce that ended the previous hostilities in 2012.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi spoke to the Palestinian president, Abbas, on Tuesday evening to review the latest developments, according to el-Sissi’s office.

Abbas, who has minimal influence in Gaza, has appealed to Israel to halt its offensive. “Egypt has made extensive contacts with all active and concerned parties to spare the Palestinian people the scourge of Israeli military operations,” el-Sissi’s office said.

It was not clear whether the contacts included formal efforts to reach a cease-fire, or whether Egypt was speaking to Hamas. The new Egyptian government has poor relations with Hamas.

In Ramallah, Abbas condemned the Israeli offensive, accusing Israel of committing “genocide” due to the mounting civilian death toll and said it raised questions about Israel’s commitment to peace. “Do these actions indicate that we should live with two states?” he said.

Tensions have been rising since the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12. Israel accused Hamas of being behind the abductions, although it provided no proof.

Israel then launched a crackdown on the group’s members in the West Bank and arrested hundreds of people. Hamas, which controls Gaza, responded by stepping up rocket fire.

The situation deteriorated last week after the bodies of the three were found, followed a day later by the abduction of Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem — who was later found burned to death in what Palestinians believe was a revenge attack. Six Jewish Israelis were arrested in the killing.

Hamas is far weaker than the last round of fighting with Israel in 2012.

At the time, Egypt was governed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ close ally. Following its ouster in 2013, Egypt’s new government became hostile to Hamas and closed a network of smuggling tunnels used by the group as an economic lifeline, and as a way to smuggle in rockets.

____

Associated Press Correspondent Aron Heller contributed to the report from Hadera, Israel.

TIME Israel

Israel Calls Up Reservists as Arrest of Suspects in Killing Fails to Calm Unrest

Israel says it hopes for calm even as it floats a military escalation

+ READ ARTICLE

Israel called up 40,000 reservists to bolster its threat of a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, even as it said it hoped its quick move to arrest the Jewish extremists charged in an apparent revenge killing would lower the temperature. But the arrests appeared to do little to quiet the protests that have engulfed Israel and the West Bank in the week since the murder of a Palestinian boy.

“We worked immediately to find the perpetrators,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the boy’s father in a phone call on Monday. “They will be tried and brought to justice.”

Still, uncertainty reigned Tuesday, a week after the killing of Muhammad Abu Khdeir—said to be crime of vengeance for the murder of Jewish Israeli teens buried just hours earlier. One clear reason is “Operation Protective Edge,” the offensive Israel launched Monday night in the Gaza Strip and threatened Tuesday to escalate to a ground war by calling up the reservists.

And aside from military movement, another dynamic may be fueling the unrest, one that makes the Abu Khdeir case exceptional for more than its brutality: Experience has led Palestinians to believe they rarely get justice when their attacker is Israeli. The arrest of six Jewish Israelis in the Abu Khdeir case is, according to human rights activists and frustrated Palestinians, the exception that proves the rule.

“Our database shows you when an Israeli commits an offense against a Palestinian, it will almost never be prosecuted,” said Reut Mor, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights and legal defense group Yesh Din. Between 2005 and 2013 only one in a dozen investigations of crimes committed by Jewish Israelis against Palestinians ended in indictment, the database shows: 84% of cases were closed without action.

The figures were gathered on the occupied West Bank, where militant Jewish settlers have for years been engaging in the kind of attacks that in the last week have spread throughout Israel—beatings, stonings, vandalism and confrontations designed to intimidate. But Israelis themselves make scant distinction between Jews living on the West Bank and within Israel proper, either in terms of citizenship or in the collective soul-searching the Abu Khdeir death has prompted in the Israeli media.

Polls show Israelis have grown not only more conservative, but also steadily less tolerant of Palestinians in their midst. At the same time, some commentators say the actions of Jewish extremists have now stained the entire society. “For too long we persuaded ourselves that if we only let the people who incite and vilify blow off steam, they would make do with words and not move into the realm of action,” the conservative columnist Ben-Dror Yemini wrote Monday in the daily Ma’ariv. Said editor David Horovitz in his Times of Israel news website: “We need to face up to the fact that our ongoing rule over the Palestinians, apart from endangering Israel as a Jewish democracy, is corroding us, blackening our hearts.”

Incidents have grown both in number and violence in recent days. On Saturday night in the West Bank village of Osarin, south of Nablus, Tariq Adeli, 22, was grabbed from behind and a cloth with some kind of knockout drug held against his face as he waited in the street. “I felt as if I had been thrown up in the air,” he later told his roommate in the Nablus hospital where doctors set the bone in a leg nearly sheared off by his assailants. They had pulled him into their car, clubbed him with something like a hatchet, and thrown him into the ditch below a road leading to a nearby settlement, he said.

The assailants were believed to be settlers who had been scouting the village on scooters and four-wheelers in recent days. “All I was going to do was watch the soccer match,” Adeli told TIME. “I am not involved politically what so ever. What have I done to these settlers to deserve having them gang up on me and cut my leg off, or is it just because I am a Palestinian?”

Israeli officials say they’re hoping for calm, banking heavily on the arrest of the Abu Kdeir suspects even as they eye a military escalation. “We captured them so quickly, and hope it calms down quickly,” said Amos Gilad, a senior official in the Ministry of Defense. He made the remarks during a news briefing on the Gaza offensive, which he said would gradually escalate until Hamas stopped firing rockets. The West Bank, he said, was a different situation entirely, or would be before long. “We are not only using power,” Gilad said, “we are using respect toward the Palestinians.”

A flurry of other attacks were also reported on the West Bank. A Palestinian priest’s car was stoned by settlers north of Ramallah. A farm was set alight south of Nablus last Wednesday, the words “blood vengeance” spray-painted on a wall. Over the weekend, settlers swarmed out of their guarded compounds toward Nabi Saleh, Deir Nidam and even Ramallah. In the village of Ein Abous south of Nablus early Monday, residents saw settlers from the notoriously militant Yitzhar settlement coming down the hill and called Palestinian authorities, who alerted the Israeli military. An Israeli patrol promptly appeared—something advocates called highly unusual.

“Usually, when settlers gather and throw stones, the military stand by and watches, and when the villagers throw stones back, the soldiers respond by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians,” said Mor, the Yesh Din spokesperson. “This is the usual dance.”

But the situation has grown so combustible in the last two weeks—570 Palestinians were injured in the first seven days of July, according to United Nations figures—that the Israeli army has taken the extraordinary step of stationing troops at the entrance to the most notorious settlements. Most are located around Nablus in the northern West Bank, although a Palestinian was beaten in the hills south of Hebron, where militant settlers routinely throw stones at Palestinian on their way to school. “They’re so worried, they are finally getting involved when settlers attack,” More said of the Israeli military.

Violent encounters also continue inside Israel. Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem were attacked by a crowd of 50 on Saturday night. Occupants of a car opened fire on Palestinians in East Jerusalem on Monday night. And an NPR reporter and his Palestinian interpreter were stoned by Jewish settlers in Jerusalem’s Old City neighborhood, where police downplayed the significance of the attack.

The situation could well deteriorate as the death toll climbs in Gaza, and protests erupt in solidarity with the “martyrs.” That’s how young Samer Msaeh ended up in the bed next to Tariq with a bullet in his left leg—shot by an Israeli soldier while protesting the deaths of two other Palestinians.

“If it explodes somewhere, it explodes everywhere, even in ’48,” said his father Ryad Msaeh, referring to Israel proper. “In the end they’re all Palestinians, even if they’re inside the Green Line.”

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 8

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

In the news: Israel increases attacks in the Gaza Strip; White House to deport "most" of the unaccompanied minors; Sen. Menendez asserts that Cuba plotted to derail his career; Legal, recreational marijuana stores open in Washington

  • “Israel stepped up its attacks in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, hitting 50 alleged Palestinian militant targets in retaliation for the heaviest rocket fire from the coastal enclave in 20 months. At least five Palestinians were killed and another 16 people were wounded in the attacks…” [WSJ]
  • “The White House signaled Monday that it expects to deport most of the unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally across the southern border, employing the strongest rhetoric to date to indicate that an influx of thousands of Central American migrants will not be tolerated.” [WashPost]
    • Immigrant Surge Rooted in Law to Curb Child Trafficking [NYT]
  • “Sen. Robert Menendez is asking the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him with allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes…” [WashPost]
  • Ukrainian Employer of Joe Biden’s Son Hires a D.C. Lobbyist [TIME]
  • Behind Harry Reid’s War Against the Koch Brothers [Politico]
  • Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative [NYT]
  • Everything You Need to Know About Buying Legal Weed in Washington State [TIME]
TIME Israel-Palestine

Israel Launches Military Offensive Against Gaza, Strikes 50 Sites

Israel has said that nearly 300 rockets and mortars have been fired at it in recent weeks by Hamas. Israel has retaliated by launching a dozen air strikes on Gaza, Monday. The offensive, is aimed at striking Hamas and ending the rocket fire that has intensified after the killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian teenager

+ READ ARTICLE

(JERUSALEM) — The Israeli military launched what could be a long-term offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday striking at least 50 sites in Gaza and mobilizing troops for a possible ground invasion aimed at stopping a barrage of rocket attacks against Israel.

The military said “Operation Protective Edge” looks to strike the Islamic Hamas group and end the rocket fire that has reached deeper into Israel and intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.

In a statement, the military said it was seeking to “retrieve stability to the residents of southern Israel, eliminate Hamas’ capabilities and destroy terror infrastructure operating against the State of Israel and its civilians.”

Nearly 300 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel in recent weeks, including a barrage of close to 100 projectiles on Monday alone, the military said, a huge surge after years of relative quiet that followed a previous Israeli campaign to root out Gaza rocket launchers.

“We have repeatedly warned Hamas that this must stop and Israel’s defense forces are currently acting to put an end of this once and for all,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes, and eight Palestinian militants were killed Monday. Israel had signaled that it would not launch a larger offensive if the militant group Hamas ceased the rocket fire.

“They chose the direction of escalation,” said military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, in a telephone briefing to reporters. “So the mission will go on as long as we feel it is necessary to carry it out. We don’t expect it to be a short mission on our behalf.”

After a brief early morning lull, the rocket fire from Gaza resumed Tuesday with more than 15 rockets fired toward southern Israel, including the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. The Associated Press video showed launches from inside Gaza.

The military said five were intercepted by the country’s sophisticated Iron Dome missile defense system. A German cruise operator docking in the Ashdod port said debris fell onto one of its ships late Monday as it was departing.

None of the 2,700 vacationers and crew aboard the AIDAdiva was harmed. “However, small debris that according to experts could have come from a defense missile were found on the passenger deck,” the company said. The ship continued to Crete without delay.

Israel’s defense minister announced a special state of emergency in the region Tuesday as summer camps and kindergartens were shut down and residents were encouraged to stay close to their homes.

Among the 50 sites the military said it targeted early Tuesday were four houses it said were “activity sites” belonging to Hamas militants involved in launching rockets at Israel or other militant activity. There were no reported casualties in the strikes.

The military identified the men whose houses were targeted as Eiad Sakik, Abdullah Hshash, Samer Abu Daka, and Hassan Abdullah. The Associated Press filmed Abu Daka and Abdullah’s demolished homes in the Khan Younis area of the Gaza Strip.

In addition, the military said it struck three militant compounds, 18 concealed rocket launchers, and other militant infrastructure sites. Most were targeted in airstrikes, and three were attacked from the sea.

Gaza health official Ashraf Al-Kedra said at least nine Palestinian civilians were brought to a Gaza hospital with light to moderate injuries from the airstrikes, including several who suffered from shock. He said some of the injured Palestinians were treated and released.

Lerner, the military spokesman, said the army will gradually increase its attacks on Hamas in Gaza, and is recruiting additional reservists for a potential ground invasion of Gaza.

Hamas has amassed about 10,000 rockets, including longer-range rockets that can reach “up to Tel Aviv and beyond,” Lerner said, adding that the military was preparing for the possibility that Hamas would launch rockets toward Israel’s heartland and its commercial and cultural hub.

The military ordered hundreds of thousands of Israelis within a 40-kilometer (25-mile) radius of the Gaza Strip, including Israelis in the major southern city of Beersheva, to stay indoors and near shelters.

Lerner said last month’s kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank was connected to the intensified rocket fire carried out by Hamas militants in Gaza. Israel blames Hamas for the teens’ abduction and is conducting a manhunt for two Hamas-affiliated Palestinians in the West Bank it believes carried out the kidnapping and killing.

The Israeli government has not yet provided proof of Hamas’ involvement in the kidnapping.

“The abduction of the three boys only cost them, and they had no gains from it,” Lerner said. “Therefore they have increased their involvement in rocket fire,” adding that nearly all of the rocket fire at Israel Monday was carried out by Hamas, not militants affiliated with other groups. He said Hamas was “trying to gain clout.”

Tensions have been high since three Israeli teenagers kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank were later found dead, followed by last week’s slaying of the Palestinian youth in what many suspect was a revenge attack.

The charged climate inspired President Barack Obama to pen an op-ed for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution,” Obama said in the piece published Tuesday.

Obama warned of a “dangerous moment” for the region after the collapse of U.S.-backed peace talks.

“As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now,” he wrote. “Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel.”

TIME Israel

Hamas Steps Up Rocket Fire, Israel Says Ready for Escalation

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA-HAMAS
Abu Obeida, right, the official spokesperson of the Palestinian militant group Ezzedine al-Qassam brigade, the armed wing of Hamas, give a press conference on July 3, 2014 in Gaza City. Mohammed Abed—AFP/Getty Images

Hamas stepped up rocket fire at southern Israeli towns and Israel called up reserve troops on Monday in anticipation of a possible escalation of hostilities with the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of the Palestinian group said it fired dozens of rockets within about an hour, after hundreds since mid-June. Israel said more than 40 rockets were launched as militants’ funerals were held in Gaza. Thirty struck inside Israel and the rest were shot down by rocket interceptors, the army said.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME foreign affairs

Israel Will Show the World It’s Willing to Hold Its Own to Account

Clashes over slain Palestinian teen in Jerusalem
Clashes occurred between Israeli security forces and Palestinian youths during the funeral ceremony held for Muhammad Abu Kdear in Jerusalem on July 4, 2014. Salih Zeki Fazlioglu—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israel has not always been tough on prosecuting Jewish, non-lethal revenge attacks. But the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir should change that.

The vigilante revenge murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir will test the Israeli legal system to its core. The vast majority of Israelis, and all of its leaders, have condemned the murder in the strongest terms, but there are some Israelis—how many is unclear—who were so outraged at the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, that they were prepared to understand, if not justify, revenge.

A Facebook page was set up, after the murder of the Israeli youngsters but before the murder of the Palestinian youth, calling for revenge, but there was sharp disagreement within the page as to the nature of the revenge sought. The group’s “managers” explained their agenda: “Killing innocents? No. [T]he group’s purpose is to avenge the kidnapped teens’ blood. To catch the terrorists that abducted and killed them and to exact revenge.” But some on the page made the racist argument that “there is no such thing an innocent Arab.” The Israeli Army and Minister of Justice condemned the page and threatened to take actions against those who expressed racist views or called for revenge against innocent Palestinians.

The call for revenge was muted among Israelis by the horrible murder of Khdeir, but amplified among Palestinians. Riots have ensued both within Israel-Arab cities and on the West Bank.

Now, following the arrest of half-a-dozen Jewish Israelis, and the reported confession of three, the Khdeir case is in the hands of the Israeli legal system. I know this system well, having consulted on several high-profile Israeli prosecutions. I also know the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and many of the judges. They all pride themselves on the fairness of Israeli justice. The Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to treat all murders—those committed by Israelis as well as those committed against Israelis—as equally reprehensible, demanding equal justice. “We do not differentiate between terrorists,” he declared.

In other contexts, the Israeli legal system has shown that it can be very tough on its own. A former president now sits in prison, having been convicted of rape and sexual harassment. A former Prime Minister has pledged to appeal his six-year prison sentence, having been convicted of corruption. Another former Prime Minister lost his job following an investigation by the Attorney General.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that when it came to investigating, prosecuting and punishing Jewish, non-lethal revenge attacks, primarily against Palestinian property—the so-called “price tag” vigilantism—the Israeli legal system was not always as tough as it should have been. But the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir may change that.

I believe the Israeli legal system will be fair, or perhaps even bend over backwards, when it comes to the brutal murderers of Khdeir. Criminal trials in Israel do not involve juries. Accused criminals are tried by professional judges, who are in general selected on a non-partisan basis. Verdicts and sentences are less likely to be influenced by popular opinion than in the United States, where judges are either elected or politically appointed, and where jurors are supposed to reflect the views of the people.

Even if some Israelis might have more sympathy for Jews who killed a Palestinian than for Palestinians who killed Jews, that sort of public bias will have little impact on the trial of those accused of killing Khdeir. The age of the defendants, however, might. There are reports that some may be minors, and Israeli law does take account of the age of accused criminals. But older vigilantes may well be involved as well, either in planning, inciting or protecting the actual killers. The investigation is ongoing and will not stop until everyone who has played a culpable role in the murder is apprehended and brought to justice.

The Israeli government, which rightfully complains that it is often subjected to a double standard of justice by international institutions such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, must show the world, and its own citizens, that it is capable of imposing the same standard of tough justice on Jews who murder Palestinians as it does on Palestinians who murder Jews. Justice demands no less. I predict that Israeli justice will pass the test.

Professor Alan Dershowitz’s latest book is Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law.

TIME Israel

Violence Escalates Between Israel and Gaza Following Arrests

More than 70 rockets have been fired at Israel, which has launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip

+ READ ARTICLE

Rocket sirens could reportedly be heard across southern Israel Monday as violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip escalated following the Sunday arrest of six Israelis in connection with the murder of a Palestinian teenager.

Israel’s security cabinet moved to intensify attacks against Hamas on Monday evening, as over 70 rockets were launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip during the day, Haaretz reports. The Israeli military had earlier launched air strikes on targets in Gaza Strip, and says it is assembling 1,500 reservists in anticipation of escalated violence from Hamas and other Islamic militant groups.

The latest bout of sustained violence began over the weekend, after the discovery of the corpse of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian believed to have been kidnapped and burned alive.

Three out of the six suspects arrested on Sunday have reportedly confessed to the murder. Police believe Khdeir’s murder was in revenge for the killing of three kidnapped Israeli teens last month, which Israel has blamed on Hamas, Reuters reports.

On Monday morning Hamas announced that six members of its military were killed in an overnight attack on a tunnel. Israel denied the claim and said the tunnel collapsed following the detonation of explosives that went off for an unknown reason.

[Haaretz]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser