TIME

Israel Says It’s Extending Gaza Truce for 24 Hours

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

(BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip) — Hamas resumed rocket fire Saturday on Israel after rejecting Israel’s offer to extend a humanitarian cease-fire, the latest setback in international efforts to negotiate an end to the Gaza war.

Despite the Hamas rejection, Israel’s Cabinet decided to extend a truce for 24 hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Sunday. However, it warned that its military would respond to any fire from Gaza and would continue to demolish Hamas military tunnels during this period.

A temporary lull on Saturday saw Palestinians return to neighborhoods reduced to rubble and allowed medics to collect close to 150 bodies, Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

With the retrieval of the corpses, the number of Palestinians killed reached 1,047 in 19 days of fighting, while more than 6,000 were wounded, he said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers, meeting in Paris, had hoped to transform the cease-fire into a more sustainable truce. That effort was thrown into doubt with the Hamas’ rejection of the extension.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said any truce must include a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and that tens of thousands of displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes. Israel’s current terms are “not acceptable,” he said in a text message to journalists.

In the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, scores of homes had been pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets. Hardest-hit were areas close to the border with Israel, areas from where Gaza militants typically fire rockets.

Manal Kefarneh, 30, wept as she inspected her damaged home.

On an unfinished top floor, she and her husband had been raising chickens. The couple collected those dead and replenished water for the living in hopes they will survive the war.

“What did we do to deserve this?” she asked. “All of the Arab leaders watch what’s going on here like it’s a Bollywood film.”

Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

Across Gaza, 147 bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, officials said. In southern Gaza, a tank shell killed 20 members of an extended family who sought refuge inside a building, al-Kidra said.

Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way.

Israel has lost 42 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker also has been killed.

Israeli legislator Ofer Shelah of the centrist Yesh Atid party said Israeli troops are “fighting with an enemy dug in within the civilian population, dug in underground or within the houses there.” Referring to the widespread destruction, he said that “those are the consequences of such a fight.”

The military took some Israeli journalists into the Gaza border areas where troops were operating. Footage broadcast on Israeli television station Channel 10 showed homes booby-trapped with explosives, as well as grenades, mines and rockets stored there. Tunnels opened up inside houses.

Soldiers said some buildings blew up after being hit by gunfire from all the explosives inside. Col. Ofer Vinter, head of the Givati infantry brigade, said almost every house was booby-trapped with explosives and that Gaza fighters “emerge from the ground all the time.”

Standing over a tunnel concealed in a house, he said: “We cannot leave here before we finish dealing with all the tunnels.”

Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels it views as a threat.

Shelah, the legislator, said about 50 tunnels have been discovered so far.

On Friday, Israel rejected a Kerry proposal for a weeklong truce because it had no provisions for the Israeli military continuing to demolish tunnels, Israeli media reported at the time.

Under the Kerry proposal, talks would begin during the temporary truce on easing the border blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Hamas has said it would not halt fire until it wins guarantees that the border blockade, enforced by Israel and Egypt, would be lifted.

Any new border arrangements for Gaza would likely give a role to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas. Hamas had seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, triggering the Gaza blockade by Israel and Egypt.

However, Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, reached a power-sharing deal earlier this year with Hamas. Under the deal, a government of technocrats headed by Abbas was to prepare for new elections in the West Bank and Gaza.

Egypt wants forces loyal to Abbas to be posted on the Gaza side of the mutual border before considering open the Rafah crossing there, Gaza’s main gate to the world. Hamas officials have said they do not oppose such an arrangement, but would not surrender control over its thousands-strong security forces, meaning Hamas would remain the de facto power in Gaza.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris on Saturday that he and his counterparts from other nations are calling on both sides to negotiate a sustainable cease-fire.

Such a truce should meet Israeli security concerns, but also “the Palestinians’ expectations in terms of economic development and access to Gaza,” he said. “We are convinced of the need to involve the Palestinian Authority in achieving these objectives.”

Israel initially decided to extend Saturday’s 12-hour truce by four hours, to midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday. Hamas swiftly rejected the idea of an extension.

Shortly after the Hamas announcement, Gaza militants fired eight rockets and three mortars at Israel, the military said. Gaza militants said they fired 42 rockets, including two that were aimed at Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city, where police dispersed a peace rally attended by several thousand people.

In Gaza, a 36-year-old Palestinian man was killed by a sniper near the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah shortly after the 12-hour truce ended.

Meanwhile, anger over Israel’s Gaza operation has sparked a series of protests in the West Bank. Since Thursday, nine Palestinians have been killed in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians protesters.

Among those were two Palestinians killed by army fire Saturday, including a 23-year-old in the town of Jenin and a 16-year-old near the town of Bethlehem, hospital officials said.

TIME

3 Rockets Hit Israel as Hamas Rejects Gaza Truce

(JERUSALEM) — The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel’s proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday.

The military says the three rockets were fired more than an hour after the period for the initial lull had ended.

Meanwhile, the military warned residents of areas where there had been heavy fighting against returning there.

TIME

Hamas Rejects 4-Hour Gaza War Truce Extension

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA
Palestinians recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

(BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip) — A Hamas official says the group has rejected a four-hour extension of a humanitarian truce proposed by Israel.

Sami Abu Zuhri sent a text message to reporters Saturday, saying: “No agreement to extending the calm for an additional four hours.”

Israel has set its own terms for the lull, saying it would continue demolishing Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign minister were discussing how to build on the initial 12-hour lull Saturday and transform it into a sustainable truce.

TIME Israel

Cease-Fire Ends in Gaza

APTOPIX Mideast Israel Palestinians
A Palestinian woman carries her belongings past the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

Israel reports rocket fire from Gaza

Updated 3:11 p.m. ET

The Israeli military reported rocket fire from Gaza Saturday after militant Islamic group Hamas rejected Israel’s proposed extension of a truce by four hours.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected an offer announced by Israeli Cabinet member Yuval Steinitz to extend the 12-hour truce by four hours, the Associated Press reports.

The end of cease-fire comes on the same day as the death toll in Gaza hit 1,000 people, according to Gaza health official Asharf al-Kidra.

Western officials including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon are currently meeting in Paris in an attempt to create a deal that could provide a longterm truce.

[AP]

TIME

Israel Agrees to Extend Gaza War Truce by 4 Hours

A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014.
A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014. Mohammed Abed—AFP/Getty Images

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli Cabinet minister says Israel has agreed to extend a 12-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war by four hours.

The minister, Yuval Steinitz, spoke Saturday on Israeli television station Channel 10.

The initial lull agreed to by Israel and Hamas had begun at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Saturday.

Steinitz confirmed reports that Israel decided to extend it by four hours, until midnight Saturday.

He says the decision was made by the Israeli prime minister and defense minister.

Steinitz says a further extension would be considered at a Cabinet meeting later Saturday.

NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Thousands of Gaza residents who had fled Israel-Hamas fighting streamed back to devastated border areas during a lull Saturday to find large-scale destruction: scores of homes were pulverized, wreckage blocked roads and power cables dangled in the streets.

The 12-hour truce was the only apparent outcome from a high-level mediation mission by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon over the past week. They failed to broker a weeklong cease-fire as a precursor to a broader deal, as they had hoped.

Instead, Israel’s defense minister warned he might soon expand the ground operation in Gaza “significantly.”

In the northern town of Beit Hanoun, residents encountered widespread destruction. Most had fled days earlier, following Israeli warnings that the town would be shelled.

Siham Kafarneh, 37, sat on the steps of a small grocery, weeping. The mother of eight said the home she had spent 10 years saving up for and moved into two months earlier had been destroyed.

“Nothing is left. Everything I have is gone,” she said.

Israel launched a major air campaign in Gaza on July 8 and later sent ground troops into the Hamas-ruled territory in an operation it said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire and destroying cross-border tunnels used by militants to stage attacks.

At least 985 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed and more than 6,000 wounded over the past 19 days, according to Palestinian officials. Israeli strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in targeted hits, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee, according to Palestinian rights groups.

More than 160,000 displaced Palestinians have sought shelter at dozens of U.N. schools, an eight-fold increase since the start of Israel’s ground operation more than a week ago, the U.N. said.

Israel says it is doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, including sending evacuation warnings to residents in targeted areas, and blames Hamas for putting civilians in harm’s way. Israel has lost 37 soldiers and two civilians, and a Thai worker has also been killed.

Saturday’s 12-hour lull appeared unlikely to change the course of the current hostilities, with both sides digging in.

Israel wants to create deterrence. “At the end of the operation, Hamas will have to think very hard if it is worth it to taunt us in the future,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday.

Hamas, in turn, is unwilling to halt fire until it receives international assurances that Gaza’s seven-year-old border blockade will be lifted. Israel and Egypt tightened the blockade after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

After the temporary truce took effect at 8 a.m. Saturday, the streets of Gaza quickly filled with residents trying to stock up on supplies or returning to devastated areas to inspect their homes.

Ambulances of the Red Crescent reached the hardest-hit areas, including Beit Hanoun and the eastern Shijaiyah district of Gaza City, to recover bodies.

Eighty-five bodies were pulled from the rubble Saturday, many of them partially decomposed, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Fighters were among the dead, said Gaza Civil Defense spokesman Said al-Saoudi.

In two border areas, ambulances were unable to approach because tanks fired warning shots at the vehicles, the Red Crescent said.

In the southern town of Khan Younis, 20 members of the same extended family, including at least 10 children, were killed by tank fire that hit a building on the edge of town, said Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra.

The house partially collapsed and people were buried under the rubble. The family had recently moved into the building after fleeing fighting in a nearby village, said al-Kidra.

Hundreds of men marched in a funeral procession in Khan Younis Saturday afternoon, chanting “there is only God” while carrying the bodies, all wrapped in white cloth and some with bloody stains.

The Israeli military said troops would respond to any violations of the lull and continue “operational activities to locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip.”

The army has so far uncovered 31 tunnels and destroyed half of them. Israel considers the tunnels to be a strategic threat because militants have used them to launch surprise attacks inside the country.

The Israeli government has also begun suggesting that Gaza be demilitarized as a condition for a permanent cease-fire so that Hamas cannot rearm itself. The current war is the third in Gaza in just over five years.

Gaza militants have fired close to 2,500 rockets at Israel since July 8, exposing most of Israel’s population to an indiscriminate threat that has killed three civilians.

In Beit Hanoun, the streets were filled at midmorning with frantic residents, many of whom had walked several miles from temporary shelters to inspect the damage to their homes and retrieve belongings.

Ambulances with wailing sirens and donkey carts loaded with mattresses and pots soon clogged the streets. Two masked fighters, one with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder, walked by — a rare sighting since they typically don’t appear in the open.

At the Beit Hanoun hospital, six patients and 33 medical staff had spent a terrifying night huddled in the X-ray department as the neighborhood was being shelled, said director Bassam Abu Warda.

A tank shell had hit the second floor of the building, leaving a gaping hole, and the facade was peppered with holes from large-caliber bullets.

On Saturday, the remaining patients were evacuated, including 85-year-old Nasra Naim.

The elderly woman and a second patient were resting on mattresses on the ground floor of the hospital, amid debris and glass shards.

Naim’s daughter, Naame, said her home was destroyed in the shelling.

“I don’t know where to go,” she said. “They (Israelis) killed our children, they took our land and now they are still following us.”

Two Red Crescent ambulances were hit in Beit Hanoun overnight, killing a medic and wounding three, one critically, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

On Saturday, rescue workers pulled the scorched body of the medic from the wrecked vehicle, which had been hit about 200 meters from the hospital.

“Targeting ambulances, hospitals and medical workers is a serious violation of the law of war,” said Jacques de Maio, head of the ICRC delegation for Israel and the occupied territories.

Hardest-hit were Beit Hanoun neighborhoods close to the border with Israel, areas from where Gaza militants typically fire rockets.

Manal Kefarneh, 30, wept as she inspected her damaged home. On an unfinished top floor, she and her husband had been raising chickens, and she now found some of them dead. They collected the dead birds and replenished water for the living in hopes they will survive the war.

“What did we do to deserve this?” she asked. “All of the Arab leaders watch what’s going on here like it’s a Bollywood film.”

TIME

Official: Over 1,000 Palestinians Dead in Gaza War

(BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip) — A Palestinian official says more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing Gaza war as Israel battles Hamas militants.

Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said that officials recovered more than 100 bodies alone on Saturday.

The higher death toll came as fighting lulled Saturday during a 12-hour truce, the only immediate outcome from a high-level mediation mission by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon over the past week. They failed to broker a weeklong cease-fire as a precursor to a broader deal, as they had hoped.

Instead, Israel’s defense minister warned he might soon expand the ground operation in Gaza “significantly.”

TIME

Official: Israel Leans Toward Extending Gaza Truce

A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014.
A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014. Mohammed Abed—AFP/Getty Images

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — An Israeli government official says Israel is “leaning toward” extending a 12-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war by at least four hours.

The truce was to end at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT) Saturday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the ongoing discussions, said Israel’s government was leaning toward extending the lull.

Israeli media reported that Israel’s Security Cabinet would convene on Saturday night.

Separately, the office of the top United Nations envoy in the region, Robert Serry, said he is urging Israel and Hamas to extend the truce by 24 hours.

TIME Iran

Despite a Crackdown, Iranian Fashion Keeps Pushing Boundaries

Iranian fashion
Tehran fashion houses are pushing boundaries in Tehran ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

In the latest case of Iranian authorities cracking down on fashion they deem “un-Islamic,” a famous clothing design institute called “Khaneh Mode” or Mode House was shut down last week in Tehran. The fashion designer had caused a controversy last month when it held a show with models wearing coats which appeared to be made of the Iranian flag—minus its religious symbols. Nor did it help that the show had allowed men among its audience, which violates conservative Islamic taboos.

This was followed by intense reaction from conservative politicians and religious groups, who cited the show as yet another violation of Islamic mores and traditions, which in turn forced the government to react. “This fashion show did not match the regulations of the Fashion and Clothes Management Workgroup and therefore we have taken legal action,” said Hamid Ghobadi, the workgroup’s secretary according to the official ISNA news agency. “The Khaneh Mode institute has been shut down until further notice.”

The workgroup, which was created by an enactment of parliament, is tasked with organizing Iran’s emerging fashion industry and making it compatible with Islamic standards. It is headed by a deputy minister of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and its members are mostly government officials, with a handful of representatives from the fashion industry. Pictures of the show first emerged on Iranian websites in late June and showed men among the audience—until recently was unheard of in the Islamic Republic. The young female models, who wore white leggings, sported loose coats in the green, white and red tricolor of the Iranian national flag.

Iran’s fledgling fashion industry has begun to evolve in recent years, with shows on the rise. Most of these shows have permissions from the authorities but also underground shows are on the rise which depict more risqué dresses and even lingerie. However, until recently all shows for female clothes were held behind closed doors with no men allowed inside. The audience was also not permitted to take pictures or film.

Following the furor of religious and conservative groups the designers, Khaneh Mode immediately tried to do damage control with a statement on their website apologizing for having inadvertently offended anyone and reaffirming their commitment to “National and Islamic values.” Nonetheless, the authorities acted a few days later and shut them down.

Javid Shirazi, the director of the fashion house, told TIME in Tehran that that “we are completely committed to working within Iran’s native and Islamic framework and we tried to observe these in our show. Inviting men to view shows is permitted since last year so long as the clothes completely cover the body of models and models do not catwalk but walk in a normal and modest manner.”

The shutting down of the fashion house is just the latest instance of an endless tug of war between authorities and women in Iran, one that has been fought since an Islamic dress code was enforced in the aftermath of the 1979 revolution. This clash comes to the forefront every summer, when the latest female attire trends pick up with a tendency towards shorter and skimpier coats and ever tighter legwear, which has been epitomized this year in leggings.

The authorities react every year by escalating their “Morality Patrols.” The outcome is a cat and mouse game between more fashionably dressed women and the authorities. The results can be bizarre—women sporting trendy attire will sometimes take taxis from one side to the other side of squares and junctions just to bypass the morality police.

But over time the will of Iranian women has slowly but surely prevailed, with acceptable dress these days now far beyond the harsh codes of the first years of the revolution, when practically no makeup was tolerated and anything less than a chador—a loose robe that covers the body from head to toe—was frowned upon. And with the election of the more moderate Hassan Rouhani as president last year, many hope that the authorities will relax their strict stance on what women can wear in public.

Officially there has been no relaxation, in fact the authorities have tried everything they could think of to counter it. But in practice it’s a losing battle.

“Since last year there’s been a transformation in the framework of the permits we can get and what we can do,” said Shirazi, who sounded upbeat in spite of the closing of his business. “With the great potential this country has and the great desire young Iranians have, there is a bright future for the fashion industry in Iran, and this [the shutting down of Khaneh Mode] is just necessary experience we need to gain to go ahead.”

TIME

North Korea Fires Short-Range Missile into Sea

(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea’s Defense Ministry says North Korea has fired a short-range ballistic missile into waters off its east coast.

The launch is the latest in a slew of missile and rocket tests the North has been conducting in recent weeks.

A ministry official says the missile fired from North Korea’s southwest Hwanghae province on Saturday evening flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) across the country before landing in the ocean.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, and gave no further details.

The launch comes on the eve of the 61st anniversary of the signing of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. The armistice has yet to be replaced by a peace treaty, thus leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war.

TIME Libya

U.S. Evacuates Libyan Embassy

Secretary of State John Kerry blamed the rise of "freewheeling militia violence" in the country where an attack by Islamic militants killed four Americans in 2012

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Updated 10:59 a.m. ET

The State Department relocated all personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, on Saturday following an outbreak of violence between Libyan militias, the department announced.

“A lot of the violence is around our embassy but not on the embassy, but nevertheless it presents a very real risk to our personnel,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Paris, ABC reports.

Kerry blamed the “freewheling militia violence” that has flourished since the ousting of former president Muammar Gaddafi.

“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves,” deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.

U.S. military assisted in the operation and drove personnel to Tunisia. The relocation took five hours and was “without incident,” according a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Embassy staff will now work out of Washington, D.C., and other locations in the region.

The relocation occurred the same day the State Department issued a new travel warning that strongly advised U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Libya and to leave immediately if already visiting.

In 2012, an attack on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi, Libya, by Islamic militants killed four Americans.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top Department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf’s statement continues. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”

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