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.”

TIME

US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes

(WASHINGTON) — The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said.

“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The withdrawal underscored the Obama administration’s concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad, particularly in Libya where memories of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi are still vivid and the political uproar over it remain fresh ahead of a new congressional investigation into the incident.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “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.”

The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.”

American personnel at the Tripoli embassy, which had already been operating with limited staffing, left the capital around dawn and traveled by road to neighboring Tunisia, according to Harf. As the evacuation was underway, residents of the city reported in real time on social media that American military aircraft flew overhead while U.S. soldiers escorted a convoy of vehicles out of town. The State Department would not confirm the evacuation until all staffers were safely in Tunisia.

The department said embassy operations will be suspended until a determination is made that the security situation has improved, it said. Tripoli has been embroiled for weeks in inter-militia violence that has killed and wounded dozens on all sides. The fighting has been particularly intense at the city’s airport.

“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. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said. The evacuated staffers will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.

The move marks the second time in a little more than three years that Washington has closed its embassy in Libya. In Feb. 2011, the embassy suspended operations amid the uprising that eventually toppled longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. After the formation of a transitional government in July, 2011, the embassy reopened in September. Gadhafi was killed in October of 2011.

The Obama administration has been particularly sensitive about security of U.S. government employees in Libya since the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in the country’s second largest city of Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The administration is still fending off criticism from Republicans and others that it did not either enhance security in Benghazi or evacuate the mission due to rising violence in that city in the months prior to the attack.

The Benghazi mission was abandoned after that attack and never reopened. The embassy In Tripoli has been operating with reduced staff since but has remained open even as the violence intensified.

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones appealed for fighting near the embassy to stop. “We have not been attacked but our neighborhood a bit 2 close to the action,” she tweeted. “Diplomatic missions 2 B avoided pls.” On Sunday, Jones tweeted about “heavy shelling and other exchanges” of fire in the vicinity of the embassy and speculation about the potential evacuation had been rife at the State Department for more than a week.

Libya is now witnessing one of its worst spasms of violence since Gadhafi’s ouster. In Tripoli, the militias are fighting mostly for control of the airport. They are on the government’s payroll since authorities have depended on them to restore order.

The U.S. is just latest in a number of countries to have closed down their diplomatic operations in Libya. Turkey on Friday announced that it had closed down its embassy and militia clashes in Benghazi have prompted the United Nations, aid groups and foreign envoys to leave.

In Tripoli, clashes near the international airport have forced residents to evacuate their homes nearby after they were hit by shells. On Friday, the official Libyan news agency LANA reported that explosions were heard early in the day near the airport area and continued into the afternoon.

The battle in Tripoli began earlier this month when Islamist-led militias — mostly from the western city of Misrata — launched a surprise assault on the airport, under control of rival militias from the western mountain town of Zintan. On Monday, a $113 million Airbus A330 passenger jet for Libya’s state-owned Afriqiyah Airways was destroyed in the fighting.

The rival militias, made up largely of former anti-Gadhafi rebels, have forced a weeklong closure of gas stations and government offices. In recent days, armed men have attacked vehicles carrying money from the Central Bank to local banks, forcing their closure.

Libyan government officials and activists have increasingly been targeted in the violence. Gunmen kidnapped two lawmakers in the western suburbs of Tripoli a week ago and on Friday armed men abducted Abdel-Moaz Banoun, a well-known Libyan political activist in Tripoli, according to his father.

An umbrella group for Islamist militias, called the Operation Room of Libya’s Revolutionaries, said in a brief statement on its Facebook page on Friday that “troops arrested Abdel-Moaz over allegations that he served under Gadhafi” and “instigated rallies against” the Islamists.

TIME

Gaza Sides Agree to Lull but Truce Efforts Stall

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(JERUSALEM) — Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation “significantly.”

Hours after the U.S.-led efforts stalled, the two sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Saturday. However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.

In a “Day of Rage,” Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.

The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.

Israel wants more time to destroy Hamas military tunnels and rocket launching sites in Gaza, while the territory’s Hamas rulers want international guarantees that a Gaza border blockade will be lifted before they cease fire.

The Israeli military said in a statement that Saturday’s 12-hour pause in fighting would start at 8 a.m. But it warned that the military “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops “or fire at Israeli civilians.” The military also said that “operational activities to locate and neutralize tunnels in the Gaza Strip will continue.”

A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said earlier Friday that the group had agreed to the 12-hour lull, intended to allow civilians to receive aid and evacuate to safer areas.

Civilians on both sides have been hardest hit over the past 18 days.

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling have killed more than 860 Palestinians, wounded more than 5,700, displaced tens of thousands and destroyed hundreds of homes, Palestinian officials said. In dozens of cases, Israeli attacks killed three or more members of the same family, according to U.N. figures, and civilians make up three-quarters of the dead.

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. Thirty-six soldiers have also been killed in battle in Gaza.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday that Israel’s military would continue to strike Hamas hard, in order to deter it from firing rockets at Israel in the future.

“At the end of the operation, Hamas will have to think very hard if it is worth it to taunt us in the future,” Yaalon was quoted as telling soldiers manning an Iron Dome anti-missile battery. “You need to be ready for the possibility that very soon we will order the military to significantly broaden ground activity in Gaza.”

“Hamas is paying a very heavy price and will pay an even heavier price,” he said, according to a statement by his office.

The warning came shortly after Kerry announced in Cairo that he had been unable to broker a weeklong truce during which both sides were to talk about security arrangements and a possible easing of Gaza’s border blockade.

For days, Kerry had been moving between the Egyptian capital, the West Bank and Jerusalem, and talking to officials from Qatar, who are in contact with Hamas. More meetings with his counterparts from European Union nations, Turkey and Qatar were scheduled for Saturday in France.

Speaking alongside U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and the Egyptian foreign minister, Kerry insisted there was a general agreement on the “concept” of a truce but that both sides had concerns over details of carrying it out.

“Gaps have been significantly narrowed,” he said. “It can be achieved, if we work through some of the issues that are important for the parties.”

However, the Israeli Security Cabinet rejected Kerry’s proposal, according to Israeli media reports. Israel wants to be able to continue destroying tunnels used by Hamas militants to try to infiltrate into Israel and to smuggle weapons. It has so far uncovered 31 tunnels and destroyed half of them.

Meanwhile, heavy Israeli shelling was reported in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, an area where ground troops are operating.

One shell hit near the emergency department of Beit Hanoun hospital, wounding six people, including a foreign national who was not identified further, the Red Crescent said. Two of the wounded were in critical condition.

Shells also hit an ambulance in Beit Hanoun, killing a paramedic and wounding two people, the Red Crescent said. Another ambulance driver was killed as he tried to evacuate wounded from the southern town of Bani Suheila, the organization said.

As the Gaza fighting dragged on, the West Bank was becoming increasingly restive, with protests erupting Friday across the territory.

In the northern village of Hawara, hundreds took part in a protest after emerging from a mosque after Friday prayers, said Mayor Mouin Idmeidi. Hawara is located along a main north-south thoroughfare that is also used by Israeli motorists, and one Israeli driver slowed down as he passed the march and fired at the group, the mayor said.

He said four people were wounded and that one of them, a 19-year-old, died at Rafidiyeh Hospital in Nablus of his injuries.

After the shooting, clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli troops who opened fire, killing a 22-year-old, Idmeidi said. Health workers at the hospital confirmed the deaths.

An Israeli police spokesman, Mickey Rosenfeld, said paramilitary border police opened fire to disperse violent protests at Hawara, and that masked Palestinians threw firebombs. He said he was unaware of a shooting involving an Israeli civilian.

In Beit Omar, clashes erupted between Israeli forces and Palestinian stone-throwers. Hebron hospital officials said three Palestinians were killed.

Later Friday, the Israeli military said a soldier opened fire and killed a Palestinian protester who attempted to snatch his weapon during clashes in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron. Palestinian police said the man was killed after scuffling with a soldier who had barred him from entering his home before the break of the Ramadan fast.

On Thursday, thousands of Palestinians clashes with Israeli forces at a West Bank checkpoint and in east Jerusalem, the largest protests in those areas in several years.

TIME Israel

Israel Rejects Gaza Cease-Fire As Fresh Protests Rage in West Bank

Palestinian supporters of Hamas take shelter while clashing with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank.
Palestinian supporters of Hamas take shelter while clashing with Israeli security forces on July 25, 2014 near Ramallah, West Bank. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has yet to successfully mediate a cease-fire

Palestinians marched on the Qalandia checkpoint, rocks and Molotov cocktails flew, and Israel Defense Forces soldiers responded with gunfire and tear gas. It’s 2014, but today it all looks achingly similar to 2000, the year the Second Intifada, or “uprising,” broke out.

Five West Bank Palestinians have been killed by IDF troops since Thursday night: two on Thursday night in Ramallah, and three more in the cities of Hebron and Nablus. A sixth Palestinian was killed by gunfire from a settler near the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus, Israeli Radio reported.

“You’d better believe this is the start of the Third Intifada,” said Raed Froukh, 22. Froukh was part of a group of about 200 young Palestinians who threw rocks at Israeli soldiers Friday near a checkpoint on the outskirts of Ramallah – five minutes from the home of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – and then ran for cover when the troops began shooting in the direction of the youths.

“Israel has been killing our people in Gaza, is refusing to allow us pray in the al Aqsa mosque, and is now shooting live bullets at demonstrators,” said Froukh. “I think this will be worse than the first two intifadas which we witnessed. And as you can see, it’s all the factions coming together to fight the occupation and show resistance everywhere we can.”

The outburst of Israeli-Palestinian violence comes against the backdrop of intense diplomatic activity, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, to reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. On Thursday, Hamas and the secular Fatah faction, led by President Abbas, presented a rare unified position, outlining joint demands for a ceasefire: First, they want Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. Second, they want Hamas-affiliated Palestinians, released in 2011 in a prisoner exchange deal but re-arrested by Israel last month after the kidnapping and killing of three West Bank teenagers, set free once again. There are several other demands, including allowing Gazans to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem: they used to be permitted there, but some haven’t left Gaza since the Second Intifada almost 15 years ago.

Israel, meanwhile, has a different condition: The complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. That would prevent Hamas from preparing for that seems like an inevitable next round of fighting, given how frequently conflicts between it and Israel have cropped up in recent years. Israel’s disarmament demand mirrors that of 28 European Union foreign ministers, who also called for Hamas to be stripped of its arms this week.

Demilitarization, though, is a key sticking point standing in the way of a cease-fire deal. Gershon Baskin is an Israeli peace activist who has been involved in other back-channel cease-fire and prisoner exchange negotiations between Israel and Hamas. He said that asking Hamas to lay down all of its weapons is clearly a non-starter for the Palestinian side.

“Israel has defined its demands of ceasefire, which are probably totally unrealistic,” Baskin said. “Israel wants a demilitarization of Gaza, and if that is their demand, they probably won’t get a cease-fire.”

But neither has Hamas shown flexibility on the other demand, that of an immediate end to the violence. It has patently rejected Kerry’s proposal for a two-stage cease-fire – an immediate cessation of all hostilities followed by a five-day or one-week period to negotiate the exact terms. Meanwhile, Israel’s cabinet on Friday also rejected Kerry’s idea, according to Israeli media.

While Kerry and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, kept trying to find the right cease-fire formula, the fighting plodded on. The IDF continued to attack Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip Friday, and Hamas kept lobbing rockets into Israel.

Still, the world’s attention on Friday turned to the West Bank, on a day poised for upheaval. The bloodshed in Gaza, with the death toll standing at 832 Palestinians (and 38 Israelis, most of them soldiers), has West Bank Palestinians outraged. Throughout the week, Palestinians in the West Bank had been gearing up to hold a rally, dubbed the #48Kmarch, to protest IDF actions in Gaza. That demonstration, which attracted thousands of Palestinians, came after recent rioting in Shuafat, a Palestinian neighborhood of northern Jerusalem under Israeli control. Those protests followed the death of a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped and killed earlier this month. The murder was allegedly committed by Israeli extremists in revenge for the June 12 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank – Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha’er – which prompted Israel to launch a campaign of night raids and arrests around the West Bank. Following the raids and arrests, Hamas in Gaza began launching rockets at Israel daily, and about a week later, Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge,” its invasion of Gaza.

Thursday night and Friday also happened to be Laylat al-Qadr – usually translated as “Night of Destiny” or “Night of Power” – one of the holiest days of Ramadan. The killing of two Palestinians during the protests led Fatah and other Palestinian factions to declare Friday a “day of rage in support of bleeding, besieged Gaza.” Hamas spokesmen in the Gaza Strip urged Palestinians to use the moment launch a new intifada against Israel.

Samira Hamdan, 36, was one of many Palestinians who hung back and watched the slightly younger and mostly male Palestinians charge at the Israeli soldiers with rocks outside Ramallah, then attempt to escape to safety when the shooting ensues – a well-worn dance of years past.

“I am saddened to say that it really does feel like this is the Third Intifada,” she said. “This means more deaths and harsher conditions than ever before. But it’s not just Gaza or Mohammed Abu Khdeir. It’s the night invasions of homes, the re-imprisonment of released prisoners, and more deaths which have caused the Palestinian people to explode.”

- with reporting by Rami Nazzal in Ramallah

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