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Friday
Nov162012

Israel-Palestine Live Coverage: The Conflict Escalates from Gaza to Tel Aviv

See also EA Video Analysis: Gaza --- The Top 4 Reasons For Israel's Attack (and Hamas Rockets are Not on the List)
Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: International Meeting in London Discusses Support for "New" Opposition
Thursday's Israel-Palestine Live Coverage: Day 2 of Operation Pillar of Cloud


2209 GMT: After a period of some quiet in Gaza, it appears Israel may be attacking again:

2108 GMT: More from Reuters on the 75,000 reservists:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a four-hour strategy session with a clutch of senior ministers in Tel Aviv, while other cabinet members were polled by telephone on raising the mobilisation level. The decision did not mean all 75,000 reservists would be called into action, but gave the military the go-ahead to enlist them if needed.

2104 GMT: IDF sources have confirmed that they attacked Hamas' Interior Ministry (see 0945 GMT entry for picture of the destruction).

2056 GMT: The Israeli government has approved the activation of up to 75,000 reservists, according to Al-Jazeera English, citing local Israeli media reports.

2049 GMT: Global Post journalist Noga Tarnopolsky reports that Israeli media has confirmed the deaths of senior Hamas commanders Ahmed Abu Jalal and Khaled Sha'er earlier today. Abu Jalal was reportedly killed in an air strike on the in al-Maghazi refugee camp, whilst Sha'er was killed on his motorbike in Deir Al Balah.

2005 GMT: Several sources report that an extremist group with links to Al Qaeda has taken responsibility for a rocket attack from the Sinai peninsula that targeted Israel on Wednesday. This could signal a disturbing escalation in the violence.

Interestingly, Egypt's new government has been actively engaged in fighting these extremist groups in Sinai for well over a year.

1948 GMT: War is often good for arms companies. Reuters reports that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak "will seek cabinet approval for funds that could provide Israel with three new Iron Dome rocket interceptors". Israel currently has four Iron Dome interceptors and will soon receive a fifth, manufactured by state-owned company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

1934 GMT: US President Obama has spoken with Turkey's leader Prime Minister Erdoğan about the escalating crisis in Gaza and Israel. A Whitehouse statement describes the conversation:

The two leaders shared their concerns about the dangers to civilian populations on both sides and expressed their common desire to see an end to the violence. The President and Prime Minister agreed that the continued spiral of violence jeopardizes prospects for a durable, lasting peace in the region. The President underscored his commitment to advancing the goal of Middle East peace. The President’s call to Prime Minister Erdogan follows his outreach to counterparts in Israel and Egypt on November 14.

1930 GMT: A concerning development if accurate. Haaretz reports that "Rockets fired from direction of Egypt toward Eshkol Regional Council"

1928 GMT: Associated Press share raw footage from Southern Israel of empty streets as air raid sirens blare:

1926 GMT: Raising the propaganda stakes, Yiyzhak Ilan, the Deputy head of Shabak (Shin Bet), has reportedly claimed that Hamas' missiles are not only linked to Iran, but that, "The missile route to Gaza is: Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and then Gaza.

Beyond the fearmongering, the addition of Sudan to his list is noteworthy. Last month, a Sudanese arms factory in Khartoum was destroyed. The Sudanese government blamed Israeli airstrikes, although Israel neither confirmed or denied any involvement.

Earlier today, the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal who is in Sudan, told worshipers at a mosque in Khartoum that:

Hamas will take revenge for Sudan from Israel in retaliation for its aggression ... You will hear good news soon.

1915 GMT: At a speech tonight, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for unity between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as between Fatah and Hamas. Abbas claimed that he tried to contact Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, but that neither were available. Abbas also reiterated his call for recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly, a push which on Monday led Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman to call for his overthrow.

1908 GMT: Local authorities in Israel have been told to prepare for a "seven-week fighting period" by Home Front Command, according to a report in Israeli paper Ynet:

In discussions held between Home Front Command Chief Major-General Eyal Eisenberg, regional commanders and heads of local authorities in the center and in the south, authorities have been instructed to prepare for a seven-week period of combat as part of Operation Pillar of Defense and to prepare emergency supplies, accordingly.

1859 GMT: There have been reports in recent hours that the IDF is sending text messages to Gaza residents saying (in Arabic):

The next phase is on the way. Stay away from Hamas elements.

One Twitter user, @RanaGaza, posted a screenshot of the message from her fathers phone. As noted by the Guardian, IDF Major Peter Lerner has just tweeted the same message, linking to @RanaGaza's screenshot. Whilst not an official confirmation of the message, it is yet another stage in the ratcheting up of aggression ahead of a possible ground invasion.

1855 GMT: The New York Times carries a disturbing account from the ground in Gaza:

Masked gunmen in Gaza summarily executed a man here on Friday as a suspected collaborator with Israel on the third day of its deadly aerial bombardments, shooting him multiple times and leaving his body beneath a billboard featuring a Hamas fighter holding a rocket.

The executed man, identified as Ashraf Ouaida, had a poster hung around his neck accusing him of cooperating with the Israelis in the killing of 15 Palestinian leaders.

Wael Mohammed, a taxi driver who was standing on the steps of the Aman Mosque in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, said that around 11:45 a.m. he saw a Jeep pull up on Al Jalla Street, from which two masked men dragged Mr. Ouaida to the dirt circle under the Hamas billboard.

“They took him out from the Jeep with his hands cuffed behind his back, they pushed him under the poster and fired three gunshots at his head from the back,” Mr. Mohammed said. “He was still alive. Then they set his cuffs free and turned him upside down and fired on him again.”

1847 GMT: The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked the Arab League chief to visit Gaza on Saturday or Sunday. Egypt's state agency MENA reported that "a member of the executive committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Saeb Erekat, has made a telephone call to the Arab League Secretary-General, Nabil Elaraby". MENA added that Abbas requested that Elarby come as part of a delegation of Arab foreign ministers.

1843 GMT: An update to our 1829 GMT entry --- AFP reports that all the main roads around Gaza have been sealed off. A military spokesperson told them:

There is a closed military zone in the area. These are the main routes around the Gaza Strip and they have been closed to traffic.

1838 GMT: According to Al-Jazeera English, citing one of their reporters on the ground in Gaza, "a recent airstrike in Mghazi refugee camp in the central area of Gaza kills 3 Palestinians and wounds several others, increasing the total death toll to 27".

1835 GMT: A dramatic moment in an interview on CNN with Gaza resident Mohammed Sulaiman, who works for a human rights NGO. Mohammed was debating Israeli resident Nissim Nahoonwhen live on CNN, when he was knocked sideways by air strikes outside his house (around 2:50 in the video):

These are Israeli war planes bombing the Gaza strip. Listen. Lets just carry on our conversation. ... You can hear all that for yourself. I'm not going to comment on it. I'm not going to allow these bombs to interrupt me from having this debate with you and your guest. So lets agree on one thing. Let get this game of who is the victim and who is the victimiser out of the way so we can talk about more substantial issues.

1829 GMT: Reuters reports that the "Israeli army has announced closing three roads around the Gaza Strip".

1822 GMT: More from the US State Department spokesperson:

Israel has a right of self-defense...we are seeking a de-escalation, we are seeking a peaceful settlement to this.

We are in the process of trying to de-escalate a very, very dangerous situation between Gaza and Israel.

We see Iran playing a malign role...in the context of Gaza. I don't have any particular comments to make, but obviously were they to cease-and-desist...that would be helpful.

1819 GMT: Reuters reports from the recent US State Department press briefing:

U.S. State Department spokesperson: "Rockets are continuing to be launched from Gaza, including today. We support...Israel's right to self-defense, and we obviously express our regret and sadness for the loss of life on all sides."

Secretary Clinton called Israeli Foreign Minister, Egyptian Foreign Minister, Jordanian King Abdullah today, according to the U.S. State Department spokesperson.

1817 GMT: Israeli Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser says he "has started to conduct a phone vote among government ministers for approval to recruit 75,000 reserve soldiers", according to a statement on his official Facebook page.

1735 GMT: An EA source in Gaza writes us in the light of news of rocket strikes near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem....

It's like a victory for us to attack such places. People now believe more in the road of Hamas and fighting until the end.

But we are all worried. Yesterday was the most difficult one ever. Today we will wait.

Until now most of the airstrikes have attacked empty land which is used for rockets --- the next step would be bloody/

People who have European passports will leave tomorrow. This tells us that the next [phase] isn't better.

But we are still alive.

1655 GMT: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has spoken about the "massacre" in Gaza from Israeli operations:

We hope that Israel understands that security cannot be achieved without peace. Israel must bear in mind they must work towards ending the bloodshed.We are heading to the UN on the 29th of this month [to seek Observer State recognition from the General Assembly]. We can not relent. No matter what happens.

Abbas said he had spoken to Washington and other international actors and called for more efforts to stop the violence and for a reconciliation between his Fatah Party and Hamas.

1620 GMT: The Israel Defense Forces has announced via Twitter that it has called off airstrikeswhen civilians are spotted near a target.

1610 GMT: Hacktivist group Anonymous has launched attacks on websites owned by the Israeli Government.

“There are so many defaced Israeli websites right now, that we just made a list of them,” Anonymous tweeted.

1607 GMT: The Iraqi envoy to the Arab League, Qais el-Azzawy, denies that he called on Arab states to use oil as a weapon to press for a halt to Israeli attacks on Gaza.

1605 GMT: Minister of Defense Ehud Barak has approved the request of the Israel Defense Forcces to widen the draft of army reservists from 16,000 --- announced this morning --- to more than 30,000. The order now goes to the Government for approval.

1555 GMT: Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has condemned the Israeli airstrikes as "an open violation of international law".

1550 GMT: Israel's Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, has claimed that Hamas received a "significant" amount of arms from Libya.

Global Post journalist Erin Cunningham posts a report of related rumours in Sinai:

1540 GMT: BBC journalist Yolande Knell, citing a source in the emergency services, reports that a "rocket hit main gate of Maale Amos settlement in West Bank".

1530 GMT: Reports now indicate Hamas' Al Qassam Brigades fired two longer-range Qassam rockets at Jerusalem --- journalist Lauren Bohn says the Israeli military have confirmed one landed near the city:

1520 GMT: Air raid sirens have gone off in Bethlehem in the West Bank.

A claimed photograph of rocket trails above the city:

1500 GMT: Three Gaza rockets have hit areas near Jerusalem. No injuries have been reported.

According to The Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Lappin, Hamas claims it has fired an upgraded Qassam "M-75" at Jerusalem.

A CNN journalist reports:

1455 GMT: Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has spoken with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone and thanked them for their support.

1453 GMT: BBC correspondent Jon Donnison reports that at least 23 Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday.

1450 GMT: Air raid warnings have been sounded in Jerusalem --- Reuters correspondent Dan Williams:

1449 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has spoken after his visit this morning to Gaza:

This tragedy requires an urgent intervention, serious and honest action from all sides. This is what Egypt has started to do and will continue to do until this aggression is ended, until Palestinian national unity is achieved to the interest of the Palestinian people, until lasting peace is established and the Palestinian state is set up with Jerusalem as its capital.

1442 GMT: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi warns Israel: "I don't want to take unusual steps but if I see that the homeland is in danger, I won't hesitate."

1437 GMT: Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres after their meeting today, with Netanyahu declaring:

I think [the nations of the world] understand this impossible predicament of having millions of our citizens living in fear of terrorist rocket fire. They all expressing understanding of Israel's right, and indeed Israel's duty, to defend its citizens.

There is one basic difference between us and our enemies. They deliberately target civilians and hide behind civilians. We do everything in our power to minimise civilian casualties.

1434 GMT: The Israel Defense Forces say that 600 "terror sites" in Gaza, including underground rocket launchers & infrastructure have been targeted..

1433 GMT: A spokesman for Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak says , "The attacks on Tel Aviv were no surprise whatsoever to us".

1432 GMT: Jerusalem Post correspondent Yaakov Lappin says 40 attacks have been carried out by Israeli forces in Gaza in the last 30 minutes.

1427 GMT: PM Benjamin Netanyahu sends his message to the international community:

Hamas deliberately targets our children, and they deliberately place their rockets next to their children.

We are going to continue hitting Hamas hard and we will continue to strike hard at the missiles targeted at Central and Southern Israel

1425 GMT: Former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Philip J. Crowley warns Israel on Twitter:

Israel has a right to self defense, but ground troops in Gaza plays into the Hamas strategy and risks another geo-political disaster.

1423 GMT: EA's John Horne reports:

Washington Post Cairo Bureau Chief Abigail Hauslohner reports on an interesting development in relations between Egypt and Turkey following the crisis in Gaza:

The BBC notes that this will be Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's first trip to Egypt since President Morsi was elected.

1417 GMT: President Shimon Peres continues:

No-one doubts the justification of the operation–We cannot abandon women & children to the madnessof Hamas.

Those who preach to us about morality should offer an alternative way to stop the rocket fire from Hamas.

Our aim is not to start a war and we are all hopeful that the operation doesn't last a moment longer than necessary.

1411 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls Israeli's air strikes on Gaza as a pre-election stunt and says he will discuss the crisis with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo this weekend.

1404 GMT:After the Israeli army bombarded Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian woman died of serious injuries.

1402 GMT: President Peres says on Twitter: "I spoke to presidents from across the world, no-one doubts the justification of the operation"

1358 GMT: EA's John Horne reports:

Speaking to CNN, Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has suggested that a ground war may be less than two days away:

We are kind of reluctant warriors. We don’t want to get into Gaza if we don’t have to. But if they keep firing at us… a ground operation is still in the cards…. We have very simple, specific goals.

If we will see in the next 24 to 36 hours more rockets launched at us, I think that would be the trigger.

If anything, this is a ratcheting down of the rhetoric and sense of an immediate invasion of Gaza that was stemming from IDF spokespeople yesterday.

Scott Lucas adds this quick assessment - "It's a Sword of Damocles from Ayalon --- respond, Hamas, and we might unleash the ground war."

1340 GMT: Picture showing PM Netanyahu's meeting with President Peres.

1330 GMT: Al Arabiya correspondent says at least 12 new air strikes carried out in Gaza.

1325 GMT: The IDF reports that three soldiers were injured due to rockets coming from Gaza.

1300 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin tells Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that Russia supports Egypt's effortsto halt the escalating violence in Gaza.

1250 GMT: Arab and Jewish students at three Israeli universities have faced off in campus demonstrations.

1240 GMT: The IDF denies that a rocket hit Tel Aviv.

1235 GMT: The Israel Defense Forces publishes another picture, calling for international support of its "self-defense right".

1230 GMT: The Jerusalem Post's correspondent reports the continuing Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. 

1223 GMT: Al Jazeera English reports more Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City, moments after missiles were fired by Gazan fighters.

1210 GMT: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has said that Israeli attacks on Gaza are "a blatant aggression against humanity" and that Cairo "will not leave Gaza on its own". Morsi continued, "The aggressors that insist on their aggression must be able to bear the consequences."

1200 GMT: The Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, had sent the message that they had fired a long-range missile:

1159 GMT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were briefed about the rocket attack in Tel Aviv and Netanyahu is having a meeting with security chiefs. 

1158 GMT: Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid reports:

1150 GMT: Three Israelis wounded after a rocket hit Eshkol Regional Council. 

1148 GMT: Gaza rocket fired toward Tel Aviv explodes in an open space. 

1145 GMT: One Palestinian jas been killed during an Israeli air strike.

1140 GMT: ABC correspondent Alexander Marquardt says Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his colleagues had to rushed to safe rooms during the explosion in Tel Aviv.

Marquardt adds that Hamas has executed a Gazan for his "treason".

1135 GMT: The Jerusalem Post's correspondent Ben Hartman reports an explosion in Tel Aviv.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Ben Abdessalem has spoken to Al Jazeera English of his intention to visit Gaza tomorrow: "This is not a media show --- we stand behind the Palestinian people in their right struggle for liberation. Israel has to understand that it is no longer in a position to do anything it wants."

1117 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, visiting Gaza this morning, holds the body of a slain boy:

1114 GMT: Israeli officials have said they are deploying a fifth "Iron Dome" anti-missile system two months early.

Israel Defense Forces have claimed that 130 rockets have been destroyed by the Iron Dome system since Wednesday.

1039 GMT: Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian reports on the growing crisis at Gaza's main hospital:

1035 GMT: The European Union's representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, has issued a statement:

I am deeply concerned at the escalating violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip and deplore the loss of civilian lives on both sides," Ashton said in a statement.

The rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza which began this current crisis are totally unacceptable for any government and must stop.

Israel has the right to protect its population from these kinds of attacks. I urge Israel to ensure that its response is proportionate.

Ashton said she had spoken about the situation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the office of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

(http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=538120)

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has put out the statement of British Foreign Minister William Hague to both sides:

1025 GMT: Protesting over Gaza, Palestinian women scale a wall and enter an Israeli military compound in the West Bank on Thursday:

0945 GMT: The remains of the Ministry of Interior after an Israeli airstrike:

0915 GMT: We reported earlier (see 0842 GMT) on an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City, killing two and wounding seven, which appeared to break West Jerusalem's promise of a three-hour ceasefire for the visit of Egyptian Prime Ministe Hisham Qandil.

The Israel Defense Forces give the other side of the story, claiming 50 rockets fired into Israel over the last two hours. (www.twitter.com/AvitalLeibovich) The Live Coverage of Haaretz provides details of the claimed attacks.

Within minutes of Prime Minister Qandil's arrival in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister's office was already claiming that Hamas had broken the ceasefire:

0855 GMT: The Al Qassam Brigades, the miltiary wing of Hamas, are claming that they have destroyed a jeep on the Israeli side of the border, killing one soldier.

0853 GMT: The New York Times focuses this morning on the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, where three people died in a rocket attack on Thursday:

An open tub of chocolate spread sat on the counter; pots on the stove were filled with shards of glass. Tiny shoes were scattered in the narrow hallway, its walls spattered with blood.

It was just after 8 a.m. when the sirens went off in this largely blue-collar town of about 20,000 in southern Israel. Kiryat Malachi, which means the City of Angels, had not suffered a direct hit by rockets from Gaza before.

One of the top-floor apartment of this rundown four-story building was home to the Scharf family, a couple in their 20s with a boy, 4, and a girl of 8 months. Neighbors said they had recently come from India, where they were emissaries for the Chabad-Lubavitch organization of Hasidic Jews. At the incoming rocket alert they did not rush for the relative safety of the stairwell as many of the neighbors did; perhaps they did not know the drill.

In the apartment next door, Yitzhak Amsalem, also in his 20s, ignored his mother’s pleas to take shelter. Instead he and Aharon Smadja, a rabbi and a friend, stood by the window, eager to photograph “the fireworks,” neighbors said.

When the rocket crashed into the top of building, it took the first Israeli casualties in this round of violence: Mr. Amsalem and Mr. Smadja, and Mira Scharf, the mother of two.

0842 GMT: Al Jazeera English is reporting an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City near the Jabaliya refugee camp. Medical sources say that a house next to a warehouse has been hit, killing two people --- including a child --- and wounding seven.

The attack, coming soon after Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil held his news conference outside Shifa hospital, breaks a promise by the Israel Government for a three-hour ceasefire.

Al Jazeera's live shot is showing a plume of black smoke above the area.

0840 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil has also emphasised that Palestianian groups --- namely Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Fatah, which has leadership in the West Bank --- should unify for the sake of the people.

0835 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is holding a news conference in Gaza City, expressing "his support for the Palestinian people on behalf of the Egyptian people and the Egyptian President".

Qandil says, "Egypt will not stay quiet until the Palestinian people get all their rights and their sovereignty."

0805 GMT: The Israeli military has confirmed that 16,000 reservists have been called up. [8:44:54 AM] Scott Lucas:

on Thursday, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak indicated that as many as 30,000 reservists would be mobilised, raising prospects of a ground invasion of Gaza.

0715 GMT; Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil's visit to Gaza should be seen in the wider context of an Egyptian-Turkish move to seize the initiative in the crisis.

With the US and, to a lesser extent, European countries moving quickly to back Israel's offensive as a response to "terrorism", Ankara and Cairo have moved to give backing to the Gazans while trying to claim political leadership.

Egyptian officials, including the Foreign Minister in a call to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, distanced themselves from the attempt by President Obama --- citing his phone call to President Morsi --- to align Cairo with his position behind West Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Bulent Arenc offered to work with Israel on Thursday to resolve the crisis, while making clear that the Israeli attacks had no moral or legal basis.

0705 GMT: Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has entered Gaza at the Rafah border crossing and is heading to Gaza City, where he will his Hamas counterpart Ismail Haniyeh.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that West Jerusalem will observe a three-hour ceasefire during the Qandil visit.

BBC correspondent Jon Donnison tweets from Gaza City:

0615 GMT: Israel has carried out more than 150 airstrikes overnight, as the death toll since Wednesday has reached 21 --- 18 Palestinians and three Israelis.

At least two and maybe three Gazan rockets landed near Tel Aviv, the first time that missiles had come close to the city since 1991. One fell into the sea, while one and possibly two struck to the south.

The Israeli Defense Forces claimed that 325 rockets have been fired since Wednesday, sparked by the Israeli airstrikes that hit more than 20 Gazan locations and killed Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jabari. The IDF said more than 100 of the rockets had been intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.

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