LIVE BLOG: Day 5 of Israel’s Gaza offensive

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Two Israelis moderately wounded in rocket attack on Ofakim; ten Palestinians killed in IDF attack, raising death toll to 65; AP: Israeli envoy landed in Cairo for cease-fire talks.

Israel was bombarded by a barrage of rockets on Sunday, as Operation Pillar of Defense entered its fifth day.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Israel was prepared to significantly expand its operation in the Gaza Strip.

The premier told U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he was ready to accept a comprehensive cease-fire if the rocket fire from Gaza will stop.

Jerusalem residents received their first taste of rocket warnings over the weekend as terror groups fired more missiles on the south and at Tel Aviv.

After the first rocket was fired at the Tel Aviv area on Friday, the army deployed a fifth, new Iron Dome anti-missile battery in the region on Saturday morning. Within two hours, the system – considered more advanced than the previous four because of its more sophisticated radar system – intercepted a rocket fired at the city.

LIVE BLOG

6:10 Two rockets intercepted over Ashkelon.

6:00 P.M. Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) says several foreign diplomats left Gaza for Israel today and that 26 Palestinians and their relatives were allowed into Israel for medical treatment.

5:40 P.M. The IDF has attacked 50 targets today in Gaza, including rocket launchers and smuggling tunnels.

5:35 P.M. Victims of Ofakim rocket attack taken to Be’er Sheva hospital. Two moderately wounded, 3 lightly wounded.

5:31 P.M. Senior official in Jerusalem confirms that Israeli envoy has arrived in Cairo for cease-fire talks. According to the official, Israel does not expect any breakthrough in talks, and preparations for a possible ground offensive are ongoing. 

5:15 P.M. Ten Palestinian civilians are killed in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza, according to Palestinian medics – the highest civilian death toll in a single incident during five days of fighting. Medics say three women, six children and one man are killed in the attack on the three-story building. Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble. The incident raises the death toll in Gaza since the beginning of the operation to 66. An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the report. (Reuters, Haaretz)

4:54 P.M. Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, more than 900 rockets were fired toward Israel, and Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted 302 rockets.

4:45 P.M. Activists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula call for a mass march into the neighboring Gaza Strip on Tuesday as a show of support. “Instead of staging useless protests, we call for assembling at the [Egyptian border] Rafah crossing on Tuesday to enter Gaza, to show real solidarity and form human chains to protect the Palestinian people from the Israeli bombardment,” said Khaled Arafat, a senior official in the nationalist Al Karama Party in northern Sinai. (DPA)

4:35 P.M. The Associated Press is reporting that an Israeli envoy has landed in Cairo for talks with Egyptian authorities on a cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza. The report quoted unnamed Egyptian security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and did not name the Israeli official. Israel has denied sending an envoy to Cairo.

4:34 P.M. Two Israelis moderately to seriously wounded in the rocket attack on Ofakim, three others lightly hurt.

4:25 P.M. U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking in Thailand, says he firmly supports Israel’s right to protect itself, but that it would be “preferable” to avoid a ground invasion in Gaza: “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired onto its territory. If that can be accomplished without the ramping up of military activity in Gaza – that’spreferable. That’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of fatalities or being wounded. We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours”.

4:00 P.M. Rocket hits car in Ofakim, wounding at least two.

3:40 P.M. Head of Hamas rocket-launching unit Yehiya Bia killed by IAF. Bia was responsible for much of the rocket fire on Israel since the start of the operation.

3:30 P.M. “We must do everything to prevent war in Gaza. I am here because we are talking with all sides – the Egyptians, the Qataris and the Israelis,” says French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius during a press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem, adding that the situation in Israel and in Gaza is worrying and that the solution is a ceasefire.

According to Lieberman, Israel “wants a long-term agreement, which will include a halt to firing by all the terror organizations on our population centers. Our first condition is halting of fire by all the terror organizations. When all the organizations commit to halting fire, we will be open to considering the ideas of our friends in the world.” (Barak Ravid)

2:48 P.M. In press briefing, Foreign Minister Lieberman says a cease-fire is contingent upon a total cessation of fire by all terrorist organizations active in Gaza.

2:36 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Ashdod. (Israel Radio)

2:31 P.M. Due to high volume of calls, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality asks residents to keep entrances to their buildings open in order to allow people to seek shelter when siren sounds (Haaretz)

2:25 P.M. Chief of Staff concludes meeting on assessment of the situation,  instructs IDF to pick up the pace of the strikes on Gaza (Haaretz)

2:16 P.M. Environment Ministry considering scaling down hazardous materials in Tel Aviv area (Haaretz)

2:04 P.M. At least 15 rockets fired at Ashdod (Haaretz)

2:03 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Eshkol Regional Council (Haaretz)

1:57 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Be’er Tuvia (Haaretz)

1:43 P.M. Rocket scores direct home on Be’er Sheva (Yanir Yagna)

1:24 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Be’er Sheva

1:13 P.M. Iron Dome intercepts rocket en route to Netivot, two headed for Ofakim, and two fired at Sderot (Yanir Yagna)

1:06 P.M. Five rockets fired at Ashkelon, all intercepted by Iron Dome (Haaretz)

12:57 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Ashkelon

12:40 P.M. 117 trucks carrying humanitarian aid cross Kerem Shalom into Gaza

12:14 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Ashdod (Haaretz)

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