LIVE BLOG: Day 7 of Israel-Gaza conflict 2012

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 Rocket hits house in central Israeli city of Rishon Letzion, woman lightly wounded; Hamas official: Cease-fire to go into effect at midnight; IDF drops leaflets in Gaza City warning residents to evacuate outlying areas.

A decision on whether to launch a ground invasion of Gaza has been put off by at least a day, after Israel decided Monday to give the Egyptians more time to try to broker a cease-fire with Hamas, a senior Israeli official said.

The head of Hamas’ political bureau and Islamic Jihad secretary-general plan to meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Raafat Shehata again on Tuesday, in an attempt to finalize details of a cease-fire agreement. The talks in Cairo, which are being led by Shehata, are expected to be decisive. The Israeli delegates to the talks plan to return to Cairo today to present Israel’s response to demands being made by Hamas. Senior Egyptian officials told Haaretz that the sides are very close, but that some more flexibility is needed from the Israeli side.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are expected to arrive in Israel on Tuesday, where they will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.

More than 140 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel on Tuesday. The Palestinians reported that five people were killed in the Strip on Tuesday morning.

LIVE BLOG

8:19 P.M. IDF says conducted 17 airstrikes on Tuesday, killing 18 militants belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Gili Cohen)

8:03 P.M. Soldier killed earlier today in mortar attack on western Negev is Private Yosef Partok, 18.

8 P.M. Civilian also killed in mortar attack on Eshkol Regional Council earlier in the day (Gili Cohen)

7:54 P.M. Iran official: Palestinian militants should be “equipped” in order to defend themselves against Israel’s “organized terrorism” (Reuters)

7:45 P.M. Lifted gag order reveals that an IDF soldier was killed in Gaza mortar attack on the Eshkol Regional Council earlier in the day (Gili Cohen)

7:41 P.M. IDF says airstrike killed two Islamic Jihad militants in central Gaza Strip town of Deir al-Balah (Gili Cohen)

7:35 P.M. Palestinian and Egyptian officials are now saying that there is still no agreement on a cease-fire. (Haaretz)

7:31 P.M. Five rockets fired towards Be’er Sheva, at least three intercepted by Iron Dome. (Haaretz)

7:19 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Be’er Sheva area. (Haaretz)

7:01 P.M. Israeli official says truce deal with Gaza militants not yet finalized, ‘ball still in play.’ (Barak Ravid)

6:57 P.M. Update on Rishon Letzion rocket hit: Two lightly wounded, 10 treated for anxiety; authorities evacuate residents over fears building may collapse.

6:55 P.M. Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes: “President Obama underscored once again the importance of working for a de-escalation to the conflict in Gaza. He commended President Morsi’s efforts to pursue a de-escalation. And he also underscored that President Morsi’s efforts reinforce the important role that President Morsi and Egypt play on behalf of regional security and the pursuit of broader peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

6:46 P.M.IDF says 147 rockets fired by Gaza militants on Tuesday, with 94 exploding in Israel; Iron Dome intercepts 51 rockets (Gili Cohen)

6:36 P.M. Ministerial panel approves Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s proposal to expand Iron Dome budget by NIS 750 million (Haaretz)

6:24 P.M. Report: U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi three times in the last 24 hours (Al Arabiya)

6:22 P.M. Two Palestinians killed in Israeli strike, both reportedly photographers for Hamas’ TV station (Avi Issacharoff)

6:15 P.M. Rocket fired by Gaza militants directly hits building in central city of Rishon Letzion, one lightly wounded (Haaretz)

6:14 P.M. Hamas official: Gaza truce to be declared at 9 P.M., go into effect midnight, Israel time (Avi Issacharoff)

6:10 P.M. Initial reports indicate rocket fired by Gaza militants explodes in central city of Rishon Letzion (Yanir Yagna)

18:04 P.M. Rocket alarm sounds in Rishon Letzion area in central Israel (Yanir Yagna)

5:55 P.M. IDF says Gaza militants launched 121 rockets until Tuesday afternoon, Iron Dome intercepts 27 (Gili Cohen)

5:45 P.M. Masked gunmen publicly execute six suspected collaborators with Israel at a busy Gaza City intersection, according to witnesses. Hamas military wing claims responsibility. Witnesses say the six men were pulled out of a van, forced to lie face down on the street and then shot dead. Five bodies lay in a pile as a mob stomped and spit on them. A sixth body was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as people screamed, “Spy! Spy!” Hamas posted a sign on an electricity pole, naming the six alleged informers. (AP)

5:45 P.M. Deputy U.S. National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes: “We believe that it’s very important that the Palestinian Authority continues to be a part of these discussions. They have legitimacy to be a part of these discussions, and they are clearly going to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people – and a leading role” (Natasha Mozgovaya)

5: 43 P.M. UN Secretary General Ban: “A further escalation will be dangerous and will put the entire region at risk. I call everybody to restore calm. Rocket fire from Gaza on Israel is unacceptable and must stop immediately. Israel should show maximum restraint. I warn against a ground operation. We should protect civilians at all times” (Barak Ravid)

5:39 P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary to defend its citizens (Haaretz)

5:36 P.M. Rocket fired by Gaza militants directly hit Ashkelon home; initial reports indicate none wounded (Yanir Yagna)

5:24 P.M. Senior Israeli officials with knowledge of ongoing talks geared at reaching a cease-fire with Hamas will go into effect by Tuesday evening, adding that they hoped that the deal’s last points will be finalized in a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, due to take place at 10 P.M.

The officials added that the deal would not be a written agreement, and that no papers will be signed. “There will be understandings that will center on the cessation of Gaza rocket fire and the end of IAF strikes,” the officials said, adding that “discussions with the Egyptians on other issues like border crossings and arms smuggling will take place down the line” (Barak Ravid) (Barak Ravid)

5:05 P.M. Egyptian sources to Haaretz: Cease-fire signing to take place in Cairo on Wednesday, to be participated by UN chief Ban Ki-moon (Jack Khoury)

4:44 Gaza residents reported that IDF craft have been dispersing leaflets, warning them to leave their homes and concentrate in the center of Gaza City. According to the reports, the leaflets specifically warn the residents of the following Gaza neighborhoods: Sheikh Ijlin, Tel al-Hawa, south Rimal, Zeitoun, Shuja’iyya, Turkeman, new Shuja’iyya, and the outskirts of A- Shati.

The document was also published on Facebook, causing some residents to doubt the veracity of the message. However, the IDF Spokesman confirmed the contents of the paper, reiterating that the residents of those parts of Gaza City were indeed urged to leave their homes (Amira Hass)

4:40 P.M. Six rockets fall in open areas in western Negev; no injuries reported.

4:30 P.M. Five Israelis lightly wounded by rocket in western Negev.

4:13 P.M. Two rockets land in city of Ashdod, one explodes near a storefront.

3:58 P.M. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tells UN chief Ban Ki-moon that, if Israel elects to embark on a ground offensive in Gaza, “it wouldn’t be a limited operation, like a Pillar of Defense II, but more like an Operation Defensive Shield II,” referring to Israel’s comprehensive actions in the West Bank during the Second Intifada. “Comments and public declarations, urging Israel to refrain from a ground offensive, bolster Hamas and lengthen the current conflict,” Lieberman said (Barak Ravid).

3:54 P.M. IDF carries out third air strike in last 90 minutes, hits terror cell launching anti-tank missiles in the Dahaniya airport, wounding Hamas operative in another area in Gaza.

3:50 P.M. Some 100 Palestinians clashing with IDF soldiers near the place where the Gaza rocket exploded in Gush Etzion.

3:27 P.M. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said on Tuesday that “Israeli aggression” against Gaza would end later in the day, the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.

“President Mohammed Morsi announced that the farce of Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip will end on Tuesday,” MENA said, quoting public remarks made by the country’s head of state after the funeral of his sister.

“The efforts to conclude a truce between the Palestinian and Israeli sides will produce positive results in the next few hours,” he was quoted as saying. Egypt has been trying to mediate a truce to end the conflict. (Reuters)

3:27 P.M. Two Israelis were lightly wounded after a rocket exploded in Eshkol Regional Council. Another rocket landed in an open area.

3:10 P.M. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby arrived in Rafah crossing along with 10 Arab foreign ministers in order to display “support for the Palestinian people.”

2:51 P.M. According to the IDF, Israel attacked 11 terror cells in Gaza. At least five people were killed during the strikes.

2:43 P.M. UN chief Ban Ki-moon lands in Israel to meet with Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Peres

2:14 P.M. Rocket alert sounds in Jerusalem; two rockets explode in open areas near Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. No casualties reported. Hamas takes responsibility for the rocket fire.

1:41 P.M. Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV station broadcast a tape of Mohammed Deif, who is considered Hamas’ military commander, and who was seriously wounded several years ago in an attempted assassination by Israel. “The resistance confused the enemy, and if they embark on a ground operation, that would be a step toward releasing all the prisoners,” he said, hinting at the abduction of soldiers.

1:23 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in a meeting with the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle that Israel demands that the cease-fire include a “long-range agreement that would ensure that no more rockets will be fired into Gaza.” Netanyahu said he prefers a diplomatic solution, but if that is not attained, “Israel has the right to defend itself by other means.”

1:17 P.M. Rocket hits house in Netivot, causes damage but no casualties.  Four rockets land in Sderot, one near a house. Another rocket explodes in open area in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.

12:30 P.M. Lebanon’s Hezbollah urges Arab states to send weapons to Hamas to fight Israel. Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech that Arab leaders should deliver “more missiles to the Palestinian resistance in Gaza” to counter Israel’s offensive.

12:22 P.M. Rocket explodes near house in Sderot. No reported causalties.

12:17 P.M. Armor officer in the IDF reserves was moderately wounded from shrapnel after a rocket exploded in Eshkol Regional Council. He was evacuated to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. 

12:03 P.M. Rocket barrage fired toward Ashkelon, Kiryat Malakhi, and Be’er Tuvia Regional Council. Two rockets explode in open areas in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council and Be’er Tuvia Regional Council.

10:58 A.M. Palestinians report 5 killed and 10 wounded in IDF strikes in Gaza

10:56 A.M. Gaza militants fire 60 rockets toward southern Israel

10:37 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts rockets above Ashdod. Since Tuesday morning, 30 Grad rockets fired toward Be’er Sheva, 4 land inside the city. Damage done but no casualties reported.

10:31 A.M. Rocket causes damage to house in Be’er Sheva, no casualties. More than 40 rockets fired from Gaza on Tuesday.

10:29 A.M. IDF soldier moderately wounded after mortar shell explodes in Eshkol Regional Council.

10:16 A.M. White House: Obama has not asked Israel to hold off on ground invasion of Gaza, he believes Israel has the right to make its own security decisions. 

10:10 A.M. Rocket barrage fired toward Be’er Sheva. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets above the city.

9:52 A.M. Iron Dome intercepts two rockets above Be’er Sheva. Another rocket lands in open area in the city. Palestinians report two killed in IDF strike on Beit Lahia.

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