Israel Continues to Press Hamas, While The World Looks for Answer In Ukraine

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Saturday’s demonstration in London came on the heels of numerous protests Thursday and Friday worldwide, including Cairo, Istanbul, Cape Town, Berlin, New York and Washington. Courtesy of beforeitsnews.com

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Ukraine Malaysia Flight MH17 Courtesy of USA Today

On Tuesday, Israel continued their offensive with airstrikes pummeling a wide range of targets in Gaza as the U.N. chief and the U.S. secretary of state began efforts to end the fighting that has claimed 570 Palestinians and 29 Israelis, according to Karin Laub, Israeli aircraft hit more than 70 targets in Gaza. A Gaza police official confirmed that Israel bombed five mosques, a sports complex and the home of the late Hams military chief. The latest strikes came as U.N. chief Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Cairo late Monday to try to stop the deadly conflict. Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional ceasefire to be followed by talks of a new Gaza border arrangement since as of right now Israel and Egypt have restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Hamas with support from Qatar and Turkey want guarantees that the blockade with be lifted before halting fire. The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said Monday that Gaza’s 1.7 million people share their goals adding: “We cannot go back, we cannot go back to the silent death” of the blockade. Gaza has decided to end the blockade by its blood and by its courage.” After a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, Ban said that “violence must stop by all sides,” and negotiations start adding, “We can’t claim victory simply by returning matters to where they stood before they led to terrible bloodshed.” The border blockade has set Gaza back years as tens of thousands of jobs have been wiped out due to bans on exports and imports of vital construction materials Israel says are used for Hamas, while Egypt has restricted passage last year to medical patients, Muslim pilgrims and Gazans with foreign passports to travel. Kerry announced in Cairo that the U.S. will send $47 million in humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of Palestinians who left their homes to escape the violence. At the start of his meeting with Ban, Kerry said: “We will work to see if there is some way to not only arrive at a cease-fire of some kind but to get to a discussion about the underlying issues. Nothing will be resolved by any cease-fire, temporary or long, without really getting to those issues at some point and that’s what we need to do.” Kerry stayed in Cairo Monday for more meeting with top Egypt officials, however, no immediate plans for face to face meeting with officials from Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank were discussed.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Israel Defense Forces tweeted a photoshopped image of Britain’s House of Parliament under missile fire with the message “What would you do?” which of course backfired. According to AOL, Israel Responds To Critics With Fake London Bombing Tweet, the idea was to put Britain in Israel’s shoes since they have been the most outspoken critic of Israel’s offensive. The tweet came days after a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London that thousands attend over the weekend. Both Israel and Hamas have both turned to social media to stir up support e.g. IDF updates the number of rockets fired by Hams and soldier killed even uploads clips of anti-Hamas propaganda videos. However, the latest tweet has caused angry responses on Twitter directed toward Israel. Even if Israel wins the ground war, it may lose the media war as Twitter has been exploding with pictures of dead Palestinian children killed in Israeli airstrikes. According to CNN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that’s what Hamas wants: “It’s gruesome – they use ‘telegenically dead Palestinians’ for their cause. They want the more dead the better.” AOL reports, Chanel 4’s Paul Mason explains: “[W]here Israel is losing the hearts and minds of the world is not via “tele” anything: it is in the JPEGs that stream into millions of people’s mobile phones every time they glance at the object in the palm of their hand.” The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor notes, “Last week the IDF Twitter account tweeted the following image of Paris; just a few days later French cities were in flames in anti-Semitic riots.”

While Israel deals with the social media fallout of poor decisions, increased caution about flying over combat zones has caused many U.S. and European airline to stop flights to Israel Tuesday after rockets landed near Tel Aviv’s Bern Gurion Airport, AOL reports, US airlines scrap Israel flights over missile fear. Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the U.S. and Israel indefinitely as U.S. Airways has scrapped its one flight to Tel Aviv Tuesday. In addition, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France have suspended flights as well. The actions come days after a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in eastern Ukraine killing 298 people. The Federal Aviation Administration also has prohibited U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for 24 hours. Aviation consultant Robert Mann said airlines are becoming more proactive after the Flight 17 disaster adding: “It’s really forcing every carrier, every business jet operator to do their own due diligence, do their own risk assessment, given the geopolitical situation.” John Reiter, a New York aviation accident attorney, said, “I’m sure it is human concern as well, but I think (the airlines) feel it is wise to err on the side of caution because it is their burden to prove they are doing everything possible to avoid injuries and deaths.” In a statement, Israel’s Transportation Ministry called on airlines to reverse their decisions, stating: “Ben-Gurion Airport is safe and completely guarded and there is no reason whatsoever that American companies would stop their flights and hand terror a prize.” Casey Norton, a spokesman for American Airlines, parent company to US Airways, said the airline is “in constant contact with the FAA and are monitoring the situation closely” adding that no decisions have been made about flight to Israel on Wednesday and beyond.

On Tuesday, in Ukraine, the remains of the Malaysia Airlines victims arrived in Ukrainian held territory on their way to the Netherlands following delays and haphazard treatment of the bodies putting pressure on European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to impose sanctions on Russia. Sergei Chuzhavkov and John Thor Dahlburg report, Crash victims’ remains reach Ukraine-held city, the crash site itself remained unsecured for five days in pro-Russian separatists territory after the disaster causing frustration for officials around the world. After 17 hours, the train arrived in Kharkiv from Torez where Ukrainian authorities have set up a crash investigation center. Government spokesman Oleksander Kharchenko said Ukraine will do its best to send the bodies to the Netherlands on Tuesday as 193 victims were Dutch citizens. The goal of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is to have the first bodies returned on Wednesday adding: “It is our aim – and at the moment our expectation – that sometime tomorrow the first plane carrying victims will leave for Eindhoven.” Rutte said the identification of some bodies will be quick, while other could take weeks or months. In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers discussed what action to take in response to the disaster. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the priority for now was to deal with the concerns of the Netherlands, who lost the most nationals in the disaster, meaning repatriation of the bodies and a full investigation of the site. Unfortunately, the ministers according to Ashton cannot move to Level 3 sanctions targeting Russia’s economy, but will still discuss what actions to take. In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will do what it can to help in the investigation including pressuring the rebels even though that will not resolve the situation. During a meeting with Russia’s Security Council, Putin again lashed out at Kiev for its military offensive to dislodge the rebels. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicious blamed “terrorists supplied” by Moscow for shooting down the plan and killing all aboard and hoped the EU would impose tougher sanction on Russia calling for an arms embargo. At the crash site near Hrabove, a few rebel fighter accompanied observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. About 70 villagers gathered across the road form the site to sing Ukrainian Orthodox hymns at a memorial service led by several priests.

Early on Tuesday, Malaysia’s prime minster announced that pro-Russian rebels agreed to hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators, according to Satish Cheney, MH17’s Black Boxes To Be Handed Over To Malaysia: Prime Minister. Prime Minster Najib Razak added that as part of an agreement via phone with rebel leader Alexander Borodai on late Monday, international investigators will have safe access to the site and the black boxes will be handed over. Najib announced at a news conference at his residence on Monday evening, “I must stress that although an agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed. There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr. Borodai and his people have so far given their cooperation.” In addition the remains of 43 Malaysian citizens who were aboard will be flown to their home country as necessary forensic work needs to be done. On Sunday, he said the remains must be returned before the Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which is July 28. Anger and resentment toward Russian backed rebels and Moscow has escalated worldwide including in Malaysia where calls for economic sanctions against Russia have been suggested.

While the world continues to pressure Russia into wrangling in Pro-Russia separatists, President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said Russia would try to get Ukrainian separatists to cooperate with the investigation, but said the West must do more to persuade Kiev to end hostilities, according to Darya Korsunskaya, Putin says will use influence on Ukraine rebels, denounces West. Putin came out fighting since the plan disaster on Thursday denouncing Russia’s role in rebel held east Ukraine. In addition, Putin accused the U.S. of pulling strings in Kiev to bully Russia and meddle in Russia’s domestic affairs adding in televised remarks: “Such methods will not work on Russia.” Reading notes at the head of a long table of top government, parliament, security and defense officials, Putin spoke forcefully about the plane’s downing, but did not address accusations by the U.S. and Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders that Moscow supplied the rebels with arms allegedly used to shoot down the plane. Putin at a meeting of his advisory Security Council said: “We are being called on to use our influence with the separatists in southeastern Ukraine. We of course will do everything in our power but that is not nearly enough. Ultimately, there is a need to call on the authorities in Kiev to respect basic norms of decency, and at least for a short time implement a ceasefire.” His new remarks come after President Barack Obama urged him and Russia to “pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine”. Putin wants to de-escalate the crisis to avoid further sanctions from the West as evident by him renouncing powers given to him by parliament to send in Russia’s army to east Ukraine to protect Russian speakers. However, he will not make any big concession that would hurt his popularity in Russia which is at a record high since annexation of Crimea in March. In addition, Putin said Russia would take steps to protect the economy from “external threats” and strengthen its defenses to counter moves by NATO in eastern Europe. Putin also stated that protest to topple Ukraine’s former Russian back president were instigated and funded from abroad: “Russia is being presented with what is almost an ultimatum: ‘Let us destroy this part of the population that is ethnically and historically close to Russia and we will not impose sanctions against you’. This is a strange and unacceptable logic.”

Conflicts Intensify Around the World

As Huff Post’s Catherine Taibi put it: “Covering the violent scene in Gaza has proven difficult for even the most season reporter.” The above video shows Al Jazeera’s Gaza correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh walked off camera on Sunday during a report on the dozens of people killed and thousands of Shijaiyah residents fleeing their home while Israeli aircraft bombed the area. Taibi reports in her article Al Jazeera Reporter Breaks Down On The Air In Gaza that Al-Dahdouh is an award winning journalist who has covered the conflicts in his hometown for years, but could not hide his emotions while reporting on the 87 Palestinians killed on Sunday.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made another trip to the Middle East hoping to jump start a deal for a renewed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a weekend where the civilian death toll increased dramatically, Lara Jakes reports Kerry returns to Mideast to push for cease-fire. Kerry left for Cairo on Monday from Washington to join dimplomatic efforts to resume a truce that was agreed upon in November 2012. The goal is to urge Hamas to accept the ceasefire agreement offered by Egypt halting the two weeks of fighting which has resulted in 430 Palestinians and 20 Israelis being killed. The Obama administration and Kerry have criticized Hamas for its rocket attacks on Israel and other provocations such as tunneling under the border. In addition, it has also back peddled on its earlier criticisms of Israel for attacks on Gaza that resulted in civilian and child deaths. On Sunday night, the State Department confirmed that two Americans, Max Steinberg of California and Nissim Carmeli of Texas, who fought for Israel were killed in fighting in Gaza. While on Sunday talk shows, Kerry said Hamas needs to take their own responsibility for the conflict, telling ABC’s “This Week”: “It’s ugly. War is ugly, and bad things are going to happen.” Both Obama and Kerry said Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks by Hamas, while Kerry accused Hamas of attempting to kidnap and sedate Israelis through a network of tunnels. On CNN’s “State of the Union”, Kerry said that Hams must “step up and show a level of reasonableness, and they need to accept the offer of a cease-fire.” The two week conflict has escalated in recent days as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon continues to try and revive ceasefire efforts in the region. Obama via phone Sunday told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Kerry was coming to the Mideast and condemned Hamas’ attacks, according to a White House statement. The U.N. relief agency in Gaza estimates 70,000 Palestinians have fled from the fighting and seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the U.N. has set up. According to Jakes: “The prime minister said his top goal is to restore a sustainable peace, but he then will ask the international community to consider demilitarizing Gaza to rid Hamas of its rockets and shut down the tunnels leading into Israel.”

On Monday, the death toll among Palestinians reached 508 with the bloodiest day of fighting so far in the two week campaign, according to Gaza heath officials, while diplomats continue to try to reach a ceasefire deal. Karin Laub and Peter Enav report, Palestinian death toll in Gaza fighting at 508, that the U.N. Security Council has expressed serious concern about the increase in civilian deaths and demanded an immediate end to fighting following the emergency session in New York. Meanwhile, Israeli military foiled a Hamas infiltration attempt Monday through two tunnels into southern Israel from northern Gaza. The military said 10 infiltrators were killed after being detected and targeted by Israel aircraft, Laub and Enav report. On Sunday, the first major ground battle killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and caused thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in an area where alleged rocket launches took place and now devastated by fighting. The 13 Israeli soldiers died in clashed with militants in Shiyajiah, a Gaza City neighborhood, bring the Israeli death toll to 20. Among all the carnage, the Associated Press reports that Israeli tank shells struck a hospital in Gaza on Monday killing four people and wounding 60 according to Palestinian officials. Despite the new diplomatic efforts to renew a ceasefire, Israel continues to attack targets in the densely populated coastal strip by air and tanks, while Hamas fires more rockets and utilizes its network of tunnels under the border. A dozen shells hit the Al Aqsa hospital in the town of Deir el-Balah on Monday hitting the administrative building, the intensive care unit and the surgery department. A doctor at the hospital, Fayez Zidane, told Al Aqsa TV station that shells hit the third and fourth floor and the reception area. The Israeli military said it was looking into it. On Monday, one family member Sabri Abu Jamea, who witness their home in Khan Younis be destroyed by one airstrike burying 25 people including 24 from the same family, said: “Twenty-five people! Doesn’t this indicate that Israel is ruthless? Are we the liars? The evidence is here in the morgue refrigerators. The evidence is in the refrigerators.” Hamas fired 50 more rockets into Israel with two pointed at Tel Aviv, but caused no injuries or damage. Addressing a parliamentary committee, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said: “If needed we will recruit more reservists in order to continue the operation as long as necessary until the completion of the task and the return of the quiet in the whole of Israel especially from the threat of the Gaza Strip.”

While Israel and Hamas continue to fight it seems an un-winnable battle, Ukraine and the rest of the world try to piece together the tragedy of Malaysian Flight 17. On Monday, a refrigerated train carrying the victims of flight 17 finally left a rebel held town in Eastern Ukraine, according to Dmitry Lovetsky and David McHugh Hrabove, Train with plane crash bodies leaves rebel town. Hours earlier, Dutch experts called for a full forensic sweep of the Flight 17 crash site telling the armed separatists controlling the area that the train needs to leave as soon as possible. It has been four days since the Boeing 777 was shot down killing 298 people. The U.S., Ukraine and others have accused Moscow of supplying rebels with the arms used to shoot down the plan. Russia has denied the allegations. In Washington, President Barack Obama insisted that international investigators be given full access to the crash site and accused the separatists of removing evidence and blocking investigators. Obama asked, “What exactly are they trying to hide?” This came after the U.S. presented evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface to air missile. At the U.N. in New York, the Security Council voted Monday on an Australia proposed resolution demanding access to the site and a ceasefire in the area. According to the article, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a veto vote from Russia would be viewed very badly adding that no reasonable person could object. Fighting continued between separatists and government troops in Donetsk about 30 miles west of the crash site on Monday near the town’s airport, according to city authorities. After the bodies left Torez, two military jets flew overhead and black smoke could be seen rising in the distance. The Netherlands are concerned about the bodies since 192 of the victims were Dutch. Dutch Prime Minster Mark Rutte said Monday that repatriating the bodies was his no.1 priority. Meanwhile, workers recovered 21 bodies from the site bring the total to 272 bodies found, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk confirmed. At the Torez station, the Dutch investigators stood for a moment with their heads bowed and hands clasped before climbing aboard to inspect. In Kharkiv, another team of international experts arrived including three Australians, 23 Dutch, two Germans, two Americans and one person from the U.K. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s prime minister said the rebels will hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Ukraine late Monday. Putin criticized the Ukrainian government in Kiev, saying: “If fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened. Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives.” To counter the U.S. claims, Russian officials offered evidence that proves Ukrainian surface to air systems were operating in the area before the crash. In addition, they also had evidence that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet flew between 2 to 3 miles from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

While fighting continues to escalate in the previously mentioned conflicts, some decades long battles seem to be flaring up again. Officials on Monday confirmed that attack overnight in two Iraqi cities killed at least 16 people as authorities struggle to stop a Sunni offensive that has taken large areas of northern and western Iraq. As Sinan Salaheddin reports, Overnight attacks in Iraq kill at least 16 people, one attack on a Shiite neighborhood in Mahmoudiya on Sunday night left 11 civilians dead and 31 wounded according to police. In Bagdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol killing two soldiers and three volunteer soldiers while wounding eight people. In January, al-Qaida breakaway, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi. In June, the Islamic State launched a massive blitz offensive that ended with the group controlling large parts of northern and western Iraq. On Friday, the U.S. mission in Iraq said at least 5,576 civilians have died and another 11,665 were wounded in the first six months of the year with 1.2 million people uprooted due to violence. According to the U.N., the civilian deaths so far this year are a dramatic increase from the previous year with 7,800 civilian deaths. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber targeted a police convoy in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province Monday killing two people, one civilian and one police, according to a local official. The Associate Press reports, Afghan official: Suicide bombing kills 2 in south, the attack happened in Lashkar Gah wounding an additional 15 people including eight policemen and seven civilians according to Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Taliban frequently used roadside bombs and suicide attacks against Afghan and NATO forces and government offices in their country. Last month, hundreds of Taliban insurgents attacked several Afghan security checkpoints in Sangin district of Helmand killing more than 100 people and displacing dozens from their homes in a week long intensive battle. The government in response deployed 2,000 reinforcements there. The attacks and fighting are continually testing the Afghan government’s ability to maintain security in the volatile areas after foreign combat troops leave at the end of this year.

Israel Reaches its Boiling Point Deploys Ground Troops into Gaza

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Courtesy of BBC News Middle East

On Wednesday, Israel war planes and naval vessels intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip targeting senior Hamas leaders and bombarding coastal areas killing four Palestinian boys and injuring several others at the beach, according to Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav, Israeli strike kills 4 Gaza youths on coastal road. These deaths have raised the total deaths in nine days to 213 Palestinians and one Israeli. The renewed violence came after Hamas rejected a ceasefire proposal that Israel had accepted to end the nine day old conflict. In response, Hamas fired dozens of rockets into Israel vowing no to agree to a ceasefire until its demands are met which include easing border closures and releasing former Hamas prisoners who were released in 2011 then rearrested last month in the West Bank. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri in a press conference called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction in the West Bank, for support in Hamas’ refusal to accept Egypt’s ceasefire proposal. Many Hamas leaders have gone into hiding since the beginning of the Israeli offensive as Israel in recent days has been targeting their homes. One leader Zahar was a key figure in Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, while the other three leaders were members of Palestinian parliament elected in 2006. The uncle of the four boy, Abel Kareem Baker said, “It’s a cold blooded massacre. It’s a shame who come they didn’t identify them as kids with all of the advanced technology they claim they’re using.” The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident. Along with the airstrikes, Israel also warned tens of thousands of residents of the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the Zeitoun and Shijaiyah neighborhoods of Gaza City near the border of Israel to evacuate by 8am Wednesday. The warnings were delivered in automated phone calls, text messages and leaflets dropped from planes, Barzak and Enav report. The message itself warned that due to the large number of rockets fired from these areas Israel plans to bomb these locations. In addition the message said: “Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families.” On Wednesday morning, hundreds of residents in these areas were walking the streets and carrying small bags. The Wafa Rehabilitation Center in Shijaiyah caring for 15 disabled and elderly patients received many calls to evacuate, but its director, Basman Ashi, said his patients have nowhere to go and will not evacuate. Four foreign volunteers from England, U.S., France and Sweden have set up camp in the center to deter the military from targeting it. The office of the Israeli military spokesman said the residents were asked to leave and added that a rocket launching site was in the area including the center.

Fortunately, on the same day, Israel agreed to a proposed six hour cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons, a senior Israeli official told Reuters (Israel Accepts Proposal For Temporary Ceasefire In Gaza: Official). Speaking on conditions of anonymity, the official stated that the lull in fighting had not been determined, while Hamas had no comment. Israeli media reports confirmed that the appeal came from a United Nations official shortly after Hamas rejected an Egyptian ceasefire to end the nine day war. According to the Associated Press article, Hundreds Of Palestinians In Gaza Flee After Israeli Warning by Ibrahim Barzak and Daniel Estrin, Israel and Hamas had agreed to the five hour U.N. brokered humanitarian pause offering some hope that the fighting may come to an end. Israel said it would hold its fire Thursday from 10 am in order to allow Palestinians to restock food, water and other necessities, but would retaliate if Hamas or other militant groups launched attacks during that time. Later, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas and various factions would respect the pause and refrain from firing rockets during those hours as well. Robert Serry, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, asked Israel to agree to a unilateral humanitarian pause so supplies can be delivered to Gaza and urged the parties in Gaza to respect the pause, according to U.N deputy spokesman Farhan Haq. In Washington, President Barack Obama said the U.S. supports efforts by Egypt to restore the 2012 ceasefire and will use diplomatic resources and relationships to secure a deal to end the violence. Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said that Palestinian death toll rose to 222 with 1,670 wounded and only one Israeli death. Abbas met with deputy Hamas chief Moussa Abu Marzouk to discuss Egypt’s initiative in an effort to get Hamas on board, according to what an official with Abbas’ Fatah faction told the Associate Press.

Unfortunately, as the five hour U.N. humanitarian ceasefire expired, Palestinian militants fired a rocket at Israel on Thursday, the Israeli military said. According to the article, Gaza rocket hits Israel as humanitarian lull ends, the military states that the rocket struck the city of Ashkelon at 3pm as the pause in military activity ended. No injuries were reported. In addition Gaza militants fired three mortar shells toward Israel after the truce took effect at 10am. Israel had yet to response to either incident but promised to strike hard if it continued. Israel accepted Egypt’s initial call for a halt to all hostilities, but Hamas rejected because it does not want to return to the situation before the outbreak of fighting. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri in an interview with the Associate Press insisted a ceasefire deal was still alive and expressed frustration that Hamas did not agree to it demanding that the blockade be eased significantly which Israel and Egypt will likely reject as it would strengthen the group’s hold on Gaza. Thursday’s truce, brokered by the United Nations, came after Israel carried out 2,000 airstrikes on Gaza over 10 days and Hamas fired 1,300 rockets into Israel. The fighting continued early Thursday in the lead up to the ceasefire with the military saying it foiled an attack by 13 militants who came through a tunnel from Gaza. The military said 15 rockets were fired at Israel Thursday morning including toward areas in the center some 90 kilometers from the Gaza Strip. A senior Hamas official said the group’s deputy leader, Moussa Abu Marzouk, met with Egyptian officials Wednesday night to present Hams’ demands which were also delivered to Jordan and the U.N. In addition, Hamas want other countries involved in forging the agreement to end fighting. Egypt’s new leaders have since launched a sweeping crackdown on Hamas by shutting down smuggling tunnels along the border and weapons supply route. Also on Thursday, a Jerusalem court indicted a 29-year-old and two 16-year-olds in the death of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16,who was kidnapped and set on fire. According to the indictment, the suspects carried out the crime in revenge for the death of three Israeli teens last month and killed the boy because he was an Arab by strangling, beating and burning him to death. In response to the boy’s death, Palestinians protested in east Jerusalem and clashed with the police.

As the 10 day military operation escalated on Thursday, Israel launched a large scale ground offensive into the Gaza Strip to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket firing abilities and tunnels under the Palestinian territory’s border with Israel. According to Karin Laub and Ian Deitch, Israel says it has sent ground troops to Gaza, it was the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in over five years coming hours after Hamas militants tried to enter Israel through a tunnel under the border. Thousands of Israeli soldiers had massed at the border in recent days waiting for order to go in. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the army to go ahead after Hamas rejected the ceasefire plan earlier in the week and after militants tried to invade Israel through tunnels. The statement said: “In light of the despicable and relentless aggression by Hamas and the dangerous infiltration into Israel, Israel is obliged to protect its citizens.