Palestinians prepare the graves for eight members of the
Abu Jarad family, including three children, who medics said
were killed by an Israeli tank shell, at a cemetery in Beit
Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip this week. Photo by
US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed regional leaders
to nail down a Gaza ceasefire as the civilian death toll
soared, and further violence flared between Israelis and
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
Mediators hope any truce in the Gaza Strip can coincide with
a Muslim festival that starts next week, and are looking to
overcome seemingly irreconcilable demands from Israel and
Hamas-led Islamist fighters, locked in conflict since July 8.
As the diplomacy continued, so did the fighting.
Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 33 people on
Friday (local time), including the head of media operations
for Hamas ally Islamic Jihad and his son. They put the number
of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 822, most of
Militants fired a barrage of rockets out of Gaza, triggering
sirens across much of southern and central Israel, including
at the country's main airport. No injuries were reported,
with the Iron Dome interceptor system knocking out many of
The Gaza turmoil stoked tensions in the nearby occupied West
Bank, where U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
governs in uneasy coordination with Israel.
Medics said five Palestinians were killed in separate
incidents near the cities of Nablus and Hebron, including one
shooting that witnesses blamed on an apparent Jewish settler.
On Thursday night, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity
with Gaza near the Palestinian administrative capital
Ramallah - a scale recalling mass revolts of the past.
Protesters surged against an Israeli army checkpoint,
throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, and Palestinian medics
said one was shot dead and 200 wounded when troops opened
Israel said an army reservist was killed in Gaza on Friday,
bringing to 34 the number of soldiers lost in a ground
advance it says aims to destroy dozens of cross-border
tunnels used by Hamas to threaten its southern farming
villages and army bases.
It also announced that a soldier unaccounted for after an
ambush in Gaza six days ago was definitely dead, although his
body had not been recovered. Hamas said on Sunday it had
captured the man, but did not release a photograph of him.
Three civilians have also been killed in Israel by rockets
from Gaza - the kind of attack that surged last month amid
Hamas anger at a crackdown on its activists in the West Bank,
prompting the July 8 launch of the Israeli offensive.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his
security cabinet on Friday to discuss a limited humanitarian
truce under which Palestinian movement would be freed up to
allow in aid and for the dead and wounded to be recovered.
A Palestinian official close to the negotiations said Turkey
and Qatar had proposed a 7-day halt to the fighting, which
had been relayed to Israel by Kerry while Hamas considered
An Israeli official acknowledged that the proposal had been
received, but said any decision by the Netanyahu government
would likely come after Hamas had delivered its own response.
Israel insists that, even if such a ceasefire is agreed, its
army will continue digging up tunnels along Gaza's eastern
frontier, a mission that could take between one and two
Netanyahu has said a truce should also lead to the eventual
stripping of Gaza's rocket arsenals - something Hamas rules
"We must stop the rocket launches. How this is done - whether
through occupying (Gaza), or broadening (the operation), or
(international) guarantees, or anything else, I have to see
it with my own eyes," said police minister Yitzhak
The rockets have sent Israelis regularly rushing to shelters
and dented the economy despite Iron Dome's high rate of
A Hamas rocket intercepted near Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday
prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to
halt American commercial flights to Israel's main
international gateway. Some European carriers followed suit.
Jolted by the blow at the height of an already stagnant
summer tourism season, Israel persuaded U.S. authorities to
lift the flight ban on Thursday, after which the European
aviation regulator removed its own advisory against flying to
In the second such salvo in as many days, Hamas said it fired
three rockets at the airport on Friday, an apparent bid to
cripple operations there again. There was no word of impacts
at Ben Gurion, whose passenger hall emptied at the sound of
HAMAS WANTS GAZA OPENED UP
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had on Wednesday voiced support
for a humanitarian truce, but only if Israel eased
restrictions on Gaza's 1.8 million people. Hamas wants Egypt
to open up its border with Gaza, too, and demands that Israel
release hundreds of prisoners rounded up in the West Bank
last month following the kidnap and killing of three Jewish
Such concessions appear unlikely, however, as both Israel and
Egypt consider Hamas a security threat.
One Cairo official said next week's Eid al-Fitr festival,
which concludes Ramadan, was a possible date for a truce. But
U.S. officials were circumspect on progress made by Kerry,
whose mediation has involved Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Abbas,
as Washington, like Israel and the European Union, won't deal
directly with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.
"Secretary Kerry has been on the phone all morning, and he
will remain in close touch with leaders in the region over
the course of the morning as he continues work on achieving a
ceasefire," said a senior U.S. State Department official in
Cairo, which has been Kerry's base over the last four days as
he has tried to bring about a temporary end to the conflict.
On Thursday, a US official said Kerry was seeking a way of
bridging gaps between Israel and Hamas but that the diplomat
would not stay in the region "for an indefinite amount of
More than 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced in Gaza by
the fighting, many of them seeking shelter in buildings run
by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
An UNRWA spokesman said the agency had tried in vain to
arrange with Israel to evacuate civilians from the school in
northern Beit Hanoun before it was shelled on Thursday.
Scores of crying families who had been living in the school
ran with their children to a hospital a few hundred metres
away where the victims were being treated. Laila Al-Shinbari,
who was at the school when it was hit, told Reuters that
families had gathered in the courtyard expecting to be
evacuated shortly in a Red Cross convoy.
"All of us sat in one place when suddenly four shells landed
on our heads ... Bodies were on the ground, (there was) blood
and screams. My son is dead, and all my relatives are
wounded, including my other kids," she said, weeping.