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Day 19: Israel extends humanitarian ceasefire another 24 hours (LIVE BLOG)

As more bodies are pulled from the rubble, it's clear that the Palestinian death toll has well surpassed 1,000.

Gaza rubble july 26Enlarge
Palestinian recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: CRISIS IN GAZA

UPDATE: 7/26/14 11:16 PM ET

Israel extends humanitarian ceasefire another 24 hours

Reuters reports:

GAZA/JERUSALEM — Israel extended a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for another 24 hours, but Hamas, which dominates the coastal enclave, said it would only accept the truce if Israeli troops left the territory.

Israeli ministers had signaled that a comprehensive deal to end the 20-day conflict with Hamas and its allies, in which at least 1,050 Gazans — mostly civilians — have been killed, and 42 soldiers and three civilians in Israel have died, was remote.

"At the request of the United Nations, the cabinet has approved a humanitarian hiatus until tomorrow at 2400 (midnight local time, 1700 EST Sunday)," the official, who was not named, said in a statement after the cabinet session held in Tel Aviv had ended. "The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will act against any breach of the ceasefire."

UPDATE: 7/26/14 3:16 PM ET

Hamas rejects extended ceasefire proposal, fires rockets

AP reports:

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight (2100 GMT) Saturday.

The military says the three rockets were fired more than an hour after the period for the initial lull had ended.

Meanwhile, the military warned residents of areas where there had been heavy fighting against returning there.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 3:11 PM ET

The number of displaced Palestinians keeps growing

UPDATE: 7/26/14 3:03 PM ET

Pro-Palestine rally turns violent in Paris

A man reacts as police use tear gas on the Republique square in Paris, July 26, 2014.

French police arrested some 40 people when a pro-Palestine demonstration in Paris turned violent on Saturday. Masked men in the Parisian square, La Place de La Republique, launched projectiles at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 2:34 PM ET

Reports of attacks on Israel despite ceasefire

UPDATE: 7/26/14 1:03 PM ET

UN calls for the ceasefire to last a full 24 hours

UPDATE: 7/26/14 12:50 PM ET

Israel extends ceasefire until midnight Saturday

From USA Today:

Israel extended a humanitarian ceasefire by four hours to midnight Saturday as the Palestinian death toll in the conflict rose to more than 1,000.

At least 100 bodies were recovered Saturday, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said as Palestinians used a temporary ceasefire, set to expire at midnight, to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip.

As the pause in hostilities began Saturday morning, Gazans poured onto the streets Saturday to find food supplies, look for missing family members or return to homes they left for shelters.

The nearly three weeks of fighting has left swaths of rubble, destroyed roads and damaged power infrastructure in residential neighborhoods across the strip.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 11:06 AM ET

Pulling bodies from rubble

Palestinians walk across the rubble of destroyed buildings and homes in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City on July 26, 2014.

Rescue workers remove the body of a man, after digging him up from under the rubble of his home following an Israeli air strike on Beit Hanun, in the northern of Gaza strip, on July 26, 2014.

Palestinian recover the body of a man killed when his home was hit the previous night by Israeli fire in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce, on July 26, 2014.

A Palestinian woman reacts at seeing destroyed homes in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip during an humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014.

Rescue workers remove the body of a member of al-Najar family, after digging it up from under the rubble of a home following an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza strip , on July 26, 2014.

Rescue workers carry the body of a member of al-Najar family, after removing it from under the rubble of their home following an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis in the southern of Gaza strip , on July 26, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 10:25 AM ET

Foreign diplomats push for longer term truce

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with counterparts from Europe and the Middle East in Paris, who urged that the ceasefire be extended.

"We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire," France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters after meeting Kerry and counterparts from Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar and Turkey, as well as an EU representative.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 10:07 AM ET

Palestinian death toll near 1,000

More than halfway into a 12-hour ceasefire that began early Saturday, medics said 85 bodies had been retrieved from buildings ground into rubble across the Gaza Strip.

On the ground in Gaza, ambulances sped along roads to neighborhoods that have been too dangerous to enter for days.

At least 985 Palestinians have been killed in the coastal enclave since the conflict began on July 8.

On the Israeli side, 37 soldiers have been killed, along with two Israeli civilians and Thai foreign worker.

UPDATE: 7/26/14 9:30 AM ET

Humanitarian ceasefire takes effect

A 12-hour ceasefire entered into force between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip at 0500 GMT on Saturday, the 19th day of a conflict that has killed hundreds.

Israel and the Islamist movement said they would observe the temporary ceasefire, after US Secretary of State John Kerry was unable to reach a lasting truce during talks Friday in Cairo.

In the hours leading up to the pause, however, the violence continued, with Israeli air strikes killing 23 people, among them four children and a paramedic, Gaza medical services said.

The conflict, which began on July 8 when Israel launched an operation to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza and destroy Hamas tunnels, has cost the lives of 888 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 39 Israelis, all but two of them soldiers.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 4:00 PM ET

Signing off

Some photos of the war from the past 24 hours.

We will continue coverage tomorrow.

Palestinian mourners pray over the bodies of ten victims killed after a UN school in Beit Hanun was hit by an Israeli tank shell, during their funeral in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza strip, on July 25, 2014.

 

A Palestinian family walks past the debris from a building in the center of Gaza City hit by an earlier Israeli airstrike, on July 25, 2014.

 

 

 

Palestinian protesters block Route 60, the main Jewish settler road in the West Bank on July 25, 2014, in the Beit Omar village, north the West Bank city of Hebron.

 

 

 

Israeli armed policemen stand guard behind Palestinian Muslims performing the traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014.

 

 

 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march through central London on July 25, 2014 in London, England.

 

 

 

Israeli soldiers return from combat in the Gaza Strip to an army deployment base along the border between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory on July 25, 2014.

 

 

 

A picture taken from the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip shows the trail of a missile launched by Israel's Iron Dome defense system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells, on July 25, 2014.

 

 

 

The mother of slain 36-year-old Israeli reservist Sergeant First Class Yair Ashkenazi, who was killed early morning in the northern Palestinian Gaza Strip, mourns during his funeral on July 25, 2014 at the military cemetery in the southern Israeli city of Rehovot.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 2:22 PM ET

'The security cabinet has unanimously rejected the ceasefire proposal of Kerry,' Israeli public television reports

Agence France-Presse — Israel on Friday rejected a Gaza ceasefire proposal presented by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli public television said.

"The security cabinet has unanimously rejected the ceasefire proposal of Kerry, as it stands," Channel 1 said, adding ministers would keep discussing it.

Kerry met UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Egypt's foreign minister on Friday as pressure mounted for a ceasefire to end an 18-day conflict that has killed more than 800 Palestinians and 37 people on the Israeli side, 34 of them soldiers.

Smoke billows from a building hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 25, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 2:02 PM ET

Close to 900 people have been killed in less than 3 weeks

Here's the updated death toll of the war, via The Washington Post:

UPDATE: 7/25/14 1:51 PM ET

Kerry's ceasefire plan has reportedly been rejected

UPDATE: 7/25/14 12:57 PM ET

Hezbollah chief makes rare public appearance for Gaza

Agence France-Presse — Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance on Friday to show solidarity with Gaza on the annual Iran-led Jerusalem Day commemoration, an AFP correspondent reported.

It was only the fifth public appearance by the head of the Shia militant group, who has topped Israel's wanted list since even before their deadly conflict in 2006.

Nasrallah appeared on stage from behind a curtain to wild applause from the thousands in the crowd at the indoor venue in a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital.

Jerusalem Day, celebrated every year on the last Friday in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, was this year dedicated to "solidarity with the people and the resistance in Gaza." 

As the Palestinian death toll in 18 days of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza topped 800, Nasrallah announced: "Palestine is still the main cause" in the Muslim world. Hezbollah is currently fighting rebels in Syria alongside forces loyal to President Bashir al-Assad.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 12:18 PM ET

Has Kerry's push for ceasefire come too late?

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reports from Jerusalem:

On a day of some of the worst violence in the current flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Secretary of State John Kerry proposed a temporary ceasefire that could halt fighting this weekend.

But even if the Israeli government and Hamas, the Islamist faction that rules Gaza, accept his plan, it remains unclear whether a break in combat will be enough to quell the protests that have broken out in Jerusalem and in the West Bank in the past 24 hours.

Palestinian sourcesclaimed that both Israeli military and settler fire killed five protestors on Friday. The diplomatic moves come on the heels of one of the bloodiest and most controversial incidents of the conflict, in which a UN-run school that was operating as a shelter for displaced Gazans was shelled on Thursday, killing an estimated 17 people.

The spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs the school, accused Israel of the shelling, while Israeli army representatives, emphasizing that the incident is under investigation, have suggested the school could have instead been hit by Hamas’s rockets.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 11:36 AM ET

Missing IDF soldier 'killed in action'

Israel said today that the Israel Defense Forces soldier who was reported missing was killed in action.

From Haaretz:

The IDF determined on Friday that Givati Brigade soldier Staff Sergeant Oron Shaul died in battle, and defined him as "a soldier killed in action whose burial site is unknown."

A special committee led by the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Brigadier General Rafi Peretz, notified the soldier's family of their decision. In a statement, the IDF said that "prior to the decision, all the religious, medical and further relevant issues were taken into consideration."

Full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 10:49 AM ET

WHO is seeking a humanitarian corridor in Gaza to evacuate the wounded

Reuters — The World Health Organization (WHO) called on Friday for a humanitarian corridor to be set up in Gaza to allow aid workers to evacuate the wounded and bring in life-saving medicines.

WHO officials have discussed the proposal with both Israeli and Egyptian officials, but there has been no response yet, WHO spokesman Paul Garwood said.

More details here:

Rescue workers help a wounded child after removing him from under the rubble of his home following an Israeli air strike on Rafah in the southern of Gaza strip, on July 25, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 10:42 AM ET

4 Palestinians killed in the West Bank, security sources say

Agence France-Presse — Four Palestinians were killed in the West Bank on Friday in two separate incidents involving both Israeli troops and Israeli settlers, Palestinian security sources told AFP.

In the first incident, 46-year-old Hashem Abu Marieh and 30-year-old Sultan Yusef were killed in the Palestinian village of Beit Ummar near the flashpoint southern city of Hebron by Israeli soldiers, Palestinian security sources said.

In the second incident, a group of settlers opened fire on protesting Palestinians after they threw stones at their car near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said.

The settler fire killed an 18-year-old Palestinian named as Khaled Oudeh. Shortly afterwards, Israeli troops arrived at the scene and clashed with the Palestinians, firing live bullets and tear gas.

The Israeli army fire killed a second Palestinian, 22-year-old Tayyib Oudeh, the security sources said, adding that three other Palestinians were injured by live fire.

An Israeli army spokeswoman had no comment on the incident in Beit Ummar, but said there had been "confrontations" between Israeli troops and Palestinians near Nablus "in which settlers were involved," without giving further details.

Israeli army radio reported that a female settler has opened fire in in the incident near Nablus, killing Khaled Oudeh.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 9:30 AM ET

Some updates re: Kerry's truce proposal

The New York Times reports:

Secretary of State John Kerry has proposed a two-stage plan to halt the fighting in the Gaza Strip that would first impose a weeklong truce starting Sunday, an official involved in the negotiations said on Friday.

As soon as the truce took effect, Palestinian and Israeli officials would begin negotiations on the principal economic, political and security concerns about Gaza, with other nations attending. 

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/25/14 8:30 AM ET

The death toll has passed 800

Reuters — US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed regional leaders to nail down a Gaza ceasefire on Friday as the civilian death toll soared, and further violence loomed between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

With Israel and Hamas-led Islamist fighters setting seemingly irreconcilable terms for a truce that mediators hope will begin by a Muslim festival next week, Kerry worked the phones from Egypt, while aides made clear his patience was waning.

The urgency was spurred on Thursday by the killing of 15 people as they sheltered at a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip, which local officials blamed on Israeli shelling. Israel said its forces had come under attack from Palestinian guerrillas in the area of the school and that they had shot back.

It accused Hamas of preventing any evacuation. Gaza officials said Israeli strikes killed 27 people on Friday, including the head of media operations for Hamas allyIslamic Jihad and his son.

They put the number of Palestinian deaths in 18 days of conflict at 819, most of them civilians.

A Palestinian man kisses the head of a one-year-old baby Noha Mesleh, who died of wounds sustained after a UN school in Beit Hanun was hit by an Israeli tank shell, as he carries her during her funeral in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, on July 25, 2014.

In the occupied West Bank, where US-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas governs in uneasy coordination with Israel, 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza overnight — a scale recalling mass revolts of the past.

Palestinians stand behind burning tires during clashes with Israeli security forces following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014.

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 fire.

On Friday, Israeli paramilitary police went on high alert for flare-ups at Jerusalem's most important mosque during prayers for the final stretch of the Ramadan Muslim holy month.

Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel's police minister and a member of the security cabinet, said he was shuttling between consultations on how to contain the rising hostilities.

"We have had a very difficult night," he told Israel's Army Radio. "I hope we can get through today all right."

UPDATE: 7/24/14 4:45 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 7/24/14 4:16 PM ET

Interview with Hamas leader

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke to the BBC about the militant group's demands for a ceasefire.

Watch the interview here.

UPDATE: 7/24/14 3:30 PM ET

Meanwhile, a change in leadership in Israel

Legislator Reuven Rivlin was sworn in as Israel's new president today.

More details via The Associated Press:

"Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shimon Peres ended his term as president of Israel on Thursday — a man who symbolizes hopes for peace capping a seven-decade public career amid the brutal reality of war. Peres handed the ceremonial but high-profile presidency over to Reuven Rivlin, a legislator from the hawkish Likud Party. ...

"We are not fighting against the Palestinian people, and we are not at war with Islam," he said. "We are fighting against terrorism."

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/24/14 1:53 PM ET

UN staff killed in Gaza school attack earlier today

Agence France-Presse — An attack on a UN-run school in Gaza on Thursday has claimed lives among the UN staff, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

"Many have been killed — including women and children, as well as UN staff," Ban said in a statement. Gaza's emergency services said 15 people were killed and more than 200 injured when an Israeli shell slammed into the school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

Ban said he was "appalled" by the news and "strongly condemned" the attack on the school in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip.

UPDATE: 7/24/14 12:10 PM ET

Israel wasn't too happy about those suspended flights

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

The US Federal Aviation Administration's suspension of all US carriers arrivals and departures from Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport lasted only 36 hours, but hit Israelis like a punch to the gut.

Transport Ministry Director General Uzi Itzhaki called it an "unfortunate, miserable decision" and said he hoped it would be reversed quickly.

On Wednesday night, when the FAA renewed its directive for a further 24 hours, only 27 out of the hundred carriers that normally serve the bustling airport were active, and the transportation reporter for Israel's Channel 2 news referred to the impasse perhaps hyperbolically as "a national crisis, with tens of thousands of Israelis stuck abroad.”

By Thursday morning, having "carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation," the FAA announced the ban had been lifted.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/24/14 11:22 AM ET

European aviation regulator 'to lift the recommendation to avoid flying to the Tel Aviv airport'

Reuters — Europe's aviation regulator on Thursday will cancel its warning that recommends airlines do not fly to Israel, after the Federal Aviation Authority cleared US carriers to resume flights.

"We are about to lift the recommendation to avoid flying to the Tel Aviv airport," said Dominique Fouda, a spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

The FAA earlier in the day said it would allow US carriers Delta, United and American unit US Airways to resume flights to Israel's commercial capital.

UPDATE: 2/24/14 10:20 AM ET

The number of people killed in shelling of UN school has increased

From the BBC:

A pool of blood is seen in the courtyard of a UN School in the northern Beit Hanun district of the Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014, after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell.

A trail of blood is seen in the courtyard of a UN School in the northern Beit Hanun district of the Gaza Strip on July 24, 2014, after it was hit by an Israeli tank shell.

UPDATE: 2/21/14 9:30 AM ET

Israeli shell hits UN school, kills at least 9 people 

Agence France-Presse — At least nine people were killed, including a baby, when an Israeli tank shell slammed into a UN-run school in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, an AFP correspondent said.

Separately, a UN official confirmed "multiple dead and injured" at the school in Beit Hanun, which was being used as a shelter by hundreds of Palestinians fleeing a major Israeli operation in the area.

UPDATE: 2/24/14 9:15 AM ET

Pakistan calls for 'humanitarian pause' in Gaza

Agence France-Presse — Pakistan on Thursday called for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian relief to reach Palestinians as the death toll in the besieged territory rose to more than 740.

The appeal came a day after Pakistan voted along with other UN Human Rights Council members to launch a probe into Israel's offensive in the territory, with rights chief Navi Pillay saying the Jewish state's military actions could amount to war crimes.

The 47-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China and Russia, plus Latin American and African nations. 

"The blockade of Gaza must be ended in order to allow access of any humanitarian assistance," Pakistan's most senior foreign office bureaucrat Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry told a press briefing.

UPDATE: 2/23/14 4:40 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow. 

UPDATE: 2/23/14 4:30 PM ET

This is what the war in Gaza looks like from space

GlobalPost's Timothy McGrath writes:

This photo is beautiful, evocative, even entrancing, but as soon as you learn what it shows, it'll haunt you. Yep, that's what Gaza looks like from space. 

Some astronauts describe experiencing something called the "overview effect" while looking down at Earth from space.

They see Earth, hanging in darkness like a marble, vulnerable but for a thin, glowing atmosphere. And they realize something that people on Earth have trouble seeing — that we are all in this together, living on this tiny little marble surrounded by a perhaps infinite universe.

Looking down from space, there are no national borders, no conflicts. It sounds cheesy, but according to the astronauts who've experienced it, it was a profound shift in consciousness.

Read the full piece here. 

UPDATE: 2/23/14 4:17 PM ET

'Hospitals and water supplies are under massive strain,' in Gaza, Oxfam says

Agence France-Presse — Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes but have nowhere safe to shelter from Israeli airstrikes, charity Oxfam said on Wednesday, warning supplies of water and food are dangerously low.

Over 120,000 people are displaced but are prevented from escaping violence because borders with Israel and Egypt are shut, Oxfam said.

 

Displaced Palestinians sleep on the ground on July 23, 2014 at a UN school in the refugee camp of Jabalia where families fleeing heavy fighting in the besieged Palestinian territory have taken refuge.

"The terrible toll on civilians is shocking. Hospitals and water supplies are under massive strain and the needs are increasing by the day. People are fleeing terrified," said Nishant Pandey, Oxfam's head in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

 

Maha al-Sheikh Khalil, a seven year-old Palestinian girl, is treated at Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, on July 23, 2014 following an Israeli attack on the Shujaiya neighborhood of the battered city.

Normally such crises would cause people to flee the area, but this was impossible as the blockade prevented people escaping the violence, Pandey said.

UPDATE: 2/23/14 3:02 PM ET

No clear signs of a ceasefire yet 

Reuters — Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said he was ready to accept a humanitarian truce in Gaza where the Islamist group is fighting an Israeli military offensive, but would not agree to a full ceasefire until the terms had been negotiated.

"Everyone wanted us to accept a ceasefire and then negotiate for our rights, we reject this and we reject it again today," he said at a news conference in Qatar.

But he said Hamas "will not close the door" to a humanitarian truce if Israel ended its siege of Gaza.

Chief of the Islamist Hamas movement, Khaled Meshaal holds a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha on July 23, 2014.

 

UPDATE: 2/23/14 2:50 PM ET

#JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies

GlobalPost's Emily Lodish writes:

A hastag alone isn't going to change the world, but it could be the start of something. That's what Abraham Gutman is hoping, he told BBC.

Gutman co-created the hastag #JewsAndArabsRefuseToBeEnemies, which has been making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook.

View some of the photos that were shared on Twitter here.

UPDATE: 2/23/14 12:50 PM ET

UN rights council launches probe into Israel's Gaza offensive

Agence France-Presse — The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday launched a probe into Israel's Gaza offensive, backing efforts by the Palestinians to hold the Jewish state up to international scrutiny. The 47-member council backed a Palestinian-drafted resolution by 29 votes, with Arab and fellow Muslim countries joined by China, Russia and Latin American and African nations. The United States was the sole member to vote against, while European countries abstained.

UPDATE: 2/23/14 11:00 AM ET

Funeral for Israel's 'lone soldier'

GlobalPost senior correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky reports:

Max Steinberg barely spoke enough Hebrew to crack a joke, but he found his calling in a place where Hebrew was an absolute necessity and joking was always welcome — in the Israeli army's vaunted Golani brigade. 

The 24-year-old American, who was killed in battle in Gaza on Sunday, was buried at Israel's national military cemetery at Mount Herzl on Wednesday.

His parents, Stuart and Evie, flew to Israel for the first time in their lives for the ceremony.

His father recounted how after volunteering for the Israel Defense Forces, Steinberg was turned down by the elite unit time and again for his lack of language skills. Eventually, he made it. At the time of his death, he served as a sharpshooter.

A foreign volunteer, he had not yet acquired Israeli citizenship.

"He was always the one cracking a joke when we had tough days, even though he could barely speak Hebrew," one of Steinberg's platoon-mates, Koyachew Adya, said at the funeral.

"He was just a good, strong guy, a friend to everybody — the laughing one."

About 30,000 people attended Steinberg's funeral. The service of "lone soldiers," volunteers from abroad who are under no obligation to fight for Israel, is lionized in the state.

Most of the attendees had never met Steinberg.

Zehava Kahlon, a resident of Israel's south, was taking a day off from the daily rain of rockets with a friend and two young children. "We came to Mount Herzl so the kids could see the museum," she said. "But once we realized which funeral it was we had to take part."

Arieh Copelan, a twenty-one-year-old native of the tiny Nevadan town of West Windover, stood at the funeral with his girlfriend, Mari Mirdfin, 20, of Baltimore. They too are part of the small, tightly-bound coterie of American IDF volunteers.

"So many cookie-cutter stories," Copelan said. "I was also in a combat unit until a month ago. I never met Max but we had many mutual friends, we served in the same bases. It's just very personal."

UPDATE: 2/23/14 10:32 AM ET

A brief respite

Agence France-Presse reports:

Fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants was briefly suspended in several flashpoint areas of Gaza on Wednesday to allow convoys of ambulances to retrieve the wounded, an ICRC spokeswoman said.

"A convoy of seven ambulances and two Red Cross cars went inside Shejaiya to evacuate the wounded," ICRC spokeswoman Cecilia Goin told AFP, saying the move had been coordinated with both Israel and Hamas.

More details on the temporary humanitarian ceasefire from the BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet:

A Palestinian child sits on a hospital bed after receiving medical care at Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital following an Israeli military strike near his family home on July 23, 2014.

UPDATE: 2/23/14 10:15 AM ET

Lufthansa halts flights to Tel Aviv

Lufthansa is halting flights to Tel Aviv for one more day, Agence France-Presse reports. Yesterday, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced that it is suspending flights to and from the Israeli city for up to 24 hours.

More from Agence France-Presse: 

German aviation group Lufthansa said Wednesday it was suspending services to Tel Aviv for another day over security concerns amid the escalating Gaza conflict, after halting flights for 36 hours.

The German company, which also operates Germanwings, Austrian Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines, said it was "evaluating the security situation in close consultation with the responsible authorities."

It said it had cancelled a total of 20 scheduled flights to Tel Aviv on Thursday from Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna and Brussels.

"At the moment there is no reliable new information that would justify a resumption of flight service," it said in a statement. 

UPDATE: 2/23/14 9:00 AM ET

Israel's Gaza offensive could 'amount to war crimes,' UN rights chief warns

Agence France-Presse — Israel's military actions in the Gaza Strip could amount to war crimes, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Wednesday while also condemning indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants Hamas.

"There seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes," Pillay told an emergency session on Israel's Gaza offensive at the UN Human Rights Council, citing attacks that have killed Palestinian civilians, including children. 

She said Israelis also had a right to live without constant fear of rocket attacks. "Once again, the principles of distinction and precaution are clearly not being observed during such indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups," she said.

The council — which is the United Nations' top human rights forum — was poised to call for an international inquiry into Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territories. 

Gaza's emergency services said that at least 21 people were killed Wednesday, hiking the Palestinian death toll to 652, while the army announced another two soldiers had been killed in fighting a day earlier, raising the number of Israeli dead to 31, including 29 soldiers.

United Rights High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay speaks with Assistant Secretary-General and deputy emergency relief coordinator Kyung-wha Kang during an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council on the Gaza crisis at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on July 23, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/22/14 1:00 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 7/22/14 12:47 PM ET

FAA halts flights to and from Tel Aviv 

Here's the US Federal Aviation Administration's notice:

UPDATE: 7/22/14 12:32 PM ET

Palestinians propose Gaza truce

Reuters reports:

The Palestinian leadership proposed to Egypt a plan for a Gaza ceasefire to be followed by five days of negotiations to stop fighting between Palestinians and Israel, Palestinian official Azzam al-Ahmed told reporters in Cairo on Tuesday.

"The Palestinian leadership offered a new suggestion in the framework of the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire followed immediately by negotiations lasting five days," Fatah official al-Ahmed said.

UPDATE: 7/22/14 11:47 AM ET

'Precise shots' fired at Al Jazeera's bureau in Gaza

Al Jazeera has more details on the incident:

"Two very precise shots were fired straight into our building," Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from the bureau in Gaza said.

"We are high up in the building so we had a very strong vantage point over the area. But we have evacuated."

The bureau is situated in a residential area of Gaza City.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/22/14 11:11 AM ET

Flights to Israel cancelled

The Associated Press reports:

UPDATE: 7/22/14 10:05 AM ET

Israeli prime minister holds joint press conference with UN chief

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a news conference with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Here's what they said:

UPDATE: 7/22/14 9:44 AM ET

Kerry is in Egypt to broker truce efforts

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with leaders in Egypt, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to discuss ceasefire proposals, Agence France-Presse reported.

"We are hopeful that this visit will result in a ceasefire that provides the necessary security for the Palestinian people and that we can commence to address the medium and long-term issues related to Gaza," Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri was quoted as saying by the news agency.

UPDATE: 7/22/14 9:30 AM ET

An Israeli soldier is missing

Reuters — An Israeli soldier is missing in the Gaza Strip and presumed dead, local media quoted the military as saying on Tuesday, two days after the Islamist Hamas group announced they had captured a soldier during clashes.

Israel's Channel 10 News said the military believed the man was killed along with six other troops in an attack on an armored vehicle on Sunday. However, the army has only identified six bodies.

Hamas on Sunday announced it had captured an Israeli soldier, but did not say whether he was dead or alive.

Abu Ubaida, the spokesman of the Hamas's armed wing, said the soldier was seized in heavy fighting on the Gaza border on Sunday. He displayed a photo ID and army serial number of the man, but showed no image of him in their hands.

An Israeli military statement on Tuesday said the army had completed the identification of six of the soldiers killed and that "efforts to identify the seventh soldier are ongoing and have yet to be determined."

UPDATE: 7/22/14 8:30 AM ET

'No safe place for civilians' in Gaza, UN says

Reuters — Palestinian civilians in densely-populated Gaza have no place to hide from Israel's military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

"There is literally no safe place for civilians," Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.

Palestinian children inspect a destroyed mosque following an overnight Israeli military strike, on July 22, 2014, in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip.

More than 500 people have been killed in the coastal enclave which has an estimated 4,500 people per square kilometer, Laerke said. The priority for aid agencies was protecting civilians and evacuating and treating the wounded.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 5:00 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed. We will continue coverage tomorrow.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 4:43 PM ET

'The violence must stop, it must stop now,' UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says

Agence France Presse — World efforts to end two weeks of deadly violence in and around Gaza stepped up on Monday as the UN chief and top US diplomat arrived in Cairo to press for an immediate truce.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded the violence "must stop now" as the death toll in the 14-day conflict hit 572 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, with US Secretary of State John Kerry arriving to lend his weight to truce efforts.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a press conference in Cairo on July 21, 2014.

Egypt, which had brokered past conflicts between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers, had put forward a ceasefire accepted by Israel and spurned by the Palestinian militants, who demand an end to the blockade of the enclave. In a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Ban said urged "all parties to stop violence unconditionally and return to dialogue."

The "violence must stop, it must stop now," Ban said at a news conference.

Ban urged Israel to "exercise maximum restraint" saying: "Too many innocent people are dying."

UPDATE: 7/21/14 3:46 PM ET

UAE pledges $40 million in aid for Gaza reconstruction

Agence France-Presse — The United Arab Emirates is offering at least $40 million in aid for the reconstruction of Gaza homes hit by Israel's military offensive against rocket-firing militants.

The aid is part of an agreement between Abu Dhabi and the Emirati Red Crescent and the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, according to the Red Crescent.

The initiative was aimed at reconstructing "damaged homes and rehabilitating hospitals, education and services" hit by Israeli military strikes in the Gaza Strip, the organization's president, Sheikh Hamdan Ben Zayed Al-Nahyan, was quoted as saying in a statement.

A Palestinian woman stands in front of a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family that was destroyed the day before following heavy Israeli bombardment, in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 21, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 3:31 PM ET

Number of Israeli soldiers killed in fighting rises

The total Israeli death toll has now gone up to 27.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 2:52 PM ET

This is how many Palestinians have been displaced from their homes

From Circa:

UPDATE: 7/21/14 2:12 PM ET

Turkey declares 3 days of mourning in 'show of solidarity with the Palestinian people'

Agence France-Presse — Turkey on Monday declared three days of national mourning for the Palestinian victims of Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, denouncing the assault as a "massacre."

"We condemn Israel's massacre of the Palestinian people," Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told reporters in Ankara in televised comments after a cabinet meeting as the Palestinian death toll topped 500. "In a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people, three days of mourning have been declared starting from tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Palestinian relatives of a patient killed in an Israeli army shelling on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, react as they gather in the damaged building on July 21, 2014.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought in the last days to portray himself as the leading global defender of the Palestinian cause, slamming Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip as a "genocide" of the Palestinians.


Also, protests against Israel's Gaza offensive took place in Tokyo, Japan:

 

And in Copenhagen, Denmark:


In France, violence broke out over the weekend in the suburb of Sarcelles during demonstrations against Israel's operations in Gaza.

The BBC reports:

Roger Cukierman, head of the umbrella group Crif that represents French Jewish organizations, said Jews were not just afraid, they were anguished.

"What's happened in the past few days is terrible. They're shouting 'Death to the Jews' and attacking synagogues. It's completely out of control," he said.

Read the full piece here. 

 

 

French riot police officers face rioters in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, after clashes following a demonstration denouncing Israel's military campaign in Gaza and showing support to the Palestinian people.

A policewoman takes part in an investigation in Sarcelles, a northern Paris suburb, on July 21, 2014, in front of a chemist in a shopping center of Les Flanades neighborhood, which was burnt down on July 20 after a rally against Israel's Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 12:13 PM ET

The fallen Israeli soldiers

Agence France-Presse reported that 18 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the conflict till date. That toll includes two American-born Israeli soldiers. From BBC News:

"We can confirm the deaths of US citizens Max Steinberg and Sean Carmeli in Gaza," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Sunday, declining to provide further details.

The overall death toll crossed 500 today, with at least 509 Gazans and 20 Israelis killed, Agence France-Presse reported.

AFP/Getty photographer Gali Tibbon took these photos at the funeral in Jerusalem for 20-year-old Israeli Staff Sergeant Moshe Melako of the Golani Brigade who was killed yesterday.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 12:05 PM ET

Israeli shelling on Gaza hospital kills 5 people

Agence France-Presse — Israel shelled a hospital in the central Gaza Strip on Monday, killing five people and wounding at least 70, medics said.

Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said the 70 injured included at least 20 hospital staff, among them doctors.

A Palestinian employee inspects damages at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, after the building was shelled by the Israeli army on July 21, 2014.

He said the third floor of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Balah had been hit, with an interior ministry official saying it was hit by Israeli tank fire.

Palestinian television showed footage of wounded people, including medical staff, being treated after the bombing.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 11:33 AM ET

Kerry to push for 'immediate' Gaza ceasefire, Obama says

Agence France-Presse — US Secretary of State John Kerry is to push for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza when he arrives later Monday in Cairo, President Barack Obama said.

"Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas's terrorist infrastructure in Gaza," Obama said in a statement at the White House, adding he had sent his top diplomat to the region to "push for an immediate cessation of hostilities."

US President Barack Obama speaks to the press outside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2014.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 11:11 AM ET

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya says Gaza is unbreakable, Al Jazeera reports

View the rest of Haniya's remarks on Al Jazeera's live blog.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 10:35 AM ET

What will the conflict lead to?

Yesterday was the deadliest day in the Israel-Gaza war since fighting started two weeks ago, and as of now, the end is nowhere in sight. The Economist reports on the potential implications of the bloody, ongoing battles:

Despite being besieged and the rising death toll, Hamas and fellow Islamists show no sign of changing course. They continue to launch over 100 rockets at Israel every day, targeting towns and cities from south to north. ... The longer the fighting continues, the more unrest is likely to flare violently among Palestinians in the West Bank. Demonstrations are getting bigger. Israeli forces opened fire on crowds in Hebron, the largest West Bank city, on July 20th. And the more damage Israel causes to infrastructure in Gaza, the more it sows the seeds of future strife.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 10:30 AM ET

Search effort for Gaza survivors 

This raw video from the Associated Press shows rescue workers rummaging through rubble to find survivors following an Israeli attack on Gaza on Monday.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 9:30 AM ET

UN rights forum to hold an emergency session on Gaza

Reuters — The United Nations Human Rights Council said it would hold an emergency session on Israel's two-week-old offensive in Gaza on Wednesday at the request of Egypt, Pakistan and the Palestinians.

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has previously said Israeli strikes on Gaza may break international laws banning the targeting of civilians. Israel, which accuses the UN Human Rights Council of bias, boycotted the Geneva forum for 20 months, resuming cooperation in October.

 

Palestinian Civil Defense workers search for survivors amidst the rubble of a building destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on July 21, 2014.

The request was signed by envoys from Egypt on behalf of a diplomatic grouping of Arab countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Palestinian observer mission to the United Nations.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 8:55 AM ET

The death toll passes 500 

Agence France-Presse — According to figures released by emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra, some 15 people were killed in several strikes across Gaza on Monday and 45 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.

Separately, the Israeli army said it had killed "more than 10 militants" who had infiltrated southern Israel through two cross-border tunnels. Militants killed inside Israel are not included in Qudra's Gaza toll.

Among those killed on Monday was a family of nine who died in an Israeli strike on a house in the southern city of Rafah, he said. Seven of the victims were children. Four more people were killed in various strikes to the south and east of Gaza City, while another died in the northern town of Beit Hanun.

There was also one other casualty in Rafah, he said. Of the 45 bodies recovered on Monday, 11 were from Shejaiya, hiking the death toll from a blistering Sunday attack to 72 dead, he said.

Qudra has said 80 percent of the victims in Shejaiya were women, children and elderly people, with around 400 people wounded. Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.

A Palestinian woman mourns during the funeral for those killed in a three-storey house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family the day before following heavy Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on July 21, 2014.

In a separate development, the Israeli army said it had killed "more than 10" militants early Monday who had infiltrated southern Israel through two cross-border tunnels. So far, Palestinian figures show 509 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,150 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire on July 8.

On the Israeli side, 20 people have died, including two civilians killed by rocket fire and 18 soldiers who were killed since the start of a ground operation late on July 17.

Family members of Major Tsafrir Bar-Or mourn and cry during his funeral on July 21, 2014 in Holon, Israel.

Army figures say 53 soldiers were injured on Sunday alone, five of them severely and 13 moderately, while military radio put the overall injury toll at more than 90 soldiers since the ground assault began.

Since the Israeli military started Operation Protective Edge on July 8 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire, Palestinian militants have fired 1,465 mortars and rockets that hit Israel, with the Iron Dome air defence system intercepting another 387, the army said.

Approximately 40 stuck Israel on Monday, one of them in the greater Tel Aviv area, while another 11 were shot down, the army said.

UPDATE: 7/21/14 8:50 AM ET

Earlier developments

Check out earlier developments on our live blog from last week.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/140721/day-14-fighting-rages-unabated-after-d