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July 14th, 2014
04:56 AM ET

Palestinians Struggle to Find Safety as Israel and Hamas Continue Attacks

One bomb dropped on a center for the disabled. Another wiped out 18 members of the same family.

By Monday morning, the death toll from nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza had reached 172 - all of them Palestinians - with more than 1,250 wounded, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel has so far shrugged off international calls for a cease-fire, saying it will continue the offensive as long as the militant group Hamas keeps firing rockets into its territory.

And Hamas shows no sign of letting up after already launching almost 1,000 rockets at Israel.

Caught in the middle are the residents of Gaza. While the Israeli attacks have killed some militants, around 70% of the fatalities were civilians, according to the United Nations. Of the dead, more than 30 are children, the U.N. reported.

"All sides ... must respect the sanctity of civilian life," said Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

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Filed under: Hamas • Israel
July 11th, 2014
01:20 PM ET

Rocket Fired Into Northern Israel from Lebanon as Gaza Conflict Continues

Israel faced attack from a second front Friday, but it is unlikely that a rocket fired from Lebanon signifies the widening of a conflict that has left at least 100 dead in Gaza.

The rocket launched from Lebanon landed near the northern Israeli town of Metula, which sits right by the Lebanese border, and no damage or injuries have been reported. It was not immediately clear who fired the rocket.

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said Israel holds the Lebanese government responsible for the attack, but concerns that Israel will face a two-front conflict are unlikely to be realized.

Hezbollah, which operates in Lebanon and is caught up in other conflicts in the region, probably does not have the appetite to start a war with Israel.

Thousands of rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel during a war in 2006, but rocket attacks since then have been sporadic. Tensions are always high between Hezbollah and Israel, but Hezbollah's involvement in Syria's civil war means that a fight with Israel might not make sense.

Nonetheless, Israel responded with artillery that landed in the vicinity of the Lebanese town of Kfar Shouba. No casualties were reported, the Lebanese army said.

Israel continued to weather rocket attacks by the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, but virtually all of the casualties in the conflict have been suffered on the Gazan side.

Though menacing, nearly all the Hamas rockets have been intercepted by the Israeli air defense system or struck empty areas. Airstrikes by Israel in Gaza, in contrast, have been blamed for at least 100 deaths, including 22 children and 20 women, a spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Health said.

Hospitals in Gaza are unable to take care of the wounded - who top 700 - and patients are being treated on the floors because emergency rooms are overcrowded, medical sources told CNN.

The same medical sources said that medicines are running low and that the scenes at the hospitals are not unlike the chaos witnessed at Syrian hospitals during its civil war.

CNN staff in Gaza reported there are rolling blackouts, and there are water shortages in some areas because airstrikes have damaged pumping stations.

The Israeli military, meanwhile, said that some 100 rockets were fired at Israel today, including one that was intercepted over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Lebanon
July 11th, 2014
04:41 AM ET

Striking Gaza Could Buy Israel Peace For a Year, Maybe More, Analysts say

The dark curtain rises again on the tragedy of Israel and Gaza, and the next act begins much like its forerunners.

Rockets hunt humans. Bombs crush buildings. Blood spills. The dead ride in caskets through streets, and mothers wail their grief to the heavens.

As Israeli reserves gather like a storm over Gaza's horizon, the added bloodshed of an incursion appears imminent, and millions watching around the world ask: What could they hope to achieve?

There is no dramatic endgame in this, but there are concrete objectives, says Israeli military analyst and columnist Ron Ben-Yishai.

There are official ones and unofficial ones, short-term and long-term, that make sense for Israel, he argues.

Many of them will work, concedes critical Israeli columnist Gideon Levy. But he disagrees about their wisdom.

They won't cure the disease but instead feed it, he argues.

Military objective No. 1
First, the conservative government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to stop the rocket fire by force.

And weaken the Hamas militants and other groups behind it, Ben-Yishai says.

"Erode the political clout and the ability of Hamas to act both as a political and military-terrorist movement."

Those are the official goals given by the Cabinet for the military operation named Protective Edge, he says. And they'll probably be achieved, Ben-Yishai says.

"For the short-run, no doubt," Levy concurs. But he also thinks Hamas will come back stronger militarily and politically.

That's what happened over two years ago in operation Pillar of Defense and over five years ago in Operation Cast Lead, he says.

In the latter, 1,300 Palestinians and more than a dozen Israelis died.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel
July 10th, 2014
04:23 AM ET

New Wave of Israeli Airstrikes Hammers Gaza

A new wave of Israeli airstrikes battered areas of Gaza early Thursday, continuing the deadly onslaught aimed at stopping militant rocket fire into Israel.

The days-long aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed 76 Palestinians, including women and children, and injured more than 500 since it began Monday, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the offensive would be expanded and continue "until the firing at our communities stops and quiet is restored."

But there was no sign that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza were backing down as rockets continued to streak over the border into southern Israel. No Israelis have been killed so far in the rocket attacks.

Some Israeli officials have hinted at the possibility of a ground offensive in Gaza, although questions remain about the government's appetite for such a conflict.

Netanyahu didn't specify what the expansion of the current operation, which began Monday, would entail, but he said Israel's military "is prepared for all possibilities."

Ground offensive?

President Shimon Peres, whose role is largely ceremonial and is not involved in setting policy, said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Becky Anderson that he believed a ground offensive "may happen quite soon" unless Hamas stops firing rockets at Israel.

"We warned them. We asked them to stop it," Peres told Anderson. "We waited one day, two days, three days and they continued, and they spread their fire on more areas in Israel."

While Peres was speaking on his own and his position may not outline an official government policy, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz earlier told CNN that a ground operation "might become necessary."

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, convened an emergency meeting of his cabinet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

"This war is not against Hamas or another political party but it is against the Palestinian people," he told the media afterward. "What do you call this crime? What is this crime known under international law? To kill entire families, is this collective punishment?

"This is called collective genocide."

A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Israel's threat to launch a "stupid" ground offensive didn't scare anyone, and fighters from Hamas' military wing were ready to face off with Israel's "coward" soldiers in Gaza.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel
July 9th, 2014
04:49 AM ET

Israel: Ground Operation 'Might Become Necessary'

As rockets and missiles fly back and forth between Gaza and Israel, the Israeli military - saying it doesn't expect the crisis to resolve itself soon - is preparing for a ground incursion.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told CNN such an operation "might become necessary," and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the security operation against the militant group Hamas "will probably not end within several days."

On Tuesday, the Israeli Cabinet gave the authorization for the military to call up 40,000 troops if needed, 10,000 more than were called up during Israel's offensive into Gaza in November of 2012. Only about 1,000 have been called up so far.

"I hope ... that it's not going to escalate into an all-out war," said Maen Rashid Areikat, the Palestinian representative to the United States. "For the Israelis, they have to know that there's no military solution to this problem."

Still, recent days have brought a dramatic escalation in the conflict.

Militants fired more than 130 rockets at Israeli civilians, Israel said Tuesday. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it targeted about 160 "terror sites" in Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday, after carrying out 150 airstrikes the day before.

"Overnight, terror organizations in the Gaza Strip suffered a severe blow, as the numerous IDF strikes in Gaza managed to significantly impair terrorist capabilities and prevent possible schemes against Israelis," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Mideast
July 8th, 2014
04:30 AM ET

Israel Ramps Up Strikes Against Hamas

An Israeli security operation against the militant group Hamas "will probably not end within several days," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday.

The development appeared to confirm fears that the conflict would continue to escalate.

"We will not tolerate rocket fire and we are prepared to expand the operation and to exact a heavy toll on Hamas," he said.

Overnight, Israel ramped up its airstrikes on Hamas in Gaza.

The Israeli military's Operation Protective Edge against Hamas has entered a "substantial phase," with airstrikes hitting around 50 targets, including militant houses and military compounds, Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told CNN.

"We are determined to restore a state of security," he said.

Hamas security sources reported at least 60 Israeli airstrikes across Gaza, including from F-16s, Apache helicopters and drones. The sources said at least 10 people were wounded.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Israel to immediately stop its strikes, warning the operation would drag the region into instability.

Abbas said a truce was needed to "spare the innocent from mass destruction."

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Filed under: Israel
July 7th, 2014
04:50 AM ET

Netanyahu: 'The Murder of Your Son is Abhorrent'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday spoke with the father of the Palestinian teenager who was burned alive in Jerusalem last week, expressing shock at what he called an "abhorrent" murder.

As anger continues to boil over the killing of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khedair, Netanyahu spoke by phone with the father, Hussein Abu Khedair, telling him that the killers will be brought to trial and "will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law."

Police have arrested several Israeli Jewish suspects in connection with the killing. They said there was a "strong indication" that the attackers may have been motivated by a desire for revenge over the deaths of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were found a week ago in a field in the West Bank.

In a region that has experienced decades of fighting and mistrust, the past week's events have still managed to shock - and to further embitter relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

"The murder of your son is abhorrent and cannot be countenanced by any human being," Netanyahu told the teenager's father on Monday.

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July 1st, 2014
04:33 AM ET

Israel Hits Back After Teens Found Dead

Nineteen days ago, three Israeli teenagers, trying to hitchhike home from the southern West Bank, disappeared.

Monday afternoon, volunteers from a nearby Israeli settlement discovered their bodies in an open field not far from Hebron, a city in the southern West Bank.

The teens' disappearance - which Israel blamed on Hamas - had already worsened relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The discovery threatens to make it worse.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the students had been "murdered in cold blood" by people he described as "animals."

"Hamas will pay," Netanyahu warned.

Hamas, the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization that operates in the West Bank and Gaza, denied it was behind the abductions.

If Netanyahu "brings a war on Gaza," the group warned, "the gates of hell will open to him."

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Filed under: Hamas • Israel
March 22nd, 2013
05:53 AM ET

President Obama spends final day of historic Mideast journey at holy sites in Israel before last stop in Jordan

FROM CNN WIRES:

After putting himself in the middle of the historic tensions between Israelis and Palestinians this week, U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday wraps up his first trip to Israel since becoming president. He then moves on to another of America's closest allies in the region - Jordan, a military and intelligence partner, which has been facing trying times.

Obama is devoting his last hours in Israel and the Palestinian territories to cultural endeavors.

With Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the president and Secretary of State John Kerry visited the grave of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, where Obama placed a stone on top of the tomb.

From there, the delegation went to the grave of Yitzhak Rabin, the former Israeli Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1995. Obama also laid a wreath and a stone there. The stone for Rabin's grave came from the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington.

Obama and the Israeli leaders also visited the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, where the president turned up the "eternal flame" of remembrance of the 6,000,000 Jewish victims of Nazi death camps in World War II.

Before continuing on to the last stop of his trip, Obama with visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is on the West Bank, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Obama then travels to Jordan, where he will meet with King Abdullah II, who has faced harsh criticism lately from his country's people.

READ MORE: Obama travels from Israel and Palestinian lands to Jordan


Filed under: Israel • Israel-Gaza conflict • Jordan • Palestine • Refugees • Relief • Syria • World
March 21st, 2013
08:08 AM ET

Fmr. Ambassador Holliday: President Obama's meeting with Palestinian President Abbas 'a significant visit'

Today, President Obama is in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the second leg of his historic Middle East visit. He is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the possibility of reviving peace talks in the region. The president has said he is prepared to listen, and hasn't come with a peace plan. The two leaders will talk at a working lunch and will then address the media.

But the trip is already marred by violence. Two rockets fired from Gaza  landed in the southern Israel city of Sderot hours earlier, while the president was about 60 miles away in Jerusalem. There are reports of property damage but no injuries.

Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of the Meridian International Center and fmr. former U.S. Ambassador special political affairs to the UN Security Council, weighs in on Obama’s meeting with Abbas today and how the attacks may have affected it. Holliday says the rocket attacks are a reminder that the Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza and that the Palestinian government is divided, highlighting "the weakness that we face in terms of the talks restarting."

Holliday calls the president's trip a significant visit, but notes that the Palestinians are very skeptical about what the president hopes to accomplish.  “I think it's a mixed bag,” Holliday says. “But I do believe that they would view the president's visit, and the look for any opportunity to get these talks restarted. And of course, they've been on the sidelines, waiting for what they see as a critical issue, for these settlements to halt. Whereas Israelis have said, look, ‘we're ready to talk at any point as long as you don't put preconditions on these talks.’”

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