PHOTO: Aftermath of Israeli strike on Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on Monday (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)
UPDATE 1950 GMT: In a sudden reversal of its position, the Netanyahu Government has decided it will attend negotiations in Egypt:
Royal flip flop by Netanyahu & cabinet. Friday they decided not to talk about ceasefire anymore. Tomorrow they will send delegation to Cairo
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) August 4, 2014
UPDATE 1925 GMT: Sources in the Palestinian delegation in Cairo say Israel has agreed to the proposal of a 72-hour ceasefire from Tuesday morning.
During the 72 hours, Egyptian mediators hope to oversee indirect talks between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations. They are encouraging the Israelis to come to Cairo as soon as possible, according to the Palestinians.
UPDATE 1915 GMT: Human Rights Watch has concluded that Israeli forces deliberately fired on and killed civilians in in Khuza’a in southern Gaza on several several occasions between July 23 and 25.
HRW based the assessment on witness accounts from seven Gazans who fled Khuza’a. The witness also described repeated shelling that struck apparent civilian structures, lack of access to necessary medical care, and the threat of attack from Israeli forces as they tried to leave the area.
UPDATE 1845 GMT: “Senior negotiators” have told The Times of Israel that Palestinian factions will soon announce a 72-hour truce.
The sources said the offer has been conveyed to Israel.
UPDATE 1445 GMT: An Israeli soldier has been shot and seriously wounded at close range near the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.
The assailant, dressed in black, fired several shots — one hitting the soldier in the abdomen — and then escaped on a motorcycle.
UPDATE 1435 GMT: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced an important shift in the military objectives of the war, furthering distancing himself from a withdrawal of forces from Gaza.
Israel has said that its objective is to destroy cross-border tunnels, and the military signalled this weekend that this was almost completed.
However, Netanyahu asserted this afternoon that Operation Protective Edge will now continue until there is no more rocket fire from Gaza:
The campaign in Gaza continues. What is nearing conclusion is the IDF’s activity on the tunnels, but this operation will only be over when the calm and security returns to Israel’s citizens for an extended period of time.
UPDATE 1135 GMT: A man has commandeered an excavator to run over a pedestrian and ram into a bus in Jerusalem, killing one person and injuring six.
The driver of the bulldozer was shot dead by police.
UPDATE 0955 GMT: The Israel Defense Forces try to justify bombardment of Shaja’ia:
New map confirms: the Shuja’iya neighborhood is a terrorist stronghold where Hamas uses residents as human shields. pic.twitter.com/NVTPEbydq4
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 4, 2014
Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed in a 12-hour Israeli assault on Shaja’ia, east of Gaza City, which levelled most of the town.
UPDATE 0955 GMT: Gaza’s Health Ministry says the death toll is now 1,815, including 401 children, 238 women and 74 elderly men.
The Ministry said 9,406 people have been injured, including 2805 children, 1823 women, and 343 elderly men.
UPDATE 0945 GMT: Gaza’s Health Ministry claims Israeli forces struck a house in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, after the start of a 7-hour “humanitarian pause” by Israel this morning.
Palestinian officials said an 8-year-old girl was killed and 29 people were wounded.
Another strike wounded four people in a home in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.
UPDATE 0930 GMT: Palestinian sources in Cairo say the US and Qatar have renewed efforts for an understanding on a ceasefire, as Palestinian groups meet Egyptian officials over their proposal to halt the fighting.
However, Israeli officials are already trying to block the initiative, saying the US-Qatari approaches slow and sabotage the Egyptian plan which West Jerusalem prefers.
The officials object that the US-Qatari “understanding” will include demands on Israel to withdraw from Gaza, ease restrictions on border crossings — including authorization of the Palestine unity government to handle the passage of goods and businessmen — and foster the rehabilitation of Gaza.
The Israeli sources say the Egyptian plan instead focuses on convincing Hamas to stop fighting before moving to a broader ceasefire without political conditions.
UPDATE 0505 GMT: Despite the refusal of Israel to attend, a senior figure from Palestine’s Islamic Jihad has said that Sunday’s ceasefire talks in Egypt went well.
Ziad Nakhala said the proposals of the Palestinian delegation were received positively by Egypt, which has been a channel for steps favored by Israel: “Things are moving in the right direction and the climate has been positive.”
Nakhala said the Palestinian delegation will resume its meeting with Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed Farid El-Tohamy on Monday and claimed, “We are in the final minutes of the talks.”
UPDATE 0455 GMT: Israel has announced a seven-hour pause in its attacks in most of Gaza.
The “humanitarian window” began at 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) in all of the territory except the area east of Rafah, “where clashes were still ongoing and there was Israeli military presence”.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the announcement was a diversion after international criticism of Sunday’s strike by Israel on a UN shelter in Rafah:
Israel’s so-called humanitarian ceasefire is unilateral and it comes in a time when the Zionist enemy wants to distract the world from the massacres they have committed against our people in Gaza.
We don’t trust their intentions and we ask our people to take extreme caution.
Israel’s talk of withdrawal from Gaza was replaced on Sunday by more bombardment, as more than 130 Gazans were killed and the death toll passed 1,800 in the 27-day war.
Targets included a house in a refugee camp in Jabaliya, in which eight members of the same family were killed, and a UN shelter in Rafah, killing at least 10 people.
Israel said the Islamic Jihad’s northern district commander in the Gaza, Danyal Mansour, was killed in the Jabaliya strike.
The attack on the shelter mobilized international condemnation, including the second criticism from the US in three days. Washington, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and the French and British Governments put out similar statements over the “outrageous” attack, which Ban called a “criminal act” as a “gross violation of international humanitarian law”.
The criticism did little to check the Netanyahu Government, however, which used the funeral of 2nd Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, killed on Friday in clashes with Gazan fighters near Rafah, to restate its commitment to “exert as much force as needed”.
Israeli officials had initially said that Goldin was captured but confirmed early Sunday that he had died in the battle, which ended a short-lived ceasefire and brought Israeli strikes that killed almost 120 people in Rafah.
In Cairo, a Palestinian delegation including the Palestinian Authority and Hamas presented its ceasefire proposal to an empty Israeli chair after West Jerusalem said on Saturday that it would not participate in negotiations.
The Palestinian plan includes Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza, the end of the blockade with opening of border crossings, fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles off Gaza’s coast, and the release of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.
In its most significant political move of the day, Israel attacked Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas as well as Hamas, saying that Abbas is supporting terrorism as he participates in the unity government announced in April.
The allegation was put by Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, on American television: “(The Palestinian Authority’s officials) unfortunately are in alliance with this terrorist organization, and it’s a genocidal terror organization.”
Israel, who ended talks brokered by the US soon after the Palestinian unity government was announced, is seeking to split Abbas away from Hamas as it insists on the demilitarization of Gaza and a new leadership for the territory.