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Shelling of U.N. Gaza school kills at least 10 Palestinians

JERUSALEM (JTA)—At least 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded in the shelling of a United Nations school in southern Gaza.

Palestinian and United Nations officials blamed the Israel Defense Forces for Sunday morning’s shelling in Rafah. The school is serving as a shelter for some 3,000 displaced Palestinians.

The IDF said it was investigating reports on the attack.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement called the shelling a “gross violation of international humanitarian law.”

“United Nations shelters must be safe zones, not combat zones. The Israel Defense Forces have been repeatedly informed of the location of these sites,” Ban said.

“This attack, along with other breaches of international law, must be swiftly investigated and those responsible held accountable. It is a moral outrage and a criminal act.”

Rafah has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen since the attack on an IDF team decommissioning a tunnel that led to the death of two Israeli soldiers and the believed kidnapping of a third. That soldier, Hadar Goldin, later was declared dead.

Gaza’s Ministry of Health reported Sunday that at least 1,739 Palestinians in Gaza are dead and nearly 10,000 wounded since the beginning of Israel’s Gaza operation. In addition, more than 400,000 have been displaced from their homes, the ministry said.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians, including a Thai worker, have been killed during the operation.

Also Sunday, representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority arrived in Cairo for talks on a possible cease-fire. Israel said it will not send a representative to the talks.

State Dept. slams Israel’s ‘disgraceful shelling’ at U.N. school

(JTA)—The U.S. State Department condemned what it called Israel’s “disgraceful shelling” outside a United Nations school.

“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday. “The coordinates of the school, like all U.N. facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.”

At least 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded in the attack in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on the school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Palestinian and United Nations officials blamed the attack on the IDF.

The State Department statement was the harshest condemnation of Israeli actions in Gaza.

“U.N. facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks,” Psaki said. “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”

Rafah has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian gunmen since the attack on an IDF team decommissioning a tunnel that led to the death of two Israeli soldiers and the believed kidnapping of a third. That soldier, Hadar Goldin, later was declared dead.

The State Department called for a “full and prompt investigation” into the shelling of the Rafah school, as well as the other incidents in which U.N.-sponsored schools were shelled.

Bardem, Cruz backpedal on genocide charge against Israel

(JTA)—Academy Award-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem walked back his signature on a letter accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza.

Bardem and his wife, the actress Penelope Cruz, joined the letter early last week signed by 100 Spanish celebrities published in the Barcelona-based El Periodico de Catalunya as well as other Spanish media outlets.

In a statement released July 31 by his publicist, Bardem said his signature on the letter was “solely meant as a plea for peace.”

“While I was critical of the Israeli military response, I have great respect for the people of Israel and deep compassion for their losses,” Bardem wrote in his statement, which was published by the Hollywood Reporter. “I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife—which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings. We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war.

“Palestinians and Israelis in the region deserve to have their safety and human rights recognized and respected so in the near future they may find peace and co-existence, for themselves and their innocent children. So generations to come could bring hope, forgiveness and compassion for each other. This is the most basic and necessary way to peace for all of us,” he wrote.

Cruz also issued a clarification: “I don’t want to be misunderstood on this important subject. I’m not an expert on the situation and I’m aware of the complexity of it. My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace in both Israel and Gaza. I am hopeful all parties can agree to a cease fire and there are no more innocent victims on either side of the border.”

The celebrities’ letter read, in part, “This is a war of occupation and extermination against a whole people without means, confined to a miniscule territory without water and where hospitals, ambulances, and children are targeted and presumed to be terrorists.”

Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin declared dead

(JTA)—Hadar Goldin, the Israeli soldier who was thought to have been captured last Friday by Hamas, was declared dead.

The Israel Defense Forces announced early Sunday morning that it had determined that Goldin was killed in action. The determination was based on an analysis of what took place on the battlefield, a medical review, Jewish legal considerations and other considerations.

“A special IDF committee has determined that Lt. Hadar Goldin was killed in combat in Gaza on Friday,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said. “We join Lt. Goldin’s family in mourning their loss and will continue to support them during the grieving period.”

IDF soldier declared dead was relative of defense minister

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon posted on Twitter that he was related to Hadar Goldin, the soldier thought to have been kidnapped by Hamas and later declared killed in action.

“Hadar Goldin is a member of my family. I have known him since he was born,” Yaalon tweeted Sunday morning, hours after the soldier’s family was notified of his death. “He and the fallen IDF fighters have gone to battle to restore calm and security to Israel. I embrace their families.”

Yaalon’s grandfather was the brother of Goldin’s great-grandmother. The publication of the relationship was censored until after Goldin was declared dead for fear that Hamas would use the information.

Yaalon knew Goldin’s father, Simcha, from childhood and had known Goldin since his birth. Yaalon once lectured at Goldin’s high school at his request, Ynet reported.

The Israel Defense Forces said early Sunday morning that it determined Goldin was killed in action. The determination was based on an analysis of what took place on the battlefield, a medical review, Jewish legal considerations and other considerations.

Goldin and his twin brother, Tzur, served at the same time as combat soldiers and trained together as officers. Hadar Goldin was engaged a few months ago.

Netanyahu: ‘All options on the table’ in continuing Gaza operation

TEL AVIV (JTA)—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will keep “all options on the table” as its military operation continues in Gaza.

Netanyahu also offered enthusiastic praise for U.S. support of Israel throughout the conflict.

As Operation Protective Edge in Gaza neared the end of its 26th day, Netanyahu said Saturday night during a conference at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv that the operation would continue “no matter how much time it takes and how much strength it requires.”

“Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel,” he said. “I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go. We have no obligation outside of our security concerns.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came at the end of a tumultuous weekend in Gaza. Shortly after Israel and Hamas agreed to a three-day cease-fire beginning at 8 a.m. Friday, Hamas killed two soldiers in a suicide bombing and was said to have captured a third. The Israel Defense Forces determined on Sunday that the soldier supposedly abducted, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was killed in action.

Fighting continued in Gaza through Friday and Saturday, though the IDF began withdrawing an unspecified number of troops on Saturday.

Following Netanyahu’s statement, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the IDF was nearing the end of its mission to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels in Gaza.

Ahead of Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday, Goldin’s family held a news conference during which they called for the IDF to continue operations until the soldier is returned.

“I demand that the state of Israel not leave Gaza until it brings my child home,” said Hedva Goldin, the soldier’s mother. “I demand the state of Israel not give up on my child, and not give up on any child who went out to defend the state of Israel.”

Netanyahu said he planned to speak to the Goldin family after his statement and that “their statement touched my heart.” But he added that “we will continue the operation until it reaches its goals, and the deliberations will be based on those concerns.”

“I’m ready to get to the end of the operation militarily or, if I can, diplomatically,” he said. “I prefer to diplomatically, but if that is impossible, we’ll use all of the tools available.”

The prime minister said “the U.S. has been terrific,” and offered strong words of praise for President Obama and for an “untiring effort” by Secretary of State John Kerry. He also thanked the United States for its financial support of the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“President Obama has made constant statements on Israel’s right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said. “I appreciate it deeply.”

Netanyahu also blamed Qatar for funding Hamas and harboring Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ political head. But Netanyahu also noted an emerging “constellation” of Middle Eastern states that oppose Hamas and “that allows us to create a new reality.”

Report: Israel listened in on Kerry peace conversations

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli intelligence reportedly eavesdropped on telephone conversations made by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

In addition to Israel, at least one other intelligence agency also listened in on the phone calls, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported in an article to appear in its Monday print edition. A summary was posted Sunday to its English-language website.

The article cites unnamed “reliable sources.”

The intelligence agencies reportedly were able to intercept the calls between Kerry and high-ranking negotiators on both sides because they were made on landlines rather than encrypted equipment. The calls came during the height of the peace talks last year.

“Revelations of the eavesdropping could further damage already tense relations between the US government and Israel,” der Spiegel wrote.

The U.S. State Department and Israeli officials declined to comment to Der Spiegel.

Escape tunnel found in Palestinian prisoners’ bathroom

JERUSALEM (JTA)—An escape tunnel was discovered in the bathroom of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli prison.

Guards from the Israel Prisons Service uncovered the tunnel Sunday at the Gilboa Prison, in northern Israel, in a bathroom shared by eight members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Two of the prisoners are serving life sentences, according to Ynet.

It was not yet clear where the tunnel was heading and what happened to the dirt dug out of the tunnel.

It was the second such tunnel discovered in recent months.

British public horrified by killings in Gaza, new FM says

(JTA)—Much of the British public is “deeply disturbed” by the impact of Israel’s operation in Gaza, the new foreign secretary of England said, and the response could be more widespread anti-Semitic attacks.

“Of course it’s a concern,” Philip Hammond told the Sunday Telegraph, speaking of the hate crimes on Jewish communities in Britain, “and we have already seen certainly an upturn in anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Anti-Semitic incidents have doubled since Israel began its operation in Gaza nearly a month ago, according to the Community Security Trust, the security apparatus for the British Jewish community.

Hammond, who assumed his post less than a month ago, said the British government shares the “widespread public horror” of a “wide swath” of the British public at the suffering of the people of Gaza.

“The British public has a strong sense that the situation of the civilian population in Gaza is simply intolerable and must be addressed – and we agree with them,” he told the Independent. “There must be a humanitarian cease-fire that is without conditions. We have to get the killing to stop.”

Shortly after assuming his position, Hammond traveled to the Middle East in an attempt to help broker a Gaza cease-fire.

British Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, on Saturday night criticized Prime Minister David Cameron of the Conservative Party for not opposing Israel’s Gaza operation.

“The prime minister is wrong not to have opposed Israel’s incursion into Gaza. And his silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians caused by Israel’s military action will be inexplicable to people,” Miliband said, according to the Guardian.

“I am a supporter of Israel and I believe in Israel’s right to self-defense. But its military actions in the past two weeks have been wrong and unjustifiable.”

Meanwhile, British lawmakers and their supporters called on the government to determine whether U.K.-manufactured weapons or components have been used by the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza during the current operation.

The Independent reported that documents obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act showed that nearly $71 million in military-related exports to Israel have been approved since 2010.

According to the documents, among the manufacturers given permission to make sales to Israel are two British companies that supply components for the Hermes drone—the “backbone” of targeting and reconnaissance missions, the Israeli Air Force says—and one company that supplies components for Israel’s Merkava tanks.

In a statement to the Independent, a government spokesman said, “We are currently reviewing all existing export licenses to Israel. All applications for export licenses are assessed on a case-by-case basis against strict criteria. We will not issue a license if there is a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression, or if there is a clear risk that it would provoke or prolong conflict.”

Rio Jews rally for peace in Israel

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (JTA)—Some 2,500 people rallied at the Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro for peace in Israel and the Middle East.

Participants of varying ages and types—Jews and non-Jews—marched along the promenade and in the street. They sang Hebrew songs, as well as the Brazilian and Israeli national anthems.

Huge signs in Portuguese and English called for peace in the Middle East and condemned anti-Semitism. The blue and white of the Israeli flag flew alongside the Brazilian flag’s green and yellow, symbolizing the Jewish community’s integration in Brazilian society. Signs, flags and T-shirts carried pro-peace slogans and a rejection of terrorism perpetrated by Hamas.

The Rio Jewish federation and several activists organized the rally’s details on a newly created Facebook group that gained thousands of supporters in less than a week.

A recent similar rally in Sao Paulo gathered some 3,000 participants.

The Rio Jewish community has some 40,000 members; Sao Paulo has 60,000.

Earlier this month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned Israel for the “massacre” in Gaza without mentioning Hamas. In response, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, called Brazil a “diplomatic dwarf,” spurring Brazil to recall its Tel Aviv-based ambassador.

 

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