Israel suffered its first fatality since the Gaza offensive began as an Egypt-inspired ceasefire proposal was roundly rejected by Hamas.
Dror Chanin, 37, of Beit Ariyeh was killed after being hit by a piece of shrapnel at the Erez crossing to the northern Gaza Strip on Monday. He was a civilian volunteer who was in the region to distribute food to soldiers.
His death came shortly before an Israeli aerial bombardment of north Gaza, which was preceded by an IDF warning to 100,000 Palestinian civilians in and around Beit Lahiya to evacuate.
In private, military leaders this week expressed horror at the redirection of residents back into houses earmarked for bombing, counteracting IDF efforts to minimise casualties.
More than 200 Palestinians have now died in Operation Protective Edge, with more than 1,500 injured and 20,000 displaced. Up to 80 schools and more than 20 health buildings have also been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
US President Barack Obama described the Palestinian death toll as “a tragedy”, while reiterating Israel’s right to defend itself. In Israel, many of the 1,250 rockets fired from Gaza were intercepted by the Iron Dome, but more than 230 people were treated by emergency services, prompting appeals from Magen David Adom for emergency funding.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week vowed to redouble efforts, saying: “It would have been preferable to have solved this diplomatically, which we tried to do, but Hamas leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it.”
Despite his tough stance, some of Netanyahu’s cabinet members criticised his handling of the crisis. The hawkish Deputy Defence Minister Danny Danon accused the Prime Minister of “leftist flaccidity” and was promptly sacked.
Elsewhere, analyst Nahum Barnea said the cabinet’s decision to abide by a ceasefire that was ignored by Hamas showed “that Israel was being dragged with no end date, no strategy, no one in charge”.
On the frontline, Israel has targeted rocket launching sites, Hamas headquarters, as well as the houses of the group’s senior members, despite most leaders having gone into hiding after hostilities began on 7 July.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Sarah Leah Whitson criticised the IDF rationale about the legitimacy of targets.
She said: “Israel’s rhetoric is all about precision attacks,” she said. “But attacks with no military target and many civilian deaths can hardly be considered precise.”
With no let up in rockets from Gaza, the IDF estimates that Hamas and Islamic Jihad have used only 10 to 15 percent of their arsenal, with hundreds more long-range missiles presumed to be on standby.
It stands in contrast to the last conflict between Israel and Hamas, in November 2012, which lasted only eight days. This year’s battle looks set to stretch into its third week.
However, last night Israel agreed to a UN proposal for a six-hour humanitarian ceasefire. There was no immediate response to this plan from Hamas.
“A big part of the problem is that if both the US and Egypt are being stand-offish, there is no one else to fill that vacuum,” said Daniel Levy, the Middle East director of the European Council for Foreign Relations.
Separately, in the West Bank, Israel’s military ordered the demolition of the family homes of two Palestinians suspected of kidnapping and killing three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month.
Israel accused Hamas of the killing, and its crackdown on the group in the West Bank, along with the killing of a Palestinian boy in a revenge attack by extremist Jews – who have since admitted to the murder – triggered increased rocket fire from Gaza.
This quickly escalated into the current campaign.