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Aviation Ban Isolates Israel as Casualties Mount

Third Israeli civilian killed in rocket attack; Palestinian death count passes 600

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Passengers check a departure time flight board displaying various cancellations at Ben Gurion International airport, near Tel Aviv, on July 23, 2014. (GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)

As Day 15 of Operation Protective Edge came to a close on Tuesday, Israel found itself facing a level of isolation that it had not experienced in decades, as the Federal Aviation Administration placed an aviation ban on U.S. flights to Israel for 24 hours, following a rocket strike in a house hours earlier near Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s only international airport. By Wednesday morning several European airlines had also followed suit, including Turkish Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, and easyJet.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel on El Al to protest the ban, which he called “a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory.”

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting continued in Jerusalem on Wednesday, where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, saying “we have certainly made some steps forward, but there is still work to be done” to reach a ceasefire. Meanwhile in Cairo officials from Fatah and Hamas met to discuss measures that could lead to a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

On the Israeli homefront on Wednesday, the third civilian died in the operation, when a mortar fired from Gaza crashed into a hothouse on an agricultural village in the Ashkelon Coast regional council, killing a Thai worker. The night before, more than 50 residents of the Beduin city of Rahat in the Negev were treated for shock after a rocket strike.

In Jerusalem on Wednesday, 30,000 people came to the Mt. Herzl cemetery for the funeral of Max Steinberg, a “lone soldier” from Los Angeles who moved to Israel and joined the Golani Brigade. Steinberg was killed in combat on Saturday, along with Nissim Sean Carmeli, a Golani soldier who was raised in Texas by Israeli parents and who was buried in Haifa on Monday night, in a ceremony attended by 20,000 or more people, most of whom had never met him.

An Israeli security official was quoted by Channel 2 on Wednesday as saying that the IDF is gaining more control over Shejaiya, the Gaza City neighborhood that has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the operation.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the IDF said that they had killed a total of 210 “terrorists” since the ground operation started on Thursday, including 30 in the past 24 hours. They said they have also discovered 28 infiltration tunnels and destroyed six others.

News of the death of two Armored Corps officers Tuesday night in Gaza brought the IDF death toll up to 29, while more than 600 Palestinians have died, according to local Gaza health officials.

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Aviation Ban Isolates Israel as Casualties Mount

Third Israeli civilian killed in rocket attack; Palestinian death count passes 600

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