As Operation Protective Edge entered its fourth day Friday, Israeli forces reported they’ve carried out almost 900 air strikes and Palestinians claimed nearly 100 casualties in Gaza. Of the more than 350 rockets that had been fired at Israel—many of them reaching as far north as Tel Aviv and Ashkelon—Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system had intercepted almost 100.
The rockets from Gaza are proving to have better range and accuracy than initially thought, however. An elderly Israeli man was seriously injured and two others were wounded Friday when a rocket hit a gas station in Ashkelon, exploding a gas tank.
Talk of an Israeli ground operation has spread, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying, “The operation will be expanded and will continue until the firing at our communities stops and quiet is restored.”
According to Haaretz, the United States is working feverishly to broker a cease-fire, with Secretary of State John Kerry speaking regularly with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas this week and Philip Gordon, a senior aide for Middle Eastern affairs, meeting with both leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Senior American officials said the message both Kerry and Gordon had delivered to Israel was that it should try to achieve its goal – a cessation of the rocket fire – by diplomacy rather than a ground operation.
The terrorist organization Hamas, which has taken responsibility for the bulk of the rockets launched from Gaza, slammed Abbas for entering discussions of a cease-fire. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the Palestinian Authority president publicly called on Hamas to stop launching rockets, which only unleash more Israeli air strikes, hinting at widening rifts in the newly unified Palestinian coalition government.
“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” Abbas asked on Palestine TV, without explicitly naming Hamas, which recently lent its backing to his government after a seven-year rift. “We prefer to fight with wisdom and politics.”
As Israelis begin the first Shabbat since Operation Protective Edge was launched, families throughout Israel will likely be wondering when this latest conflict—the country’s third conflict with Gaza in six years—will be over.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.