|Two Exiles. Israel lost the Northern Kingdom in Israel http://en.wikipedia.org/2nd exile
In the late 7th century BCE, the kingdom of Judah was a client state of the Assyrian empire. In the last decades of the century, Assyria was overthrown by Babylon, an Assyrian province. Egypt, fearing the sudden rise of the Neo-Babylonian empire, seized control of Assyrian territory up to the Euphrates river in Syria, but Babylon counter-attacked. In the process Josiah, the king of Judah, was killed in a battle with the Egyptians at the Battle of Megiddo (609 BC). After the defeat of Pharaoh Necho’s army by the Babylonians at Carchemish in 605 BCE, Jehoiakim began paying tribute to Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon. Some of the young nobility of Judah (such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were taken to Babylon. In the following years, the court of Jerusalem was divided into two parties, in support of Egypt and Babylon respectively. After Nebuchadnezzar was defeated in Battle in 601 BCE by Egypt, Judah revolted against Babylon, culminating in a three-month siege of Jerusalem beginning in late 598 BCE. Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, died during the siege, and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah) at the age of eighteen. The city fell on 2 Adar (March 16) 597 BCE, and Nebuchadnezzar pillaged Jerusalem and its Temple and took Jeconiah, his court and other prominent citizens (including the prophet Ezekiel) back to Babylon. Jehoiakim’s uncle Zedekiah was appointed king in his place, but the exiles in Babylon continued to consider Jeconiah as their Exilarch, or rightful ruler. Despite the remonstrations of Jeremiah and others of the pro-Babylonian party, Zedekiah revolted against Babylon and entered into an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra. Nebuchadnezzar returned, defeated the Egyptians, and again besieged Jerusalem, resulting in the city’s destruction in 587 BCE. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city wall and the Temple, together with the houses of the most important citizens. Zedekiah was blinded, and taken to Babylon with many others. Judah became a Babylonian province, called Yehud Medinata (Judah Province), putting an end to the independent Kingdom of Judah. (Because of the missing years in the Jewish calendar, rabbinic sources place the date of the destruction of the First Temple at 3338 HC (423 BCE) or 3358 HC (403 BCE)).
The first governor appointed by Babylon was Gedaliah, a native Judahite; he encouraged the many Jews who had fled to surrounding countries such as Moab, Ammon, Edom, to return, and took steps to return the country to prosperity. Some time later, a surviving member of the royal family assassinated Gedaliah and his Babylonian advisors, prompting many refugees to seek safety in Egypt. By the end of the second decade of the 6th century, in addition to those who remained in Judah, there were significant Jewish communities in Babylon and in Egypt; this was the beginning of the later numerous Jewish communities living permanently outside Judah in the Jewish Diaspora.
According to the book of Ezra, the Persian Cyrus the Great ended the exile in 538 BCE, the year after he captured Babylon. The exile ended with the return under Zerubbabel the Prince (so-called because he was a descendant of the royal line of David) and Joshua the Priest (a descendant of the line of the former High Priests of the Temple) and their construction of the Second Temple in the period 521–516 BCE.
Archaeological and other extra-biblical evidence
Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, his capture of King Jeconiah, his appointment of Zedekiah in his place, and the plundering of the city in 597 BCE as described in 2 Kings in the Bible are confirmed by a passage in the Babylonian Chronicles::293
In the seventh year, in the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against the City of Judah and on the ninth day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice and taking heavy tribute brought it back to Babylon.
Tablets describing ration orders for a captive King of Judah, identified with King Jeconiah, have been discovered during excavations in Babylon, in the royal archives of Nebuchadnezzar. One of the tablets refers to food rations for “Ya’u-kīnu, king of the land of Yahudu” and five royal princes, his sons.
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian forces returned in 588/586 BCE and rampaged through Judah, leaving clear archaeological evidence of destruction in many towns and settlements there.:294 Clay ostraca referred to as the Lachish letters from this period were discovered during excavations; one, which was probably written to the commander at Lachish from an outlying base, describes how the signal fires from nearby towns are disappearing: And may (my lord) be apprised that we are watching for the fire signals of Lachish according to all the signs which my lord has given, because we cannot see Azeqah. This correlates with the book of Jeremiah, which states that Jerusalem, Lachish and Azekah were the last cities to fall to the Babylonians. Archaeological finds from Jerusalem testify that virtually the whole city within the walls was burnt to rubble in 587 BCE and utterly destroyed.:295
The biblical books of 2 Kings and Jeremiah give varying numbers of exiles forcibly deported to Babylon and at one time it was widely believed that virtually the entire population was taken into captivity there. However archaeological excavations and surveys enable the population of Judah before the Babylonian destruction to be calculated with a high degree of confidence at approximately seventy-five thousand. Taking the different biblical numbers of exiles at their highest, twenty thousand, this would mean that at most twenty-five percent of the population were deported to Babylon, the remaining seventy-five percent staying in Judah.:306 Although Jerusalem was destroyed and depopulated, large parts of the city remaining in ruins for one hundred and fifty years, numerous other settlements in Judah continued to be inhabited with no signs of disruption visible in archaeological studies.:307
The biblical book of Ezra includes two texts said to be decrees of Cyrus the Great, conqueror of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, allowing the deported Jews to return to their homeland after decades and ordering the Temple rebuilt. The differences in content and tone of the two decrees, one in Hebrew and one in Aramaic, have caused some scholars to question their authenticity. The Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient tablet on which is written a declaration in the name of Cyrus referring to restoration of temples and repatriation of exiled peoples, has often been taken as corroboration of the authenticity of the biblical decrees attributed to Cyrus, but other scholars point out that the cylinder’s text is specific to Babylon and Mesopotamia and makes no mention of Judah or Jerusalem. Professor Lester L Grabbe asserted that the “alleged decree of Cyrus” regarding Judah, “cannot be considered authentic”, but that there was a “general policy of allowing deportees to return and to re-establish cult sites”. He also stated that archaeology suggests that the return was a “trickle” taking place over decades, rather than a single event.
As part of the Persian Empire, the former Kingdom of Judah became the province of Judah (Yehûd medîntā’) with different borders, covering a smaller territory. The population of the province was greatly reduced from that of the kingdom, archeological surveys showing a population of around thirty thousand people in the fifth to fourth centuries
The captivities began in approximately 740 BC (or 733/2 BC according to other sources).
And the Elohim of Israel stirred up a spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tigathpileser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and brought them unto Halah, and Habor, and Hara, and to the river Gozan, unto this day.(I Chronicles 5:26)
In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria.(II Kings)
In 722 BC, nearly twenty years after the initial deportations, the ruling city of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Samaria, was finally taken by Sargon II after a three-year siege started by Shalmaneser V.
Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents.
And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years.
In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.(II Kings 17:3-6)
And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded and would not hear them, nor do them. (II Kings 18:11-12)
The term “cities of the Medes” mentioned above may be a corruption from an original text “Mountains of Media“.
The Book of Kings states several times that the entire people of the Kingdom of Israel had been taken into exile by the Assyrians. Some believe that the Books of Chronicles information about the fate of the Northern Kingdom adds up differently. What is often cited is 2nd Chronicles, Chapter 15, which mentions that there had been people from the hill-country cities of Ephraim and Manasseh who were captured by the Judean king, Asa of Judah. And Asa, sojourning among the Judean kingdom population, returned practicing the Hebrew belief. However, this is a mis-characterization of the events. Since those scriptures clearly declare that it was at a time when the Northern Kingdom was still intact, this happened in an era before the Assyrian Captivity.
And when Asa heard these words, even the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the detestable things out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from the hill-country of Ephraim; and he renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD.
And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and them that sojourned with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon; for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him.
So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. (II Chronicles 15:8-10)
According to 2nd Chronicles, Chapter 30, there is evidence that at least some people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were not exiled. These were invited by king Hezekiah to keep the Passover in a feast at Jerusalem with the Judean population. (The holiday was set one month forward from its original date.) Hezekiah sent his posts to spread the word among the remnant of the Northern kingdom; the posts were mocked during their visit to the country of Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun. However, some people of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. In a later part of the chapter, even people from the Tribe of Issachar and the strangers that “came out from the land of Israel” were said to take part in the passover event. Biblical scholars such as Umberto Cassuto and Elia Samuele Artom claimed that Hezekiah might have annexed these territories, in which inhabitants of the Kingdom of Israel remained, into his own kingdom.
And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the LORD, the God of Israel. (II Chronicles 30:1)
So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beer-sheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD, the God of Israel, at Jerusalem; for they had not kept it in great numbers accordingly, as it is written.
So the posts went with the letters from the king and his princes throughout all Israel and Judah, according to the commandment of the king, saying: ‘Ye children of Israel, turn back unto the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that He may return to the remnant that are escaped out of the hand of the kings of Assyria. And be ye not like your fathers and like your brethren who acted treacherously against the LORD, the God of their fathers, so that He delivered them to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD and enter into His sanctuary which He hath sanctified for ever; and serve the LORD your God that His fierce anger may turn away from you.
For if ye turn back unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that led them captive, and shall come back into this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away His face from you if ye return unto Him.’ (II Chronicles 30:5-9)
So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun; but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless certain men of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem.(II Chronicles 30:11-12)
For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it is written. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying: ‘The good LORD pardon…’ (II Chronicles 30:18)
And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem; for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem. (II Chronicles 30:25-26)
In 2nd Chronicles, Chapter 31, it is said that the remnant of the Kingdom of Israel returned to their homes, but not before destroying Ba’al and Ashera places of Idol worship left in “all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh”.
Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and broke in pieces the pillars, and hewed down the Asherim, and broke down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities. (II Chronicles 31:1)
Assyrian cuneiform states that 27,290 captives were taken from Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, by the hand of Sargon II.
Sargon records his first campaign on the walls of the royal palace at Dur-Sharrukin (Khorsabad):
In my first year of reign *** the people of Samaria *** to the number of 27,290 … I carried away.
Fifty chariots for my royal equipment I selected. The city I rebuilt. I made it greater than it was before.
People of the lands I had conquered I settled therein. My official (Tartan) I placed over them as governor. (L.ii.4.) 
The description of the final defeat of the Northern Kingdom of Israel above appears to be a minor event in Sargon’s legacy. Some historians attribute the ease of Israel’s defeat to the previous two decades of invasions, defeats, and deportations.
Some estimates assume a captivity numbering in the hundreds of thousands, minus those who died in defense of the kingdom and minus those who fled voluntarily before and during the invasions.
However, it has also been suggested that the numbers deported by the Assyrians were rather limited and the bulk of the population remained in situ. There is also evidence that significant numbers fled south to the kingdom of Judah.
Unlike the Kingdom of Judah, which was able to return from its Babylonian Captivity, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom never had a foreign edict granting permission to return and rebuild their homeland. Many centuries later, rabbis of the restored Kingdom of Judah were still debating the return of the lost ten tribes. However, Assyria had been conquered by Babylon, and Babylon had been conquered by the Medo-Persians.
However, according to the Books of Chronicles chapter 9 line 3, the Israelites, who took part in The Return to Zion, are stated to be from the Tribe of Judah alongside the Tribe of Simeon that was absorbed into it, the Tribe of Benjamin, the Tribe of Levi (Levites and Priests) alongside the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, which according to the Book of Kings 2 Chapter 7 were supposely exiled by the Assyrians (The Biblical scholars Umberto Cassuto and Elia Samuele Artom claimed these two tribes’ names to be a reference to the remant of all Ten Tribes that was not exiled and absorbed into the Judean population).
And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim and Manasseh. This particular verse is often misconstrued, since the obvious declaration being made in I Chronicles are that of a genealogical reference. The clear indication is seen when directing the readers attention to I Chronicles when mentioning the Nethinims of which were a people conquered by Joshua (Joshua 9:27. This thereby dictates that it’s referring to a completely different time and era, as further seen with the description in verse 2 where it indicates that the Israelites were gaining their land designated possessions attributed to their God YHWH and his General in charge Joshua.(I Chronicles)
The scriptures of the titled “Old Testament” are not accurately complete without the records of those Hebrew writers that penned them. This points to the complete records that declare the clarity of the Grecian conquests of the Judeans during and after the reign of Alexander, as indicated by the book of Maccabbees. The historical accuracy by the prophet Ezra is complete only when the details of the Apocrypha’s 1st and 2nd Esdras are referenced, since there is where the complete history of the dispersion of the Northern Kingdom tribes is seen, in
|Abraham, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmail. Isaac.
Sarai had Isaac and after her birth Sarai Abrahams wife said Ishmail born to Egyptian Hagar was not to inherit in Abraham’s family so Hagar and Ishmael were tossed out and God said to Hagar because you came from Abraham your son will be a great nation1/
In Genesis 16, the birth of Ishmael was planned by the Patriarch Abraham‘s first wife, who at that time was known as Sarai. She and her husband Abram (Abraham) sought a way to have children in order to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant that was established in Genesis 15. Since Sarai had yet to bear Abraham a child, her idea was to offer her Egyptian handmaiden Hagar to Abraham, so that they could have a child by her. Abraham consented to a marital arrangement taking Hagar as his second wife when he was in his late 85th year of age. Customs of that time dictated that, although Hagar was the birth mother, any child conceived would belong to Sarai and Abraham (Sarah and Abraham). Genesis 16:7-16 describes the naming of Ishmael, and Yahweh‘s promise to Hagar concerning Ishmael and his descendants. This occurred at the well of Beer-lahai-roi, located in the desert region between Abraham’s settlement and Shur. Hagar fled here after Sarai dealt harshly with her for showing contempt for her mistress following her having become pregnant. Here, Hagar encountered an angel of Yahweh who instructed her to return and be submissive to Sarai so that she could have her child there. The blessing that this child’s father was promised was that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth. However, the promise would be to a son of Sarai; yet God would make of this child a great nation, who would be named Ishmael, because he was of the seed of Abraham. When Ishmael was born, Abraham was 86 years old.
Inheritance rights and the first circumcision
When he was 13 years old, Ishmael was circumcised at the same time as all other males in Abraham’s house becoming a part of the covenant in a mass circumcision. His father Abram, given the new name “Abraham,” was also at this time, at the age of 99, initiated into the covenant by having himself and the males of his entire household circumcised. (Genesis 17)
At the time of the covenant, God informed Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, which he was instructed to name Isaac. God told Abraham that He would establish his covenant through Isaac, and when Abraham inquired as to Ishmael’s role, God answers that Ishmael has been blessed and that He “will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.” (Genesis 17)
A year later, Ishmael’s half-brother Isaac was born to Abraham by his first wife Sarah.
On the day of feasting during which Abraham celebrated the weaning of Isaac, Ishmael was “mocking” or “playing with” Isaac (the Hebrew word is ambiguous) and Sarah asked Abraham to expel Ishmael and his mother, saying: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” This proposition was grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son and the bondwoman, Hagar. Abraham only agreed when God told him that “for in Isaac your seed shall be called”, and that He would “make a nation of the son of the bondwoman” Ishmael, since he was a descendant of Abraham. (Genesis 21:11–13)
At the age of 14, Ishmael was freed along with his mother. The Lord’s covenant made clear Ishmael was not to inherit Abraham’s house and that Isaac would be the seed of the covenant. Abraham gave him and his mother a supply of bread and water and sent them away. Hagar entered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba where the two soon ran out of water and Hagar, not wanting to witness the death of her son, set the boy some distance away from herself, and wept. “And God heard the voice of the lad” and sent his angel to tell Hagar, “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.” And God “opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water”, from which she drew to save Ishmael’s life and her own. “And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.” (Genesis 21:14–21)
The issue here is Rebekah loved Jacob and Isaac hate Esau and it was time and seeing Esau was the 1st child he was enjoyed his birthright so Isaac was old and he was going to bless Esau.
Rebekah heard what Isaac was going to do she she tricked Isaac and Isaac gave the birthright blessing to 2nd son Jacob. When this happened Esau was so mad he was going to kill Jacob after Isaac died so Jacob left for about 20 years. To be fair to Jacob Esau did give Jacob his birthright after he came back and was almost dieing so he needed food. Being famished he sold his birthright for food.
So you can see Esau hated Jacob and from here his hate of Israel, Jews. Jacob’s name was changed by God to Israel.
In Genesis, Esau returned to his brother Jacob being famished from the fields. He begged his twin brother to give him some “red pottage”. (paralleling his nickname, Hebrew: אדום (`Edom, meaning “Red”).) Jacob offered to give Esau a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright (the right to be recognized as firstborn) and Esau agreed. The birthright has to do with inheritance of goods and position both. The tale is typically biblical. Esau acts impulsively. As he did not value his birthright over a bowl of lentil stew, by his actions, Esau demonstrates that he does not deserve to be the one who continues Abraham’s responsibilities and rewards under God’s covenant, since he does not have the steady, thoughtful qualities which are required. Jacob shows his wiliness as well as his greater intelligence and forethought. What he does is not quite honorable, though not illegal. The birthright benefit that he gains is at least partially valid, although he is insecure enough about it to conspire later with his mother to deceive his father so as to gain the blessing for the first-born as well. Later, Esau marries two wives, both Hittite women, that is, locals, in violation of Abraham’s (and God’s) injunction not to take wives from among the Canaanite population. Again, one gets the sense of a headstrong person who acts impulsively, without sufficient thought (Gen.26:34-35). His marriage is described as a vexation to both Rebekah and Isaac. Even his father, who has strong affection for him, is hurt by his act. This action alone forever rules out Esau as the bearer of patriarchal continuity. Esau could have overcome the sale of his birthright; Isaac was still prepared to give him the blessing due the firstborn. But acquiring foreign wives meant the detachment of his children from the Abrahamic line. Despite the deception on the part of Jacob and his mother to gain Isaac’s patriarchal blessing, Jacob’s vocation as Isaac’s legitimate heir in the continued founding of the Jewish people is reaffirmed. Daniel J. Elazar suggests that the Bible indicates that a bright, calculating person who, at times, is less than honest, is preferable as a founder over a bluff, impulsive one who cannot make discriminating choices.
So the Jews, Israel led to a line away from God’s blessing away from the Abraham line, Ishmael, Esau became great in multitude. So we see people who are not the God’s promised line and they hate Abraham’s line, Jews, Israel.
The Obama administration accused Israel on Thursday of failing to do all it can to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza during cross-border attacks.
Noting the deaths a day earlier of four boys who were killed on a Gaza beach by an Israeli strike, the State Department said the high civilian death toll in Gaza has been “heartbreaking.” Three more children were killed in Gaza on Thursday.
Still, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also criticized Hamas militants in Gaza who continue to fire rockets and mortars into Israel, prolonging the latest round of violence in the Mideast that has so far killed 235 Palestinians and at least one Israeli.
“I don’t think we’ve made any secret about our strong concern about the actions of Hamas, the indiscriminate rocket attacks, the targeting of civilians,” Psaki said. “And that concern remains.”
Of the Gaza beach attacks that killed four cousins on Wednesday, Psaki called the attack “horrifying.”
“The tragic event makes clear that Israel must take every possible step to meet its standards for protecting civilians from being killed,” Psaki said. “We will continue to underscore that point to Israel.”
Asked whether the U.S. believes Israel has not done enough to prevent civilian casualties, Psaki said: “We believe that certainly there’s more that can be done.”
Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated U.S. concerns about civilian casualties in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the State Department said in a statement late Thursday.
Netanyahu described the “imminent threat” posed to Israel by Hamas tunnels from the Gaza Strip, and Kerry reaffirmed strong U.S. support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist threats from such tunnels, the statement said. “This should be a precise operation to target tunnels,” Kerry said of the Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.
Kerry also emphasized the need to avoid further escalation of the fighting and to restore the 2012 cease-fire as soon as possible, the department’s statement said, noting the importance of Hamas accepting this plan “as soon as possible.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged Israel on Thursday “to do far more to stop civilian casualties,” calling the killing of four boys on a beach in Gaza City “appalling.”
The U.S. has been pushing plans for a cease-fire that Egypt proposed. Kerry also spoke Thursday to top diplomats in Cairo and the Qatari capital Doha to try to negotiate an end to hostilities that entered their eleventh day.
But fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed almost immediately after a five-hour lull in attacks that the United Nations brokered to let Palestinians stock up on food and supplies after days of staying at home for protection. There were intermittent rocket attacks during the lull as well.
Palestinian militants fired more than 50 rockets at Israel, including a barrage at the Tel Aviv area, according to the Israeli military. Israel responded with airstrikes, including the one that killed three youngsters in Gaza City, said a Gaza health ministry spokesman.
The conflict intensified Thursday as thousands of Israeli soldiers backed by tanks invaded the Gaza Strip. That escalated a military operation that was trying to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenal, rocket-firing abilities and tunnels.
The latest wave of violence was spurred by last month’s kidnapping and killings of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found in the West Bank, followed almost immediately by what authorities believe was a retribution attack on a Palestinian youth who was strangled, beaten and burned to death .
But tensions between Israel and Palestinian authorities have been simmering for years. They threatened to boil over earlier this spring when Israel shelved nearly nine months of peace negotiations that were being personally shepherded by Kerry after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to create a unity government with Hamas.
Photo: The site of the rocket strike near Ben Gurion airport (AFP: Gil Cohen-Magen)
Major airlines are suspending flights to and from Israel after advice from US and European aviation authorities, as intense fighting continues on the Gaza Strip.
The move comes as Israel continues to pound targets across the Gaza Strip, saying no ceasefire was near in the conflict that has so far claimed more than 600 lives.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) banned US carriers from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport, after a rocket fired from Gaza struck near the Tel Aviv airport’s fringes, injuring two people.
US airline Delta was one of the first carriers to announce the suspension of flights, citing concerns for the safety and security of customers and employees.
A spokesman said the European Aviation Safety Agency would soon issue a bulletin containing a “strong recommendation” that airlines avoid Ben Gurion.
“The recommendation applies to all European airlines,” the spokesman said in an email.
European airlines including Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and Dutch airline KLM joined the action, saying they were halting flights to the troubled area.
Israel’s flagship carrier El Al continued flights as usual.
“There is no reason for American companies to cancel their flights and yield to terrorism,” Israel’s transport minister Yisrael Katz was quoted as saying.
‘A ceasefire is not near': Israel
Efforts to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have continued, with US secretary of state John Kerry holding discussions in neighbouring Egypt with that country’s foreign minister Sameh Shukri.
“There is a framework … to end the violence, and that framework is the Egyptian initiative,” Mr Kerry said at a news conference with Mr Shukri.
“For the sake of thousands of innocent families, whose lives have been shaken and destroyed by this conflict – on all sides – we hope we can get there as soon as possible.”
Egypt was key to securing an end to a previous bout of Gaza fighting in 2012, but the country’s new leadership is openly hostile to Gaza’s rulers Hamas, possibly complicating the negotiations.
“We hope [Mr Kerry’s] visit will result in a ceasefire that provides the necessary security for the Palestinian people and that we can commence to address the medium and long-term issues related to Gaza,” Mr Shukri said.
Meanwhile, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and planned to see the Palestinian prime minister in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.
“A ceasefire is not near,” said Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni, who is viewed as the most dovish member of Mr Netanyahu’s inner security cabinet.
“I see no light at the end of the tunnel,” she told Israel’s Army Radio.
Israel has signalled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas’s militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.
Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.
Gaza death toll continues to rise; UN secretary-general issues ‘stop fighting’ plea
With the conflict entering its third week, the Palestinian death toll rose to 616, including nearly 100 children and many other civilians, Gaza health officials said.
The latest strikes killed a six-month-old infant and a 24-year-old Palestinian in northern Gaza.
The Israeli military said it had killed 183 militants so far. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians in Gaza as human shields.
Israel’s casualties also mounted, with the military announcing the deaths of two more soldiers, bringing the number of army fatalities to 27, almost three times as many as were killed in the last ground invasion of Gaza in 2008-2009.
Two Israeli civilians have also been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
Addressing reporters, with Mr Netanyahu at his side, Mr Ban said: “My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: stop fighting, start talking.”
“Take on the root causes of the conflict, so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year.”
Mr Kerry, who has no set departure date from the region, said the United States would provide $47 million in humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip.
An Egyptian official who attended some of Mr Kerry’s meetings said Mr Ban was working toward reaching a humanitarian truce, perhaps lasting for several days, to get aid into the territory.
“The sensitivities between Egypt and Hamas are what is halting a final inclusive ceasefire deal,” the official said.
With Israeli shells and bombs hitting Gaza day and night, thousands of people have fled districts close to the border.
The main UN agency in Gaza, UNWRA, said almost 102,000 people had taken shelter in 69 of its schools.
News for gaza crisis israel
Every day, for 12 days, the tally of casualties was grim, the details often grisly.
Every day, the rockets kept soaring in a trail of white vapour out of Gaza and Israeli air strikes pounded this blighted sliver of land along the Mediterranean.
Then came the ground offensive which intensified Israel’s campaign. Then came Shejaiya.
Israel’s assault on a densely populated neighbourhood brought the greatest fighting and the grimmest news in this, the third Gaza conflagration in just six years.
Gaza’s list of the dead crossed 500 and keeps climbing, according to figures from the health ministry here. The UN says the vast majority are civilians; many are children.
Israel’s casualty toll was much lower. But confirmation that 13 soldiers were killed in the fight caused grief in a country where everyone serves in the army.
Israel said its troops met “a huge level of resistance” as they moved in to destroy “extensive tunnelling” underground, and the infrastructure for what it calculates as 10% of the rockets being fired into Israel.
Hamas fighters were visible on the streets of Shejaiya
In Shejaiya we saw Hamas spotters taking up positions on empty streets, talking into telephones and walkie-talkies as they maintained a lookout.
Colleagues who arrived later in the day saw gunmen with black balaclavas and concealed weapons moving through the neighbourhood. And journalists and medics got caught in crossfire when a two-hour humanitarian truce was shattered in minutes.
‘Where do we go?’As Israel digs in deeper, the fighting intensifies.
For many days now, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge had almost seemed to be a ghost war. In areas we were able to reach, Hamas fighters had only been visible by the rockets they fired, and through defiant messages on their TV and radio networks.
Almost every day Israel reports that it has thwarted infiltration attempts through underground tunnels.
On the ground it has been women and children who keep emerging from front lines as they flee their homes close to Israel’s border.
It was the same in Shejaiya, only worse.
When we arrived in the neighbourhood in the morning, after a night of Israeli shelling, the streets were largely deserted as black and white smoke billowed on the horizon, amid incessant artillery fire.
Residents were still escaping whenever and however they could. Some families darted out of doorways, one by one, into battered cars when they thought it was safe to make a run; others moved like a human stream flowing away in all directions.
Israel said it repeatedly warned residents to leave the area.
“We asked them to leave again and again,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC Arabic TV.
“We called them up, we texted, and we sent them messages. But Hamas said ‘don’t leave’,” – a reference to allegations that Hamas is using civilians as “human shields.”
“Warning?” said Anas, a 20-year-old university student with a mop of curly black hair who stood on a street corner. “They don’t warn us, they kill us.”
Whenever we ask Gazans that question, they reply: “Where do we go?”
Many who fled Shejaiya have taken refuge in schools run by the UN
The UN says 43% of Gaza is now “affected by evacuation warnings” or declared a “no-go area”.
In the past four days, the numbers seeking shelter in UN-run schools shot up by 400%.
The UN is running out of supplies, morgues run out of space, and hospital wards are packed.
On day 13, Gaza’s main Shifa Hospital took in the greatest number of casualties since this war began.
As the day wore on, one family after another huddled on a wooden bench at the entrance waiting for news of loved ones inside the emergency surgery unit.
The ambulances kept screaming in, bringing stretchers with them.
Emergency crews and ordinary civilians helped carry away the dead and injured
By early afternoon it was the turn of four inconsolable girls, who sat with their wailing grandmother unable to offer much comfort.
When their father Nihad joined them, he knelt close to deliver the bad news: their mother, 28-year-old Israa, was dead.
Then, for a moment, the four girls lost their father too. He fainted and lay slumped on the floor as medics rushed to help.
As the days go by, there’s a sad familiar choreography to Gaza’s recurrent wars. As the news gets grimmer, the demands mount for an urgent ceasefire.
And as the chorus of concern grows, both sides know their time may be running out, so military operations escalate, and the human cost deepens.
And this time, mediation is more complicated.
In 2012, neighbouring Egypt, then led by the Muslim Brotherhood, had more clout with Hamas. Now would-be peace-makers criss-cross the region from Qatar to Istanbul to Cairo, looking for the right voice at the right time.
The UN’s top diplomat is already in the region, and Washington’s man has just arrived.
Day 13 is over, and no-one can say whether day 14 will be any better. There is always the fear it could get even worse.