What You Need to Know About What’s Happening in Israel

A brief primer on what events led to recent spikes in violence.

Officials in Gaza say that 512 Palestinians have died in the two-week Israeli offensive in the region. Twenty Israelis—including 13 soldiers that were killed on Sunday—are also dead in the latest surge of violence. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are both headed to Cairo as diplomats and leaders around the world continue to push for a cease-fire agreement. In a statement, a state department spokeswoman said Sunday night that the U.S. is "deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life.”

Earlier on Sunday, Kerry was caught in a “hot-mic” incident as he was recorded commenting on civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, saying, "It's a hell of a pinpoint operation.” He later clarified on the record in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, adding, “It's tough to have this kind of operation. I reacted obviously in a way that, you know, anybody does with respect to young children and civilians. But, war is tough, and I said that publicly and I'll say it again. We defend Israel's right to do what it is doing in order to get at those tunnels. Israel has accepted a unilateral cease-fire. It's accepted the Egyptian plan which we also support" ... Discuss


Tragic details are slowly coming in about the horrific attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. Many questions remain, including why the aircraft was flying over a war zone. "The usual flight route was earlier declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation," Malaysia Airlines said in a statement. "International Air Transportation Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions." The plane was struck down from an altitude of about 33,000 feet—far beyond the range of most weapons rebels in the area were thought to possess.

The question of responsibility looms large. Russia was quick to blame Ukraine itself, with President Vladimir Putin saying, "This tragedy wouldn't have happened if there had been peace on this territory, if the military actions hadn't been restarted in southeast Ukraine." However, rebels are denying any involvement. Today in a statement confirming that one American was aboard flight MH17, President Barack Obama said the U.S. has "increasing confidence" that the missile was fired by pro-Russia separatists in the area, whose violence is "facilitated in large part because of Russian support" ... Discuss


An astounding 300 million tons of produce is simply thrown away every year. As this video shows, a supermarket chain in France has figured out a solution to the problem of wasted food with their “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign. The chain asked its suppliers to sell them disfigured pieces of fruit and veggies that would otherwise be trashed, and sold them at a 30% discount. The campaign was a massive success—not only did it raise awareness about the world’s food waste problem, but they completely sold out of the ugly produce in just a few days ... Discuss


Yesterday’s downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane near the Ukrainian and Russian boarder—reportedly by a missile—is a tragedy that killed all 298 people on board. Now, investigators are getting more details about who the passengers were. According to multiple reports, up to 108 of the travelers were headed to the International AIDS Conference in Australia, scheduled to begin this weekend.

In a statement from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Whales, the school confirmed that prominent AIDS/HIV researcher Joep Lange, who spent much of his career “preventing HIV from taking hold in Asia the way it had in Africa,” was among the victims. A fellow professor and director for the Institute, David A Cooper, said in the message, “Joep had an absolute commitment to HIV treatment and care in Asia and Africa. The joy in collaborating with Joep was that he would always bring a fresh view, a unique take on things, and he never accepted that something was impossible to achieve. Our joint work in Bangkok, the HIVNAT centre, will stand as his legacy.” Authorities are still unsure who is responsible for the attack ... Discuss


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office has released a statement confirming that Israeli forces have begun a ground offensive in Gaza, with the goal of establishing "a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror."

IDF spokesman Moti Almoz told the Jerusalem Post that "The operation has reached its ground phase. Large numbers of forces began a focused effort to destroy tunnels in Gaza. We are in a new stage." Almoz went on to say that Israeli forces are "moving now in various areas of Gaza. We will continue to attack in every location we think needs to be struck."

The New York Times reports that talks of a possible cease-fire are still underway ... Discuss