Update 6:43 p.m. It appears an Israeli attack took out a major power center in Gaza. Anderson Cooper had to duck out of the shot (again) when the explosion was broadcast live on CNN. There was a series of six blasts, one big one followed by five smaller ones, that seemed to resemble the video of the ConEd generator that went out during Hurricane Sandy. Immediately after Cooper explained the explosion happened near the media center that's housing a lot of the journalists in Gaza, many of them started reporting power outages. BBC's Rushdi Abualouf reports half of Gaza is in darkness because of the explosion. We'll have more pertinent updates as Wednesday breaks in the Middle East. —C.S.
Update 6:18 p.m. CNN's Wolf Blitzer just spoke to a Hamas spokesperson on air and he was confident a deal would get done, eventually. The spokesperson said they are, "on the edge," of reaching a ceasefire agreement. "It may happen, and it may not," he said. The spokesperson said he hopes Clinton's involvement in the talks will help Palestine's needs. When Blitzer asked if he believed a deal could get done, the spokesperson said, "I believe there is a good chance to have a ceasefire which can fulfill the needs of both sides." —C.S.
Update 5:30 p.m. It doesn't look like a ceasefire will start today, despite reports today to the contrary. Israel is still denying any agreement being on the table "at this point," and the ceasefire was supposed to kick in half an hour ago. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters she'd be working on it over "the coming days," which didn't fill a lot of people with hope. Additionally, there are reports coming in of bombings still happening past the deadline. On the ground, reporters are worried because an Israeli airstrike apparently targeted the building some AFP journalists are staying in a few moments ago. Any hopes for a ceasefire appear permanently on hold until Wednesday. —C.S.
Update 4:13 p.m. Hillary Clinton got to working pretty fast. As we mentioned about one hour ago, Sec. Clinton is on the ground in Tel Aviv. And just a few minutes ago, she concluded her first press conference, addressing the talks that she and Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu... then walked into a conference room to commence. (It's around 11 p.m. over there.)
Now, onto what she said. The key quote seems to be this: "America's commitment to Israel's security is rock-solid and unwavering." Obviously that isn't going over well with people who believe the United States shouldn't be picking sides at this point and it's being read as unflinching U.S. support of Israel's military actions. Clinton did say this this: "no defense is perfect," apparently referring to Israel's right to defending itself, which isn't catching on as much as her "commitment" comment.
As Clinton was just arriving in Tel Aviv, this report from the direction of Hamas went out, annoucing that a ceasefire will not be signed:
Stay tuned to updates throughout the evening. —Alexander Abad-Santos
Update 3:16 p.m. Two big developments on the diplomatic front that we're keeping an eye on. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wheels down in Tel Aviv to meet with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and talk about a ceasefire, and the U.N. Security Council are meeting right now to discuss what to do. A Hamas official just said the ceasefire talk is being held up because Israel won't respond to any other proposals, but they're willing to wait until tomorrow. C'mon, Bibi. Pick up the phone. — C.S.
Update: Whether the fighting in the Middle East is actually going to stop at the proposed 5:00 P.M. Eastern ceasefire is becoming the big question mark this afternoon, as Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu prepare to meet. Israel is currently hammering Gaza from the sea, on the ground, and from the air, and whether or not they agreed to the ceasefire in the first place is being called into question.
An Israeli source told Barak Ravid that "there is no Israeli agreement on any draft cease fire understandings," which puts the current deadline in doubt. A previous report said Israel was asking for a "lasting period" of quiet from Palestinian rockets before they would agree to a ceasefire. A source told CNN Israel wants a full 24 hours before they'll agree to anything. BBC reports a Hamas official said a ceasefire agreement is "imminent," so there are signs of optimism.
Meanwhile, the fighting continues while the diplomats work to get a deal signed, sealed and delivered. Around midday, a Gaza rocket killed Israel's first military casualty since the conflict began. While multiple outlets have reported that Israel has agreed to put a ground invasion "on hold," the rest of the Israeli military is attacking Gaza in the hours leading up to the cease fire. The are reports of helicopters attacking the Gaza coastline, and airstrikes targeting Gaza's Parliament building. There are also multiple reports of the Israeli navy shelling the Gaza coastline.
We'll update this post on both the diplomatic and military fronts as news comes in from the Middle East. —Connor Simpson
Original: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Israel have reportedly agreed to a cease fire to take effect tonight, though there are conflicting messages coming from Hamas officials. Numerous media outlest reported that Hamas had agreed to a truce that would take effect tonight at around 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Militants in Gaza were expected to hold a press conference in a couple of hours, even as rockets continue to fall on both sidez of the border throughout Tuesday. We'll be updating this post as more details come in.
Rumors have been brewing all day that some form of truce was on the horizon with Egyptian officials claiming that progress had been made in negotiations between Hamas and Israel, and with visit from the U.N.'s Ban Ki-Moon and Hillary Clinton in the works. Yet, bombs continued to reign down on Gaza and southern Israel. Israeli airplanes even dropped leaflets this afternoon warning Gazans to abandon their homes before more attacks hit. And even as news of the truce began circulating, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference with the Secretary General of the United Nations, and neither suggested a cease fire was imminent.
Now it appears that certain conditions may have been agreed to, including a "lasting" period of quiet from Hamas rockets, which Israel was insisting upon. Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi has not confirmed the truce yet, but an announcement is reportedly expected at 19:00 GMT, which is about 2:00 p.m on the east coast. According to CNN, however, an Israeli govt spokesman tells CNN said the deal is not final, but the "ball is still in play."
Until the rockets finally stopping launching, the violence continues. Just hours ago in Gaza, masked gunman publicly executed six people they claimed were spies for Israel. The victims were shot in the middle of the street and one body was dragged away behind a motorcycle.
[Image: Ben Hartman]