Huge, black mushroom clouds rose from the bombarded areas. A west wind, a breeze, arrived from the sea, sending clouds of smoke towards Israel, which blackened the evening sky.
From time to time I heard the sound of a cannon roar: The departing detonator, and then the explosion as it met the ground. There were no sounds of ambulance sirens. Either the neighborhoods have completely emptied out of people or Gaza has run out of ambulances.
Nearly 100 Gazans were killed Tuesday from IDF fire. I don't know how many of them were civilians, but I do know that every time a child, a woman or an uninvolved man are hurt, it causes damage. In this type of clash, the death toll plays an unusual role: Israel loses when the number of casualties on our side rises, and loses again when the number of civilian casualties on the other side rises.
The operation was expanded in the night. It's not a dramatic expansion: Forces sent out for several hours resumed activity on the ground, and neighborhoods the forces skipped in the first days were dealt with.
The tunnels are still the dominating mission, Destroying Hamas firing cells, snipers, commanders and commando fighters is a secondary mission. They are exposed when they attack IDF forces, or when they are detected by the intelligence.
Thirty-two offensive tunnels have been unearthed and handled. They can be compared to a tree: Each tunnel had a trunk leading into Israel and branches, shafts, filling different functions – from bunkers and storerooms to vents.
The intelligence could point to the shaft openings; it was unfamiliar with the underground map, which dig is part of the trunk and which dig is a side branch. That's how the tunnel dug from the Karni Crossing area was partially uncovered, and was still used by the Hamas men who attacked IDF soldiers near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
Meanwhile, a ceasefire is being devised. The Palestinian Authority is the fig leaf: All players have an interest to cover themselves with it right now. It allows Israel, Egypt, the United States, Qatar and Hamas to negotiate without violating the bans they have imposed on themselves. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may have grown weak at home, but he has become very strong outside.
The PA will likely play a role in Gaza on the day after. It will go back there under the banner of a national reconciliation government. There is no point in putting the cart before the horse, but we should point out the vicissitudes of fate: The Israeli government, which waged an international campaign against the Palestinian reconciliation government, is now clinging to it with all its might, as a dignified way out of the operation.
Only a month and a half ago, Abbas was called "the leader of the terrorist gang." Now he is the savior.