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Rockets are fired from Gaza and intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system. Photo: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images

Tel Aviv — With U.S. envoy Hady Amr set to arrive in Israel on Friday for de-escalation talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials, Israeli officials are concerned the U.S. intervention will lead to increased pressure to stop their military operation.

Driving the news: Fighting continued overnight, with the Israeli military massing forces along the frontier with the Gaza Strip and briefing reporters about ground forces entering the fight. Anticipating a ground invasion, Hamas sent its elite forces to their defensive tunnels. The Israeli forces instead began to bomb those tunnels and did not cross into Gaza, Israeli officials say.

  • It's unclear how many Hamas fighters were killed in the bombardment.
  • The air war between Israel and Hamas continued, with Hamas firing 200 rockets toward Israel overnight and the Israeli air force striking in Gaza.
  • At least 120 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, including 30 women and children, Gaza health officials said on Friday morning. Seven Israelis have been killed, including one soldier and one child.
Rockets are fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, as Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system mobilizes to intercept them. Photo: Anas Baba/AFP via Getty Images

What's next: It's unclear if Amr, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs, will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other senior Israelis.

  • The Israeli government had hinted to the U.S. that it might be better to hold the visit at a later stage, U.S. and Israeli officials say. Israel has said it's not yet ready to seek a ceasefire.
  • Ahead of Amr’s visit, Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — the first call between Abbas and a cabinet-level official since Biden assumed office.

The UN Security Council is expected to meet on Sunday for an open meeting on the situation in Gaza.

  • Behind the scenes: China, Norway and Tunisia had been pushing for the meeting to take place on Friday but the U.S. blocked those efforts, Israeli and U.S. officials say.
  • Israel has asked the Biden administration to block any measures at the UN since the fighting began on Monday, and the U.S. has blocked at least two attempts by other members of the council to publish a statement on the situation. Israeli officials say it became impossible for the U.S. to continue to prevent a meeting.
  • Blinken said on Thursday that holding the meeting later “will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and to see if, indeed, we get a real de-escalation and can then pursue this at the United Nations in that context."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Aug 18, 2021 - World

Scoop: CIA director raised China concerns with Israeli prime minister

The U.S. has raised concerns about Chinese investment in the Port of Haifa project. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty

While visiting Israel last week, CIA director Bill Burns told Prime Minister Naftali Bennett the U.S. was concerned about Chinese investments in Israel, particularly in the tech sector, and involvement in major infrastructure projects, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: That's the highest level at which the Biden administration has raised an issue that previously became a rare point of contention between the Trump and Netanyahu governments.

Aug 18, 2021 - World

Dispute with Poland on Holocaust shows Israel's shift on EU relations

Netanyahu (R) in 2019 with Polish President Andrzej Duda (C) and then-Vice President Mike Pence. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP via Getty Images

The diplomatic crisis over a Polish law limiting the ability to introduce claims to property confiscated during World War II is a manifestation of the shift in Israeli policy toward Europe under the new government.

Why it matters: The bill will mostly impact Holocaust survivors and their descendants, and it's seen by the Israeli government and the Biden administration as another step by Poland's government to rewrite the country's history around the Holocaust.

Aug 18, 2021 - World

CIA director was traveling in Middle East when Kabul fell

Bill Burns departs his confirmation hearing. Photo: Tom Brenner/Pool/Getty

While the drama in Kabul was unfolding over the weekend, CIA director Bill Burns was on a six-day trip to the Middle East.

Why it matters: The CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community have been highly criticized in recent days for an apparent intelligence failure over the swift Taliban takeover. The fact that Burns was on an overseas trip suggests the agency didn’t think a collapse was imminent.