Gaza Ceasefire Falters

The Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire did not last six hours after Israel announced resumption of its bombing campaign against Hamas which earlier refused to accept the truce.

Posted on 07/15/14
By ViewsWeek | Via ViewsWeek
(Photo via videostream)
(Photo via videostream)

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire in Gaza did not last more than six hours after Hamas rejected the truce and continued its rocket attacks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, July 15, that his country had “no choice” but to step up its air strikes on Gaza.

 

A Funeral for the Two-state Solution?

By Joseph Dana

Al Jazeera America

Israel’s leaders vowed last week that Operation Protective Edge would deal Hamas a lethal blow. Instead, it has achieved the opposite effect. The continued pounding of Gaza by Israeli warplanes looking to cripple Hamas’s ability to launch rockets against Israeli population centers — which has also destroyed large segments of Gaza’s fragile civilian infrastructure and claimed close to 200 lives — has breathed new life into the Islamist movement by restoring its preferred role at the forefront of Palestinian resistance to Israel.

 

In doing so, however, Israel may simply have entrenched the status quo for the long term. Hamas made clear in statements at the outset of the current exchange of fire that while it was ready to escalate if Israel did, it preferred to avoid a renewed military confrontation with Israel at the present moment. Hamas had suffered a series of crippling setbacks over the past year, in concert with those suffered across the region by its Muslim Brotherhood allies. Last summer’s coup in which Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi was deposed by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi saw Cairo instantly transformed from an allied regional power back into one of Hamas’ most aggressive regional antagonists.

 

As a result, the economic lifelines that connected the Hamas-ruled territory to the outside world — the myriad tunnels leading from Egyptian-controlled Sinai into Gaza — were systematically destroyed, as Cairo painted Hamas as a terrorist offshoot of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. And Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza had been crippled by a drying up of funds from its principal regional benefactor, Qatar. By late April of 2014, in fact, the Hamas leadership had recognized the gravity of its predicament, and agreed to a reconciliation agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization on terms that were hardly favorable to the Islamists.

 

The reconciliation agreement, which would have ended years of bitter infighting with Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and presented a chance for Hamas to unify its own leadership, was opposed by Israel but accepted by the international community (including the U.S.). It offered Hamas a lifeline out of its political crisis, but in exchange for renouncing its right to govern Gaza separately from the PA, and joining the PLO. The PLO has renounced violence and negotiates with Israel, meaning that the road of reconciliation would require a radical reformulation of Hamas’ guiding principles.

 

But even as the appointment of a government of technocrats acceptable to both parties marked the beginning of an historic Palestinian reconciliation, a fresh cycle of violence swept through the West Bank. In June, three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered as they were hitchhiking to an Israeli settlement, prompting Israel to launch a wide scale military sweep against Hamas in the West Bank.

 

Click here to read the complete article on Al Jazeera America website

Media reports said Israel halted its operations after the country’s cabinet accepted the Egyptian-sponsored truce. However, al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, refused to accept the truce. Israel says Hamas lobbed nearly 50  rockets after it ceased fire on Tuesday morning.

 

One senior Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, told the BBC it had only heard about the truce initiative through the media and that a ceasefire could not be put in place without the details of any agreement being known.

 

Al Jazeera quoted Qassam Brigades as saying in a statement that that excerpts of Egyptian ceasefire initiative published in the media showed it was an initiative of “bowing and submission”, and added “it was not worth the ink it was written with”. 

 

The BBC report said Hamas wants some concessions – like the lifting of the tight restrictions Israel and Egypt impose on Gaza’s border – in advance of any deal.

 

But prospects of immediate cessation of hostilities seems bleaker, at least for now. Egypt has said it will continue its diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire but many Middle East analysts are fearing a ground assault by Israeli forces.

 

Under the terms of the Egyptian initiative, the ceasefire should have been followed by a series of meetings in Cairo with high-level delegations from the two sides.

 

Israeli bombing of Gaza, one of world’s most densely-populated region, has so far left close to 200 Palestinians dead and over 1,350 people have been wounded. One Israeli was killed in Hamas rocket attacks on Tuesday, making it the first fatality in the eight-day conflict. The United Nations has said that at least 80 percent of the casualties have been civilians. According to a report by Al Jazeera, more than 17,000 people are sheltering in UN compounds in the Palestinian enclave.

 

Israel has justified the bombing of civilian targets and killing of women and children by claiming that these civilians are used by Hamas as human shields. But Israeli justification is not taming its criticism. In an editorial, British daily The Guardian challenged the Israeli justification.

 

“The human reaction to the daily bloodshed in Gaza fills anyone who glimpses it with shock and despair. Even those who accept that Israel has a right to defend itself from incoming Hamas rockets can be appalled by the sight of a house razed by a double air strike that left, on one estimate, 22 dead and 45 injured. Afterwards, those on the ground did not deny that the Hamas-affiliated police chief of Gaza City was sheltering there, but asked why his extended family, including children, had to die too.”

 

The Guardian asks the U.S., E.U., Egypt and Qatar to make serious efforts to convince the two sides agree to a ceasefire. “…Qatar is desperate to walk tall on the international stage, buying up European property and global sporting tournaments alike. It has real leverage with Hamas. It should use that massive financial muscle for good – and do what it can to bring quiet, if not peace, to Gaza and ease the pain of those who have already suffered far too much.”

 

Meanwhile, some 20,000 Palestinian civilians have left Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, from where many heavy rockets were fired into Israel.

 

Before the current operation, Hamas was producing some 30 medium-range rockets a month – more than it was able to smuggle in before Egypt closed smuggling tunnels linking Sinai to Gaza, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported. Israel has destroyed some 60 percent of rocket production sites in the current operation, it quoted unnamed Israeli source as saying. The paper said before the current conflict, Hamas had around 350 mid-range rockets that could reach metropolitan Tel Aviv. The IDF, it added, has destroyed a third – some 3,000 – of Hamas’s estimated 9,000 rockets.

 

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