Both sides in Gaza Strip conflict agreed to a truce today, as well as an agreement for a permanent ceasefire. After almost seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants operating from the Gaza Strip, hostilities have now officially stopped. Gazans erupted in delight and shot off fireworks while Israelis took satisfaction in a respite from the attacks on both sides that killed more than 2,100 people in Gaza as well as the death of six times as many Israeli soldiers than during the Israeli Defense Forces’ previous ground operation in Gaza.
Hamas’ leadership has stated proudly that it has received almost all it demanded while Israeli officials said they did not give up very much. Despite the announcements and celebrations, the specific terms of the agreement have yet to be officially published.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the Hamas terrorist group, boasted that his “besieged weak people” fought hard enough to defeat “the strongest …. army in the Middle East.” He added that his fighters destroyed Israel’s power, and the legend his army “that can never be defeated.”
In agreeing to the terms of a permanent ceasefire, Hamas is obligated to refer to its acquiescence as a “victory” as its reputation amongst the people of the Gaza Strip hinges on its constant drum beat that military violence is the only way to get Israel to say “uncle.” On the other hand, one of Hamas’ political rivals, the Palestinian Fatah movement has – despite having maintained a number of militant groups – stated its preference to achieve peace through negotiation.
Although the specific truce agreed to for the permanent ceasefire has not yet been released, individuals involved with the agreement have been reporting details. Hamas apparently settled for a revived version of the arrangement that brought about the end of the last fighting in 2012. Among other things, if Hamas refrains from initiating hostile actions toward Israel over the next month, a promise exists to discuss the opening of a seaport and an airport.
Mousa Abu Marzouq, a top Hamas political leader, said that Israel will open three border crossings and also that Europe, the United States and Israel will remove opposition to certain money transfers into Gaza so the Hamas-run government’s former employees could be paid. This will also allow the latest expression of government in the Palestine area to distribute salaries to everyone. Marzong also said that, by the end of the year, fishing will be allowed up to 12 miles from Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline, versus the current three miles.
For its part, Israel reportedly got a promise that Hamas would stop firing all rockets into Israel, thousands of which have had upwards of five million Israelis in and out of bomb shelters and have also been responsible for the deaths of five civilians. That said, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key stipulations has not been met, namely, that of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip.
The previous lockdown of goods coming into Gaza has been loosened, with the new deal allowing humanitarian and other supplies in. This will be a first step in rebuilding infrastructure and 17,000 destroyed homes. In a separate agreement, Egypt may also ease its border crossing at Rafah, allowing people from the Palestine area to pass. This is a large concession on the part of Egypt, which has been strongly against Hamas because of its origins in the Society of Muslim Brothers (Muslim Brotherhood) which, despite an official renouncement of violence in 1949, is considered a terrorist group in the eyes of Egypt and other Middle East countries.
Hamas, on the other hand, has been classified as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan because of its continued refusal to disavow violence. The preamble to the Hamas Covenant formalizes its pledge to destroy Israel: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”
The administration of Gaza’s borders with Israel are now expected to revert from Hamas back to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Israel and its former enemy, Egypt, will be placing a great reliance now on the PA, which will be responsible for keeping weapons and “dual-use” goods out of the Gaza Strip.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mark Regev, said that indirect talks about Gaza’s future – agreed to begin in a month – would happen only if there is a “total end to terror attacks from Gaza.” He was also clear that the deal agreed to today was, for the most part, identical to the one Israel agreed to in mid-July, one week after the conflict began.
In the weeks since the beginning of Israel’s ground offensive into the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu’s public approval has dropped from over 80 percent to the current 38 percent. The truce agreed to today for a permanent ceasefire will certainly bolster his ratings. However, other leaders within the Israeli government continue to urge an even tougher line against Hamas, insisting that the group will use a cease in hostilities to recharge and inevitably attack again.
By Gregory Baskin
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