But for how long? That will be the question after Friday morning local time, which is still more than half a day away. Also, the cease-fire has been announced by Israel but at least so far not confirmed by Hamas, although the missiles from both sides have mostly stopped:
Israel’s military and Palestinian militant factions have agreed to a longer-term cease-fire deal, which should see both sides lay down their arms beginning Friday morning, an Israeli official told CBS News on Thursday.
The details of the apparent deal remained unclear, and crucially, one Hamas source told CBS News the group’s leaders were still meeting with other Palestinian factions to discuss the potential halt of violence. The source said the militant group had not confirmed it’s agreement to the terms.
News of the potential breakthrough came as both sides briefly held their fire Thursday morning for a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire which they agreed to the previous day at the request of the United Nations.
Egypt hasn’t heard from Hamas yet either:
"No credible info yet" on israel gaza ceasefire, says Egyptian FM spox
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) July 17, 2014
The start of the short-term cease fire was rocky, but eventually held. CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from the middle of it from Gaza City, where most people expected an Israeli ground invasion to begin at the end of the five-hour period:
Egypt blamed “Palestinian factions” for the collapse of their first cease-fire initiative, and said just before the five-hour pause that they were still working on a broader cease-fire. In fact, Egypt’s foreign minister strongly suggests that the blame for the deaths in Gaza lie firmly with Hamas and Islamic Jihad for rejecting the first cease-fire:
Egypt’s foreign minister said Thursday that his country’s proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas is gaining momentum, calling it the only viable way to stop an “intolerable humanitarian situation” in Gaza.
He also expressed frustration that “Palestinian factions” – a clear reference to Hamas – did not share what he described as Egypt’s “desire … to protect the Palestinian people in Gaza” by agreeing to the initiative.
“The only way to protect the people and to avoid additional bloodshed is acceptance of the plan,” Sameh Shukri said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “The plan has been widely endorsed by the Arab League, it has been endorsed by the European Union … and it continues to gain momentum in terms of recognition.”
If Hamas expects the Egyptians to get more favorable terms for the longer cease-fire as a result of their first refusal, Egypt wasn’t inclined to be moved, at least not then:
“We hope that the five-hour cease-fire that has been declared will be extended and that all sides accept the Egyptian peace initiative which is on the table now for several days,” Shukri said. ….
Egypt “formulated this initiative after very intense consultation which took account of many of the various positions of interest that were expressed by those directly concerned,” he said.
“Had it been accepted by all parties, had it been accepted by Israel, had it been accepted by all factions in Gaza, we would have saved many lives that have been lost unnecessarily,” he said, indirectly blaming Hamas for the continuing bloodshed.
Hamas appears to be mostly holding its fire, but it’s still not confirming its acceptance of terms — and one can understand why they’re not anxious to do so. The war has been an utter disaster for them, from start to finish. They demonstrated that their rockets have a longer range, but they still can’t hit anything and do damage, thanks in large part to Israel’s Iron Dome system that protects the larger cities. Firing missiles made targets out of Gaza, though, and Israel demonstrated that international pressure would not prevent them from responding.
Even worse, the international pressure on which Hamas counted to cripple the Israeli response never materialized. Egypt blames Hamas publicly now, and with the fall of Mohamed Morsi and the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, few people have much sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots, direct or indirect. Hamas looks impotent in an area where impotence has deadly consequences, and Gazans will eventually have to ask themselves just how much longer they’re willing to act as human shields for these terrorists. At some point, they’ll conclude that they can do better by dealing with the Israelis rather than having targets painted on their backs by their so-called leaders as a PR stunt.
Update: Israel says Hamas has now agreed to the cease fire:
Israeli official: Palestinians agree to Gaza cease-fire http://t.co/FvVJpdfnFN
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 17, 2014
One rocket was launched at Ashkelon, though:
BREAKING: Israeli military says rocket fired from Gaza at Israel as 5-hour humanitarian cease-fire ends.
— The Associated Press (@AP) July 17, 2014
3:00PM: Hamas doesn't waste time. Rocket sirens in Ashkelon.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 17, 2014
Technically, the cease fire wouldn’t start for several hours, but any exchange at this point would probably scotch the deal.