New cease-fire in Gaza in the offing?
posted at 2:01 pm on August 4, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
The timing seems curious, to say the least. Israel had already announced its intention to pull ground troops out of Gaza as the demolition of Hamas’ tunnels into Israel nears completion, and had also slowed down its other attacks considerably. After the failure of Friday’s cease-fire agreement, Israel rebuked the US and told Egypt it would no longer participate in any more truce talks. Suddenly, though, Hamas and Islamic Jihad has become interested in a new agreement:
Islamic Jihad and Hamas officials said Monday that a humanitarian cease-fire, temporarily ending nearly a month of hostilities between Gaza and Israel, could be implemented in the coming hours.
Egypt is pressing the Palestinian factions in Cairo to accept a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire, Egyptian sources told Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen on Monday.
Palestinian groups, including representatives from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, held their first formal meeting in Cairo on Monday with Egyptian mediators hoping to pave the way towards a durable cease-fire agreement with Israel.
Israel has not sent a representative to the talks. According the Egyptian sources, Egypt accepted a document detailing the Palestinian delegation’s set of demands for a cease-fire.
Even the meeting in Cairo is news, of a sort. After the collapse of Friday’s cease-fire, the al-Sisi government refused to meet with the Palestinian delegation as long as it included Hamas. They have apparently softened their position by accepting the delegation and its list of demands, but Hamas won’t get their laundry list approved this time around, either. The one demand they made, the withdrawal of the IDF, will be accomplished independent of the negotiations anyway. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want troops on the ground any longer than necessary, especially given the risk for abductions it runs.
This looks like an attempt to claim credit for the withdrawal as a means of saving face with Gazans. Will it work? It might if Gazans only get their information from Hamas, but Egypt broadcasts into the enclave as well, and their official channels will likely not promote any narrative that makes the Muslim Brotherhood subsidiary look good.
The success of this attempt depends on Hamas and Islamic Jihad ending the provocations that prompted the war in the first place. CBS News reports that Hamas’ rocket attacks are “tapering off,” but that’s not going to be good enough to stop the Israeli airstrikes. However, the pace of the war is slackening:
But with Hamas rocket fire tapering off over the last 24 hours and Israel’s ground operation in Gaza winding down, violence in a war that officials say has killed more than 1,880 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis appeared – for the moment – to be waning. …
Before the attacks, a seven-hour Israeli cease-fire in Gaza went into effect. And while Israel continued hitting at selected Palestinian targets, the level of the fighting was much lower than in previous days.
However, the Israeli military said the cease-fire would not apply to areas where troops were still operating and where they would respond to any attack.
The IDF is still conducting operations in Rafah, but Gaza City has seen commerce spring back to life today:
During the cease-fire, the IDF continued to operate in the areas around Rafah, but residents of other parts of Gaza flooded the streets to pick up supplies and check on their abandoned homes. Al Saha, the largest open-air market in Gaza, was bustling with vendors. One man hung clothes for sale from the burnt-out carcass of a bus struck a few days ago by Israeli fire power. Cars jammed Gaza’s main road, but the atmosphere appeared relaxed and children played in the street.
Will this last? If Hamas declares a cease fire and stops shooting rockets into Israel, there should be no reason to think it won’t. However, that depends on Hamas, and whether Gazans start demanding some answers from them about the disastrous war they provoked and for which won nothing. The border crossings are still closed, and Hamas still has little income flowing into their coffers. They can’t rebuild without opening the borders, and those won’t get opened at all unless they can convince Egypt and Israel to loosen restrictions.
Hamas has little choice, in other words, especially since the Israelis are not getting pressured as effectively by other nations to give concessions in exchange for a cease fire. That means that the future of their war will probably resemble this for the foreseeable future:
That’ll be the extent of the “tapering off,” too.