It was quiet while it lasted. This 72-hour cease-fire lived up to its name, and not much more, as Hamas began firing rockets at Israel after it expired. After waiting a few hours, Israel began responding militarily — and the Gaza war is back on:
Rockets from Gaza hit Israel early Friday morning, breaking the cease-fire, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
“Moments ago, 2 rockets fired from Gaza hit southern Israel. Terrorists have violated the cease-fire,” the IDF wrote on Twitter.
It wasn’t immediately clear how Israel would respond.
Earlier, negotiators in Cairo had been scrambling to extend the Gaza cease-fire. A Hamas official had told supporters in Gaza City that the group was ready to resume fighting if it didn’t win key concessions in the talks.
“We are ready to return to the battle if the Palestinian demands are not met in Cairo,” Hamas spokesman Mosher al-Masry told a crowd of supporters waving the group’s green flags.
Last night, Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Jake Tapper that Hamas was “the wild card” when it comes to peace:
“If they do so,” Regev said about a violation of the cease-fire, “then I think it will be exposed before the whole world who Hamas is.” Hamas had already been exposed before the whole world long before this, even if some refuse to quit thinking of them as a partner for peace and governance. If nothing else, the collapse of the previous cease-fire after 90 minutes left so much egg on the faces of their apologists that Regev’s point makes itself.
With few other choices, Israel resumed its bombardment of Hamas positions in Gaza, while Egypt wondered what went wrong:
Israel launched air strikes across the Gaza Strip on Friday in response to Palestinian rockets fired after Egyptian-mediated talks failed to extend a 72-hour truce in the month-long war.
Egypt later called for a resumption of the ceasefire, saying only a few points remained to be agreed. Palestinian factions said they would meet Egyptian mediators later in the day, but there was no sign of any imminent deal.
There was also no immediate response from Israel. However, a government official said earlier that Israel would not negotiate with Palestinians while militants continued to unleash missiles.
As warning sirens sounded in southern Israel, the military said Hamas had fired at least 45 rockets on Friday morning and Israel’s “Iron Dome” interceptor system had brought down two.
By resuming its attacks, Hamas appeared to be trying to put pressure on Israel, making clear it was ready to fight on to end a blockade of Gaza that both Israel and neighbouring Egypt have imposed on the impoverished enclave.
Throughout this conflict, Hamas has appeared to have fallen into the trap of believing its own press. They still seem to be suffering from the illusion that (a) this conflict is the central diplomatic concern in the region, and (b) they have a reservoir of sympathy on which to draw. The very fact that Egypt is still running the cease-fire negotiations should have disabused them of that notion, and the US bombing of ISIS in Iraq the other. Their ideological compatriots in Nineveh are conducting an actual genocide and massacre, unlike what Hamas accuses Israel of doing in Gaza, and the contrast today could not possibly be more stark.
What prompted Hamas to restart the war? They demanded an end to the blockade and embargo, which Israel refused for the exact reason Hamas demonstrated afterward. Hamas will use a lifting of the blockade to re-arm, which is why Israel will only agree to lift it when Gaza is completely and verifiably demilitarized. Hamas has to get the trade channels reopened, though, because they need the tax revenue to pay for their operations against Israel and also the resources from that trade to rebuild their tunnels. Israel wants to starve Hamas of those funds, and hopefully cripple them politically as well as economically and militarily.
Egypt may well throw in the towel and allow the Israelis to deal with Hamas on their own:
Hamas’s refusal to extend the ceasefire could further alienate Egypt, whose government has been hostile to the group and which ultimately controls Gaza’s main gateway to the world, the Rafah border crossing.
Expect Egypt to tighten those screws as a means to pressure Hamas into submission soon. In the meantime, the people of Gaza that Hamas has used as human shields are evacuating as Hamas attacks … again:
At some point, the Gazans may become more deadly to Hamas than Israel. That tipping point might come soon, if Hamas doesn’t figure out how to declare victory and hide for a few months.