After Hamas Rejects Deal, Ceasefire In Gaza Lasts About Six Hours

Smoke and debris rises as an Israeli missile strike hits a building in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip CREDIT: AP PHOTO/HATEM MOUSSA
Smoke and debris rises as an Israeli missile strike hits a building in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip CREDIT: AP PHOTO/HATEM MOUSSA

The ceasefire began at 9 AM. The halt in bombing was the first since Operation: Protective Edge began last week in the Gaza Strip. By 3 PM, the deal was off with little to show that it was ever in effect in the first place.

Rumors first began circulating of a possible ceasefire on Monday night in Israel, as news that the Egyptian-government had put forth potential terms of a deal began to emerge. Under the terms of the deal Cairo put forward, both sides would halt hostilities towards the other, with Israel committing not to conduct any ground incursion into Gaza and “all Palestinian factions” pledging to “refrain from firing all types of rockets, and from attacks on the borders or targeting of civilians.” The plan also called for high-level delegations from both sides to come to Cairo within the next few days to consolidate the ceasefire and conclude confidence-building measures.

Israel’s security cabinet agreed to the terms of the deal after meeting early on Tuesday. “The cabinet has decided to accept the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire starting 9am today,” Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Twitter. The prime minister also appeared to warn of a further escalation if all sides didn’t agree to the terms of the deal. “If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the terms Egypt had set forward. However, Hamas, which recently formed a temporary unity government with its rivals in Abbas’ more moderate Fatah political party, said that it wasn’t consulted in the drawing up of the terms of the ceasefire. In a statement on the website of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, Hamas said the Egyptian initiative was one of “bowing and submission” and “was not worth the ink it was written with.”

With that statement lodged, rockets continued to fire from Gaza into Israel. “Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza at 9 am. As a result, we have resumed our operation against Hamas,” the Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson tweet out around 3 PM.

Though short-lived, the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire at least slowed the Israeli campaign to rout Hamas and its affiliates in the Gazan territory it controls. For the last week, Israel and Hamas have been trading fire across the border of Gaza, with Israel launching nearly 1,500 airstrikes in the last seven days. The United Nations estimates that of the roughly 190 Palestinians killed in the past week, and the 1,100 wounded, around 75 percent were civilians. Rockets fired from Gaza, though relatively crude and mostly blocked by the Iron Dome air defense system, have been reaching further and further into Israel.  Egypt was the negotiator behind the ceasefire that ended Operation: Pillar of Defense n 2012, though under extremely different circumstances. Then-Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s past as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, long banned in Egypt and supportive of Hamas, gave him extensive buy-in with the militant group. His willingness to adhere to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel allowed him to convince the Israelis to lay down their arms as well. In the case of current president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was in charge of the army when it deposed Morsi, the crackdown on Brotherhood in Egypt has likely soured his relations with the Hamas government.

The rejection of the deal places a new burden on Hamas to maintain public support among Palestinians for its actions. Hamas’ approval ratings have jumped wildly since it first came to power in 2006, with an April poll from the Arab World for Research and Development showing that only 20 percent of Palestinians hold a positive view of the group’s governance efforts. In the face of international condemnation for rejecting a possible ceasefire, and the Israeli government sure to capitalize on its own willingness to hold fire, Hamas will have even further to go to reach what it sees as an acceptable outcome for an escalation it arguably didn’t want at this moment.

This doesn’t mean, however, that Israel is in the clear for a “victory” over Hamas in this round of fighting. For years now, Tel Aviv has had a “mowing the grass” policy towards Gaza: since its unilateral withdrawal in 2005, there have been numerous incursions into Gaza for the purpose of killing or arresting leaders of Palestinian political parties. This strategy, one that inevitably kills scores of Palestinians and leads to thousands of Israelis taking shelter from reprisal attacks, has yet to lead to a stable outcome in the territories, and has prompted Netanyahu to say that it shows why the West Bank can never have independence. The six-hour ceasefire, in that sense, was about as effective as the ceasefire that was in place in 2012, and the one that was put into place before that. In the end, a negotiated solution to the crisis will be the only thing that brings about a peace that can be measured in not hours, but decades.