Gaza ceasefire may see easing of blockade

Gunmen from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, line up outside the house of their late leader Ahmed Jaabari, as mourners visit his family to pay their condolences in Gaza City on 22 November 2012. (Photo: AFP - Marco Longari)

Published Thursday, November 22, 2012

Palestinians in Gaza flocked to the streets amid cautious calm Thursday to celebrate a ceasefire agreement which saw some notable concessions from Israel.

The agreement stipulates that Israel must ease its blockade on Gaza and allow its residents to move freely along its borders. It also entails a cessation of targeted assassinations, which served as an opening salvo in Israel’s vicious offensive on the Gaza Strip from November 14 to November 21.

Hamas military commander Ahmad Jaabari was assassinated last Wednesday; more than 160 Palestinians, including many children were killed in the seven days that followed.

Drones buzzed through Gazan skies at low altitudes throughout the offensive, naval warships shelled residential buildings, and hundreds of missiles rained upon the densely populated home of 1.7 million Palestinians. A total of 1,450 air, tank and warship strikes targeted the coastal strip.

Hamas fighters launched retaliatory strikes at Israeli towns and cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which had not been the target of rocket fire since 1970. Five Israelis were killed.

On Wednesday afternoon, a bomb exploded on a Tel Aviv bus driving past the massive Kirya military compound, which houses the Rabin military base as well as the Defense Ministry. Ten civilians were injured in the attack that likely stopped short of its military target.

Israelis accept ceasefire amid fears of realigned Egypt

A ceasefire agreement drafted by Egypt, and supported by the United States took effect at 9 pm local Gaza City time Wednesday night.

According to Israeli daily Ha’aretz, deliberations over the ceasefire agreement polarized Israel’s cabinet, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak backing the document, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman pushing for a ground offensive.

Palestinians readied themselves to face a land incursion that Israel warned would take place on a daily basis but did not materialized.

Netanyahu oscillated between Barak and Lieberman in some heated meetings that sowed division among cabinet members. The prime minister and Lieberman relented after it became clear that Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt’s alignment with Hamas would become a force to be reckoned with.

“The assumption voiced by intelligence officials at the triumvirate meeting was that, contrary to the situation during Mubarak’s era, the Egyptians are aligning with Hamas and trying to provide it with achievements,” writes Ha’aretz.

The three ministers requested that the ceasefire agreement be more “balanced,” according to Ha’aretz, but the US appears to have gently turned this down, coaxing Israel with additional military funds.

“US president Barack Obama pushed the issue in a few telephone calls with the Israeli prime minister. The American message was clear: adopting Egypt’s ceasefire draft was much the preferred choice.

At the same time, Obama and Clinton promised Netanyahu incentives in the form of increased US pressure on Egypt regarding weapons smuggling to Gaza, and a commitment to provide more funds for additional Iron Dome missile defense systems.”

The ceasefire agreement also orders Palestinian parties to stop rocket fire into Israel, as well as attacks on border areas.

In a televised speech Wednesday night, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called the outcome of the conflict a “victory in which the people and their valiant resistance demonstrated a great ability for steadfastness and creativity.”

Caretaker Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been accused of colluding with the Israelis against Hamas, sent a rare message of congratulations to the party, also proclaiming the ceasefire a “victory.”

(Al-Akhbar)

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