Palestinian Resistance threatens to bomb Tel Aviv unless its demands are met

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Palestinian protesters carry a cardboard model of M75 rockets during a demonstration in support of Gaza after Friday prayers in the West Bank town Bethlehem on August 8, 2014. (Photo: Musa al-Shaer)

By: Ali Haydar, Iman Ibrahim

Published Saturday, August 9, 2014

On Friday, the Resistance gave [Israel] an ultimatum expiring on Sunday to have its demands met. Otherwise, rocket attacks on Tel Aviv would be resumed. In the meantime, reports have surfaced that European efforts are currently focusing on a deal over the port in Gaza, with proposals for a sea route to Cyprus.

As the three-day ceasefire agreement expired on Friday, the fragile calm in the Gaza Strip was shattered with the resumption of hostilities and Israeli bombardment. Although the number of casualties remained relatively low (5 killed and 31 wounded) compared to the period prior to the temporary ceasefire, other issues related to the conflict, including refugees and humanitarian conditions, continue to weigh heavily on the people of Gaza.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Resistance responded by firing the first rocket attacks after the ceasefire expired on Israeli settlements in Gaza’s vicinity. This gave the impression that the Resistance has returned to the method of gradually escalating and expanding attacks as required by the pace of the battles, which was in place before the ongoing war.

Remarkably, the Resistance focused its attacks on targets within a range of 40 km and less, and did not fire more than 70 rockets in total. Similarly, the Israeli army responded with a limited number of strikes, which possibly signals that the two sides do not want a full-blown escalation for the time being.

In conjunction with the interruption of the humanitarian ceasefire and the postponements of talks over it, multiple sources have told Al-Akhbar that the Palestinian delegation had by midnight not yet received any Israeli response through Egyptian mediators. The sources seem to be in agreement that Israel has not shown any flexibility regarding the demands Israel had refused on Thursday, including agreeing to allow the reopening of the seaport in Gaza, contrary to press reports that had suggested otherwise.

According to sources from Hamas, the Palestinian side relayed to the Egyptian mediator that, “If Israel continues to stall, then the Palestinian delegation will withdraw from Cairo on Sunday,” after which the Resistance would “expand its bombardment to Tel Aviv.”

However, Khaled al-Batsh, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad delegation, said that another 72-hour truce is on the table, although he added that his group has yet to state its position regarding this matter.

The Palestinian sources have clearly indicated that they will not hold Cairo responsible for the failure of its mediation efforts. They have also revealed that the Resistance has now decided to focus on the demands related to the seaport, having realized that the Rafah crossing issue would be off the table as part of a truce with Israel.

The sources said, “The opening of the Rafah crossing cannot be guaranteed because it has been linked to the return of the Presidential Guard to Gaza. This means that the Palestinian Authority may set other conditions, including demanding that all its forces return to their posts, which would require many months to implement.”

On the other hand, other sources said that Cairo would not stop its efforts to broker an agreement between the two sides, criticizing what they termed “uncalculated acts” by Hamas. The sources said that Cairo had raised the state of alert along the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and at all security posts along the international highway from the town of al-Arish to the crossing.

Commenting on this, analyst Mohammed Ibrahim said, “The goal of the war on Gaza is to disarm the Resistance, and pave the way for a comprehensive change in the rules of the game on the ground,” adding that in return, “the Rafah crossing would be reopened.”

In the meantime, a number of commentators on Israeli television channels were recently expressing their resentment over the way Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has handled the situation in Gaza, believing Sisi to be in favor of the continuation of the aggression on Gaza – and Hamas – at any cost.

One such commentator is Keren Neubach, a radio presenter for Reshet Bet. She said that while the Israelis know that Sisi hates Hamas more than they do, it was not known how the Israelis would benefit from this. Neubach claimed that the Israelis want a ceasefire, which is in their interest, but that Sisi wants something else.

Political commentator for Channel Ten Raviv Drucker has also made similar comments. For his part, Danny Danon, former deputy defense minister, said that the Egyptians had asked the Israeli side two weeks ago to continue its attack on Hamas and block any negotiations, because Hamas “had not suffered enough.”

Reacting to these claims coming from Israel, Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesperson for Hamas, called on Egypt to respond to these statements, especially the remarks made by Israeli minister Tzipi Livni, who pointed out that there is an agreement with Egypt on “strangling Hamas.” Abu Zuhri described what Livni said as “base statements that necessitate an Egyptian response.”

The above notwithstanding, it appears that there is agreement among the Palestinians to avoid a clash with Cairo. The head of the Palestinian delegation Azzam Al-Ahmad said, “We have told our Egyptian brothers that we are staying in Cairo and are against escalation, but we want to conclude a final agreement that would restore rights including lifting the blockade on Gaza in all its forms.”

On a different note, the Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Friday afternoon having received assurances that the European Union was putting pressure to help end the “devastating conflict in Gaza,” and would put forward a plan to develop the seaport in Gaza and launch a sea route through Cyprus.

Meanwhile, press reports indicated that Germany and France have put forward a proposal to redeploy the European detachment at the Rafah crossing, and to develop the Gaza seaport as part of reconstruction efforts.

In Israel, Zvika Fogel, former chief of staff of the Israeli army Southern Command, said that the Palestinian demand for a seaport in Gaza did not contradict the goal of preserving the security of Israel, but instead encourages long-term calm on the Gaza front. Fogel, in an appearance he made on Channel Two, said that building the port would take five to eight years, which means giving the region a long period of calm, as he said.

Nevertheless, Fogel did not deny that this would be a strategic achievement for the Palestinians though he said it would give them something to lose in any coming war, adding that this would be an element of stability and not the opposite. Fogel pointed out that it would be possible to establish an international monitoring and inspection system at the port to prevent the entry of arms and combat equipment into the Gaza Strip.

Number of injured Israeli soldiers increases during the truce

Figures published on Friday have revealed that the number of Israeli soldiers injured since the start of the war on Gaza had reached 1,620, bearing in mind that the figure on the previous Friday was 1,357. It is odd that this increase took place even though, since Tuesday morning, there had been a three-day truce with no hostilities taking place.

According to figures published by Haaretz, the number of Israeli soldiers killed since the beginning of the assault is 64 in addition to four civilians. The newspaper pointed out that the number of Israelis killed during Operation Cast Lead at the end of 2008 was 10 soldiers and three civilians.

Resistance factions in the Gaza Strip have fired 2,648 rockets into Israel, of which the Iron Dome intercepted 578; 116 rockets landed in populated areas, while the rest landed in open areas.

The Israeli army has recalled 82,201 reservists, while reports on Friday said 30,000 reservists were discharged during the past two days.

The Israeli air force has carried out a total of 4,762 air strikes on Gaza.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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