That Elusive Ceasefire
Israel accepted an Egyptian 72-hour cease-fire proposal late Monday night and it went into effect the next morning, August 5 at 8:00 a.m. It was Hamas that called for the time-out. It now appears that it was only a ploy in order to prepare for another round of fighting at the end of the truce. To Israel’s surprise, the ceasefire was not violated by Hamas as were each of the seven previous ceasefires; it held for the full 72-hours. The quiet of the ceasefire was shattered by the first salvo of rockets out of Gaza, aimed at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The time was 8:03 a.m.
Israel did not return the rocket fire; it held off in the hope that Hamas would see sense and stop firing; however, it was not to be. At 10:27 a.m., after 144 minutes of sustained rocket fire from Gaza, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon issued orders to the IDF to “respond with force.” At 10:42 the IDF began airstrikes on Gaza targets and Israeli warships starting hitting more targets from the sea.
The aim of the 3-day ceasefire was to allow Palestinian and Israeli delegations time to travel to Cairo and attempt to negotiate a longer term ceasefire. At 8:15 a.m. on Friday, Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, told the media by telephone that Egypt had offered both sides another 72-hour truce, but that Hamas had refused.
An Egyptian security official said that in Cairo the Palestinian delegation’s stance had hardened after the arrival of Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders from Gaza. He said Azzam al-Ahmad, the leader of the Palestinian delegation and the representative of the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) President Abu Mazen, had threatened to withdraw from the talks if the two terror groups did not show more “flexibility.” It was obvious that Hamas and Islamic Jihad were not in Cairo to negotiate a long-term ceasefire; they were there only to demand further conditions which they demanded be met if there was to be any extension of the 72-hour truce.
Israel refused Hamas’s demand that the 54 Hamas operatives recaptured during the West Bank hunt for the killers of the three Israeli teenagers be released. The operatives had been released in a lopsided prisoner exchange in October 2011 when Israel released 1,027 prisoners for a single Israeli soldier who had been abducted five years earlier by Hamas. The soldier had been held in solitary confinement without seeing daylight or having any contact whatsoever with the outside world during his years of captivity. The 54 prisoners which Israel recaptured during its June 2014 hunt for the murderers of the teenagers had all violated their terms of release, and for that reason they were recaptured.
Hamas also demanded the Rafah crossing into Egypt be opened permanently, and that international guarantees be provided that the crossing would never be closed again. However, it is not within Israel’s jurisdiction to open the Rafah crossing. Israel had relinquished its authority over the Rafah crossing when it pulled out of Gaza in 2005; it handed the control of the crossing over to an EU observer force. But when Hamas took Gaza away from the PA by force in a bloody coup in June 2007, the jurisdiction for the opening of the crossing fell into the domain of Egypt. During the presidency of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi Rafah was open continuously and weapons flowed into Gaza (Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood). However, when the Egyptian military, under the command of Abdel Fatah el-Sisi — now president of Egypt — removed Morsi from the presidency, the Rafah crossing was closed in order to prevent weapons being transported into Gaza. El-Sisi was no happier than Israel to have Islamic jihadists creating mayhem on its doorstep. In addition to keeping the Rafah crossing closed, except for emergency humanitarian purposes, el-Sisi ordered the destruction of the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border through which Hamas smuggled weapons, vehicles, fuel, cement, steel, etc. Hamas taxed everything that entered the Strip through the tunnels and to date the Egyptians have closed or destroyed 1,366 tunnels, which in effect has severed Hamas’s financial umbilical cord.
Quoting a “knowledgeable source,” the Hamas daily Al-Resalah reported on Thursday, August 7, that Egypt had informed the Palestinian delegation in Cairo that it had decided to exclude the Rafah crossing from negotiations. Egypt would only be willing to open the crossing following it being handed over to PA control.
An unsubstantiated rumor is spreading that Egypt kept the Palestinian delegation under house arrest while its members were in Cairo. As stated, that rumor is unsubstantiated; however, it is fact that a prominent Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabri, called on Egypt’s Attorney-General Hesham Barakat for those in the Hamas delegation to be handed over to investigators for criminal prosecution due to them being members of a terrorist group whose activities are banned in Egypt.
Unlike Egypt, Israel never closed its border crossings with Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. Even as mortar shells fell on the Erez crossing; used for pedestrian traffic; and the Kerem Shalom crossing that is used for goods; trucks continued to enter the Gaza Strip and passengers continued to pass in and out of the territory. Since July 8, when the war began, until the 72-hour ceasefire, over 3,000 civilians crossed through Erez in both directions, nearly 1,000 of them for medical reasons. A total of 1,856 trucks, carrying 40,550 tons of aid was taken into Gaza — 1,491 trucks with 37,178 tons of food, 220 trucks with 1,694 humanitarian supplies, and 106 trucks with 1,029 tons of medical supplies.
As mentioned above, Hamas did not go to Cairo to negotiate a ceasefire, it went only to make — as Israel’s Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni termed it — “maximalist demands” — which are utterly impossible for Israel to agree to. Hamas wants to continue ceasefire talks while it continues to fire rockets into Israel’s towns and cities. Hamas does not negotiate, it simply demands, and its demands are they ‘take it or leave it’ variety. Israel refuses to continue talks while Hamas and company keep up perpetual rocket barrages against Israeli civilians.
Hamas is pleased with itself because, as a Hamas spokesman said on August 7, it has “demonstrated an ability to surprise the enemy and cause it pain.” And that is really all the twisted, evil mind of Hamas is aiming to do — cause Israelis pain. As this writer has said before, Hamas will fight to its last rocket and to the last drop of Palestinian civilian blood. Its masterminds are holed up in five-star hotels in Qatar, Jordan, and Lebanon, enjoying the luxury that wealth brings, and its military leaders are bunkered down in fortresses below ground while ordinary Palestinians barely exist amongst the horrendous rubble of Gaza in a depressing state of poverty. Defying all international attempts to broker a new truce, Hamas has vowed that will make no concessions to Israel in ceasefire talks. Hamas has brought terrible suffering to the people of Gaza by its inhuman practice of storing its missiles in and firing them from schools, mosques, hospitals, and UN facilities.
This writer said in the last posting that he would include URLs in the next post showing Hamas launching rockets from civilian areas in order for the reader to understand exactly what Israel is up against in its battle with its fanatical Islamic foe. However, including the substantial amount of information that is to hand from reporters in Gaza will make this post far too long, This writer assures reader that he will include this information in the next post. That is assuming that Israel does not drop one of the bombs from its alleged nuclear arsenal on Hamas’s Command Center beneath Shifa hospital like America did on Hiroshima in 1945, without notice.
If you have enjoyed reading these postings by Ramon Bennett and would like to read more of his writings, you can subscribe to Arm of Salvation’s “Update,” which is a regular newsletter covering events around the world that affect the nation of Israel. To subscribe, click on the tab marked “Newsletter” on this site. It is available in either digital or printed form.
Arm of Salvation would welcome readers’ comments and also donations to its ministry in Israel for the Jewish people and toward covering the costs of maintaining this Shekinah website as well as an appreciation of the time and effort Ramon invests in producing these postings.