Senior Palestinian leaders announced yesterday that they had arrived at an agreement with Israel on a “permanent” halt to the fighting in and around Gaza. For their part, Israel hasn’t confirmed the news and is reportedly silent about the alleged deal.
There is still no sign of any affirmation from Israeli officials, but a Palestinian official said the ceasefire would come into force at 1600 GMT, reported JTA.
Speaking about the deal, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said,
“We announce the Palestinian leadership’s agreement to Egypt’s call for a comprehensive and lasting truce, beginning at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT) today.”
The news about the deal comes more than 50 days after fighting began in Gaza. Regional authorities claim that the battle has been the most gruesome between Israel and the Palestinians in over a decade, and the deal is a direct result of efforts to restore peace by Egypt.
The fighting has indeed been one of the worst that the relatively tiny region has seen in a long time. The war, which began on July 8, has killed 2,138 Palestinians as well as 68 on the Israeli side as per official UN records. Interestingly, while Palestine’s reported causalities had 60% civilians, Israel only lost their soldiers.
However, it should be mentioned that the UN’s statistics are based on unverified numbers from Hamas, who is known to claim terrorist fighters as civilian casualties. The simple fact is that while Israel uses its resources to protect her citizens, Hamas uses their resources and billions in international aid to build terror tunnels to attack Israel and buy weapons.
So far, there have been no signs of any amicable truce, and Hamas has clearly refused to honor any ceasefire agreements till early Tuesday. In fact, 10 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s air-strike and tank shelling and two dozen people lightly wounded after Hamas militants fired 98 rockets at southern and central Israel.
Speaking about ceasefire talks and their subsequent violations, there have been several short-term ceasefires between the two sides, but they all broke down pretty quickly after Hamas began firing more missiles at Israeli cities. The latest ceasefire agreement crumbled last week on 19th August as hostilities resumed amid allegations from both sides. The violence that subsequently erupted killed 117 Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli.
A Palestinian official in Ramallah spoke to AFP about the supposedly agreed-upon “permanent” ceasefire,
“The contacts that have been going on have led to a permanent ceasefire, a [deal to] end the blockade and a guarantee that Gaza’s demands and needs will be met.”
One of the most elemental demands of Hamas has always been an immediate dismantling of the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, which Israel claims is intended to prevent Hamas from smuggling advanced weapons into their territory. While Israel is reported to have agreed to expand the off-shore fishing limit from six miles to 12 miles, they have refused to lift the blockade until Hamas is disarmed and Gaza is demilitarized.
[Image Credit | Tyler Hicks/The New York Times, Cryptome, AFP]