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Gaza Truce Ends As Hamas Refuses To Extend Humanitarian Ceasefire

Gaza Rockets

The three day ceasefire that had brought some measure of peace to Gaza ended earlier today when Hamas forces refused to agree to an extension of the cease fire and resumed firing into Israel:

JERUSALEM — As a 72-hour truce in Gaza expired at 8 a.m. Friday, Palestinian militants fired barrages of rockets into Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes, one of which killed a 10-year-old boy, according to relatives.

The renewed hostilities interrupted the indirect talks in Cairo, brokered by Egypt and backed by the United States, for a more durable cease-fire agreement. While the rocket fire signaled Hamas’s refusal to extend the temporary lull and its desire to apply pressure for its demands to be met at the talks, the Israeli government said in a statement that “Israel will not hold negotiations under fire.”

Israel had said it was willing to extend the truce unconditionally, but the Cairo talks, which began on Wednesday, appeared to have yielded few results.

After three days of quiet, the Israeli military said, at least 33 rockets and mortars were fired into southern Israel between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Some were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, while others fell in open ground and a few landed short in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli civilian and a soldier were injured in one of the attacks, according to the military, and a building was damaged. The Israeli military also reported two launchings of rockets or mortar shells from Gaza before dawn.

In Gaza, Ibrahim Dawawsa, 10, was killed in a strike from an Israeli drone as he played in the yard of a mosque in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, according to his brother, Zuheir, 19.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, wrote in an Internet posting on Friday morning that it did not accept an extension of the lull, adding, “We will continue negotiations.” Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian faction that has taken part in the fighting alongside Hamas and is represented at the talks in Cairo, took responsibility for firing rockets.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said in a statement: “The renewed rocket attacks by terrorists at Israel are unacceptable, intolerable and shortsighted. Hamas’s bad decision to breach the cease-fire will be pursued by the I.D.F. We will continue to strike Hamas, its infrastructure, its operatives and restore security for the State of Israel.”

The Israeli government statement said that Israel had informed the Egyptians that it was ready to extend the cease-fire by another 72 hours before the rocket fire resumed. “Israel will continue to act by all means to defend its citizens, while making an effort not to harm civilians in Gaza,” it said. “Hamas, which violated the cease-fire, is responsible for the harm to Gaza’s citizens.”

Just at 8 a.m., as television correspondents stood on the beachside road in Gaza City to do their live reports, the first rocket marking the end of the cease-fire was launched. The signature white plume of the Israeli interception was visible in the air for miles. A few more booms were heard in the next 15 minutes, but they hardly disrupted the trickle of donkey carts on the street.

(…)

The 72-hour truce came after 29 days of fierce fighting that left more than 1,800 Palestinians dead, many of them civilians. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians were killed. Israel said its military campaign, which began July 8 with an aerial assault and led to a ground invasion, was aimed at quelling rocket fire and destroying Hamas’s network of tunnels leading into Israeli territory. Israel withdrew its ground troops from the Gaza Strip but left them on alert along the border and kept its air force on standby.

Hamas is demanding a lifting of the blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt and an opening of all the border crossings to allow the free movement of people and goods in and out of the Palestinian coastal territory. Israel is demanding measures to prevent Hamas from rearming and, eventually, the demilitarization of Gaza.

What happens at this point is, of course, entirely on Hamas’s head. They had the opportunity to continue a humanitarian ceasefire that had held for three consecutive days, longer than any previous ceasefire in this conflict, and instead they chose to launch rockets in to Israel yet again. Given that, it is hard to see why Israel would even bother to agree to another ceasefire at this point since it seems clear that all Hamas used this period for was as an opportunity to regroup its forces for further attacks. All of this despite the fact that Israel has fully withdrawn its forces from Gaza after having destroyed as many of the tunnels that were clearly designed to be conduits for future attacks as they could find.

As for the negotiations in Cairo, it seems fairly clear that Hamas is going to offer something other than a mere cessetion in the current hostilities if it really does want the blockade that has been in force against Gaza for years now lifted. Specifically, it’s worth noting that the primary reason that this blockade was put in place was because Hamas had been crossing the border between Gaza and Israel to conduct suicide bombings against Israel. Similarly, it was using the border with Egypt to smuggle in military equipment and supplies that it was then using against Israel. This is why Israel and Egypt have both imposed their own blockades against the region that require all traffic and commerce to go through approved and manned checkpoints. Under the circumstances, it’s an entirely understandable and rational response to the threat the Hamas poses. If they want the blockade lifted, then they are going to have to provide some assurance that Gaza is not going to once again becoming a launching point for terrorist attacks against Israel. Barring that, Israel’s demand that the Gaza Strip be demilitarized would seem to be the only reasonable outcome. After all, if Hamas cares about the people of Gaza like they claim to then they don’t need to turn the place into an armed camp do they?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. aFloridian says:

    I’ve been sympathetic to the Palestinians throughout this, and spent too much time arguing with various Jews I know who, I am convinced, like many Americans, see Muslims as somehow less human than the rest of us.

    But the Palestinians greatest enemy, as deceitful, dangerous, and right-wing Zionist as Israel is, is Hamas. I get that they are trying to force the issue, but give it up, the Iron Dome has made your tactics obsolete. You are just getting more children killed, and convincing the Israeli people of the justness of their slow encroachment in Palestine.

    I’ve not sympathy for Hamas, and they ought to be eradicated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  2. stonetools says:

    Wow, Israel picks the best enemies.
    Less cynically, I have to admit I have no idea what the Hamas leaders are thinking, and I doubt they know themselves. Time for the Gazans to pick a better leadership team.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    The blockade was actually instituted after Hamas won the elections in Gaza.

    Overall, Israel’s position with negotiations is pretty crazy: “You disarm and then maybe we’ll return the favor by lifting the blockade.” I think Hamas should disarm, and take the offer, and let Fatah into Gaza. But it’s pretty twisted to think that it’s a great offer in a two-party negotiation for one party to eliminate itself.

    But behind this, what exactly does Israel have to offer, except for lifting the blockade? They don’t want a unity government, and they don’t want a Palestinian state on equal terms next to them. They can’t even halt the building of settlements on the West Bank. All they can offer are variations on oppressive conditions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  4. mantis says:

    The Gazans wanted to keep the ceasefire going, apparently. What can be done to empower them to get rid of these Hamas scumbags? I honestly have no idea. A new election? What would it take to get that to happen? What a damned mess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Yes, this is on Hamas. I don’t understand what they’re trying to accomplish, but I’m pretty sure it’s aimed at helping the leadership of Hamas, not the Palestinian people. That said, let me try this analogy. If I’m driving in the left lane of an Interstate at the tail of eight cars all lined up behind some guy who’s running in tandem with a guy in the right lane, I don’t really blame the guy at the front. He’s either an incompetent twit who doesn’t understand the situation, an a**hat, or on the phone and oblivious. In any case, he’s an idiot and you can’t expect any better from an idiot. I blame the second guy. It falls on him to find a way to either pass the first guy or move him out of the way.

    The Israelis are the second guy in line. Hamas won’t resolve this situation. Israel has essentially all the guns, all the money, all the power, and a more or less functioning government. It falls on them to resolve this. I can’t see that they have any plan except apartheid. As their best friends, only friends, we may need to explain to them their obligations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  6. PJ says:

    The three day ceasefire that had brought some measure of peace to Gaza ended earlier today when Hamas forces refused to agree to an extension of the cease fire and resumed firing into Israel

    but:

    Islamic Jihad, a militant Palestinian faction that has taken part in the fighting alongside Hamas and is represented at the talks in Cairo, took responsibility for firing rockets.

    So, Hamas didn’t fire the rockets then?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. @mantis:

    What can be done to empower them to get rid of these Hamas scumbags?

    Giving Gazans outside the Hamas command structure access to weapons might be useful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Giving Gazans outside the Hamas command structure access to weapons might be useful.

    No easy task, I would think. And how willing would they be to rise up and fight? Seems Hamas has a pretty good stranglehold on the populace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. rudderpedals says:

    It might be better for the security council to authorize Egypt or an international force to enter Gaza and disarm IJ or whoever it is firing off the rockets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. @mantis:

    Hence “might”. I agree it could fail miserably, but everything else seems to be failing miserably anyways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Tillman says:

    It seems like they’ve gone Armageddon-ish on us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. michael reynolds says:

    When do we get to “peak crazy?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. michael reynolds says:

    If you’re Hamas, ordering room service and hookers in your 5-star hotel, why not keep it going? The alternative for them is to get back to work rebuilding the rubble. That’s no fun. Much more fun and much easier to keep on throwing your people into the meat grinder. Right now they’re on a blood high. Call a halt to the killing and they risk Gazans asking what the hell any of this is about.

    The only people who can really cope with Hamas long-term are the PA. And what motive would the PA possibly have to help Israel out of this on-going disaster? Will Likud give them another few gallons of water and let them keep their remaining two olive trees?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  14. bill says:

    they must have a few thousand more ineffective rockets to launch or something, maybe there’s a bonus plan for “rockets launched” vs. “rockets destroying something other than our own”?
    hamas has no more credibility and nothing to bargain with- the pali’s need to dump these losers while they’re still alive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    According to the Guardian, Fatah is not exactly singing the praises of Israel:

    Al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah, Hamas’s long-term rival, blamed the breakdown of negotiations on Israel, whose delegation he said had never given “specific and clear answers” to their demands, and who only communicated with the Palestinians through mediators in Egyptian intelligence.

    And for what it is worth, Hamas has said that Israel has rejected every demand. True? Probably not. But there seems to be little coherence on the Israeli side beyond the pipe dream that Hamas and their weapons will simply evaporate into thin air.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Another Mike says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    But there seems to be little coherence on the Israeli side beyond the pipe dream that Hamas and their weapons will simply evaporate into thin air.

    Pipe dream? What a dopey statement. So you think Israel fails to grasp the reality of the situation? Are we supposed to take your comments seriously? (Hint: That’s a rhetorical question.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  17. the Q says:

    Lets see, this is like the movie Predator vs. Alien…like which side DO you root for?

    Hamas, the loons? or the Likudniks who are set on isolating Israel even more than normal.

    Hamas lieadership must be on the Mossad payroll since their actions are incredibly stupid, alienating and ineffectual.

    All this does is give much more sympathy to the IDF to kill every one of these idiotic leaders of Hamas, and the civilian cost be damned.

    They not only never miss an oppotunity to miss an opportunity, they try shooting the opportunity with old, obsolute rockets.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  18. just me says:

    There won’t be peace as long as Hamas is in charge. They seem to believe the more bodies (Israeli or Palestinian) the better.

    I think the region is a mess and the various factions fight each other and the Israelis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0