Israel declared operation ‘Cast Lead’ a success and announced that its security cabinet has voted in favor of a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which went into effect at 2 AM local time. The decision means Israel has put an end to Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling in Gaza. While the US welcomes Israel's ceasefire declaration, Hamas says it will continue to fight on. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum criticized Israel for taking a unilateral approach rather than entering into a deal with Egyptian mediators: “It is an attempt to preempt the Egyptian efforts and any other efforts that seek to achieve a withdrawal of the occupying forces, an end to the siege and a ceasefire.” A somewhat quiet night has presided over Gaza, while Israelis have woken up to yet another missile filled morning.
Israel claims to have destroyed roughly 60 percent of the hundreds of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt, and significantly weaken Hamas. “Our fight is not with the people of Gaza,” Olmert said at the Tel Aviv press conference following the cabinet meeting. “We left Gaza in 2005 with the intention of never returning,” he said, referring to Israel's unilateral withdrawal of troops and settlers from the territory under former prime minister Ariel Sharon. For the full video watch Tytandra007‘s translated clip below:
“if Hamas entirely ends its rocket fire on Israel, Israel will consider an IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. If that did not occur, the IDF will continue to operate in order to protect our citizens.”
“Hamas leaders are in hiding, many of its members have been killed, its rocket factories have been destroyed, its smuggling routes through the tunnels have been blown up, its ability to move weapons in the Gaza Strip has been reduced and the launching sites where most of the rockets are fired are under Israeli military control.”
With Israeli officials declaring that the main objectives in the war have been achieved, some Israeli bloggers, like the following one highlight the importance of placing kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit's release as a prerequisite to any ceasefire agreement with Hamas:
Only with a ceasefire (or peace agreement in the utopian situation) will thie fighting end. This is the reality. We cannot erase a terrorist organization with a single thrust. It is not possible to totally change without a gradual process. We must not expect more. If so, what achievement can Israel get from this war in Gaza?
Destroying Hamas infrastructure is an achievement? I am not so sure. Wiping out Hamas and other terrorist organizations? Everyone who knows some history of terrorist organizations knows that it is not possible. Prevention of smuggling through the Philadelfi axis (Egypt)? That can be considered an achievement but can easily be bypassed (qassam rockets can be created easily at home).
The release of Gilad Shalit is the only achievement that Israel can reach with the end of the fighting in Gaza. Gilad Shalit who has been held hostage by Hamas, is the only one who can be grasped in Israel and throughout the world as a powerful achievement from the war. Israel must place his release as a prerequisite to a ceasefire with Hamas.
A common, pessimistic perspective in regards to the ceasefire can be viewed through Rafi Glick's argument- that the ceasefire agreement will not remove Hamas missile threat in the south of Israel:
The ceasefire might bring a temporary quiet period, but will not remove the missile threat. Sharon and Olmert's governments brought upon us this Hamas support in Gaza, as they threaten the center of our country with long-range missiles. It began with a unilateral withdraw lacking an agreement, continued when Hamas was accepted as a legitimate party in the elections, and further continued with our policy of restraint when qassam missiles were fired and the constant arming of Hamas with long range missiles.
Hamas and Hizbollah missiles already meet over the heads of the Gush Dan residents. In a war over their ability to pose danger, the Iranians and their allies, Hamas and Hizbollah, have already won. These home-made bombs manufactured by Hamas, paralyze a million civilians. One quarter of a million kids, and twenty thousand students. Some forty percent of the workforce in the south is paralyzed.
The ceasefire even with the Israeli conditions, will maintain the missile threat over the center of the country, just like the ceasefire and agreements that ended the second Lebanon war did not free Israel from the threat of Hizbollah missiles, and even brough Hizbollah to participate in the Lebanese government.
The collapse of Hamas rule in Gaza is the only solution to the missile threat, although I am doubtful that Olmert's gov't (Livni and Barak) are willing to pay the price of taking this to the end. Obviously there are international entities which will force us to end the fighting before we accomplish the goal.
Don't believe anyone who tells you that this war is meant to remove the missile threat. The one who ignored the cancerous tumor in the form of Hamas, will not be able to remove the missile threat. The ceasefire might bring quiet, but the threat will remain.
Carl wonders if Israel may have adopted a unilateral ceasefire because of Mubarak's Saturday speech:
“I ask Israel today to end its military operations immediately,” Mubarak said in an address on state television of the 22-day-old war which has killed more than 1,200 Palestinians and left much of Gaza in ruins.
“I call on its leadership for an immediate unconditional ceasefire and a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Strip,” he said, as the Israeli security cabinet prepared to consider halting its offensive.
Mubarak called in his speech on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “heed reason and conscience” to end the bloodshed in Gaza.
Mubarak insisted that Egypt was securing its border with the Gaza Strip, and Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said his country would not be bound by a just-inked US-Israeli deal to stop arms smuggling to Gaza.
However, with the so called ceasefire in place, and as today unfolds, an exchange of fire has already been reported to take place between IDF and Hamas in Gaza. And as I finish writing this post, six qassam missiles are reported to have hit Sderot. What are your opinions on this unilateral ceasefire? Can it work and if so, how long will it last? We'll be doing our best to follow these events closely here on Global Voices.