November 22, 2012

 

BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!


THE DAY AFTER…

EDITOR: Where do we stand now?

After eight days of brital bombing of gaza, over 160 dead, over 1000 wounded, hundreds of houses flattened, roads uporooted, schools, offices, banks destroyed, and untold misery inflicted, where is the conflict finding itself? Where is Netanyahu and hius partners in crime? Let us go back a few months…

Summer 2011 has seen the most incredible scenes in Israel, the only non-Arab country in the Middle East. With The Arab Spring raging in most Arab countries with various degrees of success, Israel has experienced its own Social justice protest, on an unprecedented scale. Almost 500,000 people have marched through Israel on a number of key occasions, demanding a ling list of social reforms. Netanyahu used the well tried methods of killing social protest in Israel – he has called for elections, and like Olmert before him, went to war.

But this was a different time. Olmert went to war in the days of the Pharaoh Mubarak, while Netanyahu’s war is happening after the Arab Spring has changed Egypt. Partly he went to war to test Egypt, especially in the face ofa future attack on Iran. Partly he went to war to test Obama II, now that Obama is not so shackled to AIPAC for his re-election. On both counts he seemed to have miscalculated, like he did before when he put his money on Romney. So what is the result for him? It is clear that as far as Hamas is concerned, it won this round, against the mighty Israeli army, like Hizbollah has won in Lebanon in 2006.

On the face of it, Netanyahu has won. Over 90% of Jewish Israelis have supported the criminal massacre in Gaza, as they have done in 2008/9. But at the end of the day, when they return home, the old problems are still there, with a vengeance. Nothing has improved since summer 2011, but many things have got much worse, and the criminal war on Gaza has now exacerbated the social problems facing Israelis. Most Israeli Jews went to protest social inequalities, totally failing to see the biggest one – the brutal occupation. This also means that currently, there is no realistic solution to Israel’s social strife.

How will Israelis face Netanyahu, the man who said he will save them, and who has returned the bombs and missiles to the heart of Tel Aviv? How will they be able to support his ultra-nationalism and war-mongering, when it so clearly failed to deliver them security and social stability? How will they be able to ignore the simple truths they sang out in 2011?

The next few months will answer these queries. My own feeling is that Netanyahu will suffer for his attack on Gaza. No, not because he has killed so many Palestinians, but because, according to the Israeli public, he has not killed enough… becuase he agreed to the ceasefire, which 70% of the Israeli public was against, and because he called the reserves to Gaza, and then has not used them! Israeli society is sick, and the medicine for it is more killing, it seems.

I hope this reading is wrong, and that the social protest will start again, this time including the end of the occupation in its list of demands. But I also know this is not possible, and that the disease has struck at the heart of Israel’s social structure, and that fascism is rife as is extreme racism. In that sense, Netanyahu and Barak will reap what they sewed. What this means for Palestine only god knows, and as I am an atheist, I have no line to her…

Below I have included some of the Day After reactions in Haaretz. They obviously do not reopresent my views, as above.

Despite Gaza suffering, Hamas’ status is on the rise: Haaretz

Day after in GazaHamas declared victory after Cast Lead, but did not manage to convince the general public in the Gaza Strip. This time, however, even those who aren’t supporters of the organization respect its political achievement.
By Amira Hass     | Nov.22, 2012

Palestinian militants of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, on a truck, Gaza Strip, October 18, 2012. Photo by AP

Amira Hass

It’s natural that each of the two clashing sides would claim to be the winner in the cease-fire. Considering the balance of fatalities and the dimensions of the destruction, it’s clear who won – and there are those who are still making those cynical calculations, while blurring the large number of Palestinian women and children counted among the dead and wounded.

But if “victory” is measured by the support each side has for its leadership, apparently it can be said that the trophy indeed went to Hamas.

To the disappointment of many Israelis, there was no ground attack, and the cease-fire was achieved before the rocket launchers in Gaza showed signs of exhaustion.

This contrasts with the Palestinians in Gaza, who support the cease-fire – and not only because of the mark left by the IDF assault and the fear that the number of dead will continue to rise exponentially.

After Operation Cast Lead, Hamas also declared victory but then it did not succeed in convincing the general public in Gaza. ‘Another victory like this one and it will be possible to see Beit Hanoun from Rafah,” people joked bitterly, referring to the huge devastation the IDF left behind.

People also noticed that Hamas’ promise of surprises then, made before and during the ground attack, were empty boasting. Four years ago, too, Hamas demanded the lifting of the draconian blockade and the opening of the Rafah crossing point to free passage of goods and people – and failed.

What began at that time to crack the Israeli position and transform Gaza into an issue that doesn’t leave the international agenda was the shock at seeing the scenes of the attack along with the international solidarity, the height of which was the Mavi Marmara flotilla.

This time, even those who are not supporters of Hamas admire the political achievement manifested in the military surprises Hamas had up its sleeve. The ability to continue firing even under the intensive attack indicated the planning prowess of the movement, and its ability to learn from its mistakes.

The Palestinians saw not only heroism in the continuous firing of all kinds of rockets, but also identified long-term thinking in Hamas – a characteristic that many believe is lacking in the rival Fatah movement, especially since it became a corrupt ruling movement.

Thus, an important aspect in the Hamas victory is the clear strengthening of its standing among the Palestinians. It is not certain that Fatah would do well to insist on holding general elections for the Legislative Council in the near future.

Clearly, long-term thinking would not have helped Hamas had the Muslim Brotherhood not come into power in Egypt. However, part of the confidence that characterized Hamas in its move against the rule of the Palestinian Authority was the expectation of a popular Islamic uprising in the Muslim space.

In the Palestine Liberation Organization, they always say the Palestinian issue is central to the stability and peace in the region, if not in the whole world – but the organization has left this claim to the mercies of events over which it has no control.

Hamas relied on the bottomless capacity of suffering among the Gazans in particular while maneuvering the Gaza Strip as a separate entity that would open up to the Arab and Muslim world. As part of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is doing two things today: It is both returning the Palestinian issue to the center international attention and it is behaving like a regional power whose abilities and opinion have to be taken into account.

Winners and losers of Israel-Hamas cease-fire: haaretz

It is premature to assess whether the cease-fire is good or bad for Israel, but the winners and losers are already clear.
By Anshel Pfeffer     | Nov.22, 2012

An Israeli soldier stands atop a tank near the border with the Gaza Strip, November 17, 2012. Photo by Reuters

It would be a bit premature to assess whether the yet-to-be-signed agreement with Hamas is good or bad for Israel or whether it will guarantee a lengthy period of calm for the residents of the south. The cease-fire is still fragile and the next few days will be crucial. However, it is possible to point out at this stage some winners and losers.

Winners

The immediate winners from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision on Wednesday to accept the cease-fire terms and call off a possible ground incursion into Gaza are both the civilians and combatants in Israel and Gaza whose lives have been saved by the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense. I open this list with them because it is important to remember that while we are speaking of winners and losers, this is not a football game.

Mohammed Morsi: Not long ago, U.S. President Barack Obama shamed Egypt’s new leadership when he publicly said that the country was neither America’s enemy nor its ally. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was seen as an oddball fanatic to be tolerated as long as he did not step out of line.

This week, Obama called Morsi three times a day, urging him to broker a cease-fire and now the administration can’t praise him enough. And it’s not just the United States; even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman publicly thanked Morsi at the press conference in which the cease-fire was announced on Wednesday night.

This was the week in which Morsi cemented his position, not just as the leader of the largest Arab nation, but also as a regional statesman. He hasn’t undergone a Zionist conversion and he still denounces “Israeli aggression,” but he knew he was acting in Egypt’s best interests when he made do with a limited diplomatic protest to Israel’s operation in Gaza and offered his services as a mediator. How Morsi uses his new role is up to him now. He also now has to deal with the unpleasant duty of being guarantor of the peace in Gaza.

Hamas’ political leadership: Even if the cease-fire agreement garnered them only part of their original demands, Hamas’ civilian leaders will be seen as having squeezed concessions out of Israel for the benefit of ordinary Gazans. The agreement is further de-facto recognition by Israel and the international community of Hamas’ government in Gaza. With Ahmed Jabari dead, Hamas’ civilian leaders also have one less rival in the behind-the-scenes power struggle going on within Hamas and these leaders’ deepening alliance with the new regime in Cairo strengthens their position.

The Defense Ministry’s Research and Development: The research and development directorate of the Defense Ministry had to battle the Israel Defense Forces General Staff to find funding for the Iron Dome system and was the target of a vicious smear campaign financed by defense companies that were passed over for the missile-defense contract. However, the Defense Ministry’s approval of the Iron Dome system has been vindicated by the 400 successful rocket and missile interceptions that have occurred in the past eight days. It wasn’t only their selection of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems system, but the entire concept of defense as a component of Israel’s tactical and strategic deterrence that was validated. It is a classic “Revenge of the Nerds” scenario that has major ramifications besides saving lives and preventing damage to property. This will strengthen the Israel Defense Forces’ technological branches’ efforts to secure a larger share of the defense budget at the expense of more tanks and combat jets, changing the way Israel will fight its future wars.

Ehud Barak: From his point of view, Operation Pillar of Defense could not have turned out any better. It was a swift military success for Israel that for once didn’t get bogged down or lead to a diplomatic setback. Swift and sophisticated is how Defense Minister Ehud Barak likes to do things and it will most likely attract voters seeking an experienced centrist in the upcoming elections. Barak is much closer now to ensuring that he stays around both in the next Knesset and as defense minister.

Losers

Benjamin Netanyahu: While Israeli pundits not usually among the prime minister’s fans complimented him on the measured way he conducted this operation and for ending it when he did, these are not his voters. Some commentators, mainly in the international press, have accused Netanyahu of launching the operation to help him in the upcoming elections, but chances are that he will lose votes from some of his more right-wing supporters who are exasperated with him for not going all the way in Gaza. Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, who throughout the operation called for a ground offensive, stands to gain these voters’ support.

Hamas’ military leadership: For over a decade the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades have relied on their primitive and inaccurate missiles to enforce a balance of terror against Israel, especially since the Shin Bet security service succeeded in breaking the back of the West Bank cells that produced suicide bombings. Now – with their arsenal depleted and Israeli towns relatively safe behind the Iron Dome – they have to come up with a new tactic and find a different Israeli weak spot. On Wednesday night they were firing in the air and rejoicing in the streets of Gaza, but in the cold light of day, Hamas’ military leaders know that they have not only lost their head, they have lost much of their leverage over Israel and their rivals in Hamas’ political wing.

Mahmoud Abbas: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both briefly visited the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah, but it was clear they were there only out of a sense of duty. Abbas still plans to seek recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations next week but his thunder has been stolen by the other Palestinian leadership in Gaza. Hamas are the ones sitting in Morsi’s office and it is with them that Israel is holding meaningful – albeit indirect – negotiations. Abbas is as irrelevant as ever. Little wonder that the protests in the West Bank this week were directed as much against him as much as against Israeli occupation.

Barack Obama: The Gaza operation overshadowed Obama’s first foreign trip since winning re-election, including his historic visit to Burma. The fact that he had to urgently send Hillary Clinton off to the region and not to a football game was a reminder of how the Middle East has a tendency to suck in presidents. Obama is hoping to “pivot to Asia,” but he has found that the United States is still needed elsewhere.

To Gaza I did not go: Haaretz

I am a little journalist who partially misappropriates his role and betrays his mission. I run around the south, between the sites of destruction and traumatized residents, but to Gaza I do not go.
By Gideon Levy     | Nov.22, 2012

I am a little journalist who partially misappropriates his role and betrays his mission. Granted, I do run around the south, between the sites of destruction and traumatized residents. On hearing a siren I lay on the ground and cover my head with my hands, or find dubious refuge in some children’s clothes shop. I even gaze at Gaza from the highest hilltop in Sderot, but to Gaza I do not go, about its suffering I do not report. And as it is with me, so it is with every Israeli journalist.

The last time I was in Gaza was in November 2008. I reported then on an Israeli missile that hit the children of the Indira Gandhi nursery and killed their kindergarten teacher in front of their eyes. That was my last story from Gaza. Since then Israel has banned Israeli journalists from entering the Strip, and the journalists accepted this with typical obedience and subservience. Over the years they turned out to be the most loyal (and admired ) public servants: They know the beast’s soul. They know that their readers and viewers don’t want to know what is really happening in Gaza, and joyfully fulfill their desire. Not a word of protest from the journalists, whose government prevents them from filling their essential role.

Not that all are devoid of courage: The daring among them reported over the years from sites of war or natural disasters around the world. Heroes that they are, they were in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and even little me was in Sarajevo under a bombardment, in Japan when the earth shook and in Georgia went it went to war. The government of Israel did not express any self-righteous concern for our well-being, and we fulfilled our role, even when it was dangerous. Not only in Gaza, an hour and a quarter’s drive from our homes, a place that affects our lives immeasurably more than Fukushima.

During Operation Cast Lead, my colleague Amira Hass managed to get into Gaza via Egypt, thanks to her dedication, determination and second passport. This time no one even tried.

That’s how it is that Israel knows almost nothing about what is happening in Gaza. Somebody is making sure of that. The terrible killing of the Dalou family, for example, was covered as lip service to professional journalism, at the sidelines of the newspapers and news broadcasts. There is almost no tangible expression in the Israeli media of the destruction and death that Israel has sown and the great fear gripping one and a half million residents for a week, without a reinforced safety room, without Code Red alerts and without a shelter. They suffice with short, dry reports at the edges of the news. Occasionally, they bring some Ahmed or other on the line, and every report from there is accompanied by the words “according to Palestinians,” with hypocritical accusations that “the Palestinians are making use of photos of the horror,” as if this is the story and not the horror itself.

The issue has nothing to do with political outlooks, only with professional journalism: Israelis should know what is done in their name, even they really, really don’t want to know. That’s the role of journalism. Of course, the suffering in the south should be widely reported – I do it also – but we must not close our eyes to what is happening on the other side, even if it’s not nice to see a house blown up with all its residents.

Whoever wants to know these days what is happening in Gaza is invited to watch the international networks and read the newspapers of the world: Only there will they bring you the full story. Israel, and some of its journalists, will tell you that it’s hostile, slanderous and distorted journalism. They only want you to see Ashkelon and Rishon Letzion.

One needs to know what is happening in Gaza in order to know what is happening in Israel. Journalism that fails to do so, and doesn’t even protest, is conscripted hasbara. It’s nice when a military correspondent in a yellow helmet climbs onto a firefighters’ crane to show us the destruction of an apartment block; we can even somehow live with a military propagandist-commentator who only grunts for war. But reading out text messages from the authorities is not journalism. A real Israeli journalist should have been in Gaza right now. Without this, and with the negligible coverage from there, we are all little journalists.

Yalla, let’s drown Gaza in the sea: Haaretz

People here don’t learn from history and the Palestinians have no other choice when Israel has no proposal other than to continue with the existing situation.
By Oudeh Basharat     | Nov.22, 2012

When planning the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military leader, did Defense Minister Ehud Barak think this was a chess game that ends when you get rid of the king? Did Barak expect that after the assassination, the Palestinians would run around lost like a herd without a leader? Do those sitting up there making decisions genuinely believe that Gaza will be brought to its knees and wave a white flag to welcome the victors?

People here don’t learn from history, and the word “capitulation,” especially for the residents of the Gaza Strip, exists only in the lexicon where archaic words are kept. Moreover the Palestinians have no other choice when Israel has no proposal other than to continue with the existing situation.

Were the residents of Gaza to take to the streets en masse waving white flags, would Israel remove the maritime blockade? Would it solve the problem of the refugees that it created with its own hands – those refugees who have been living in hell for 63 years? Would the gates of Gaza – the biggest prison in history – be opened? What can be heard right now is the demand from Shas leader Eli Yishai to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Only the devil could think up a proposal like that.

This is a policy of force at its purest. Merely to hear the interpretations of the silence coming from the Palestinian Authority, which is supposedly the result of the language of force, proves there is nothing new under the sun of the Israeli leadership. What lying arrogance. This silence is the result of a conscious decision on the part of the Palestinians to transfer the campaign for independence and freedom to the field of popular and diplomatic struggle, a field in which Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters appear to be dangerous refuseniks of peace. The intimidating Israel is fighting against this silence with all its might. It is also possible that the bombing of Gaza is part of a move to reject the Palestinian effort to gain non-member status at the United Nations.

At present, Israel’s generosity in awarding rank to Palestinians is remarkable. They “appointed” Jabari as “chief of staff” even though his previous title had been “arch-terrorist,” and the weapons of yesterday are already being called “the Qassam missile batteries.” It appears that in the hasbara campaign they decided to equalize the two sides: on this side there is a chief of staff, and on that side too. Here there are missile batteries, and there too. Thus, for the time being there is supposedly a balanced war going on.

But on the first day, we watched from one side as a missile chased after a car that was traveling fast, until it caught up with it; and on the other side, two days later, we saw a missile that missed a city the size of Tel Aviv. It is a good thing that it missed. It would have been better if it had not been fired at all.

And when someone said once about the Qassam that “it is merely a pipe,” he was asked to apologize because it didn’t jibe with the propaganda about thousands of Qassam rockets that were fired at the south of the country. They forgot to add then that one bomb dropped by Israel killed more Palestinians than all the Qassams.

In the “divine” jargon that the Israelis have adopted for themselves, there is not only the term “dead man,” but also the “man who may live.” But even a man lucky enough to be allowed to live can be harassed to death. One time he is called a chicken that has lost its feathers, another time they brag that he is a collaborator to make him despicable, still another time they threaten to choke him economically.

What is going on in the heads of the leaders here? A “dead man” is no answer and neither is a “man who may live.” Let them tell us what sort of man they’re looking for. But it seems the current leaders loathe every man and woman there is on the other side. Yalla, let’s drown Gaza in the sea.

Gaza ceasefire announced in Cairo: Guardian

Truce between Israel and Hamas announced by Egyptian foreign minister and US secretary of state

Peter Beaumont in Cairo, Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem and Ian Black, Middle East editor
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 November 2012

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announce a truce between Israel and Hamas Link to this video
Israel and the Palestinians have bowed to US and international pressure and agreed an end to eight days of fighting in the Gaza Strip that has claimed more than 160 lives.

Under the truce, which came into force at 9pm local time (7pm GMT) and will be guaranteed by Egypt on the Palestinian side, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”. In exchange it committed “all Palestinian factions” to “stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border”.

Leaders on both sides were quick to claim victory. Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, said at a press conference in Cairo that Israel had “failed in its adventure” when it launched attacks on Gaza and had been forced to accept Palestinian terms.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Israel had destroyed thousands of missiles as well as Hamas installations.

Israeli operations and Hamas missile fire continued right up to the deadline, claiming at least one further Palestinian fatality, a member of Islamic Jihad.

Israeli drones were continuing to fly overhead after the ceasefire had come into effect. Celebratory gunfire rang out across Gaza.

The truce – announced in Cairo by Egypt’s foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – also included a pledge to open border crossings.

That could ease the five-year blockade of the coastal enclave, a key point that is certain to be the focus of differing interpretations as the dust settles.

But even as the truce was being announced, Netanyahu was warning more “forceful” action might be required if the ceasefire failed – a reference to a threatened ground invasion of Gaza that was postponed by Israel after pressure from the US president, Barack Obama.

Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu said the operation had destroyed “thousands of missiles” as well as Hamas installations. Israel could not “sit with their arms folded” under attack, he said.

He also repeated his veiled threat of a wider army operation if the ceasefire failed: “I know there are citizens expecting a more severe military action, and perhaps we shall need to do so.”

Netanyahu’s statement came as an instant poll by Israel’s Channel 2 television revealed that 70% of Israelis opposed the ceasefire deal.

Meshaal, speaking in Cairo, welcomed the ceasefire and said “the Israeli conspiracy” that had sought election propaganda and to “test Egypt” had “failed in its objectives”.

After the deal was struck Obama called Netanyahu to commend him for agreeing to the Egyptian proposal and told him he would seek more money for the Iron Dome defence system that has protected Israel from rocket attacks.

Earlier in the day rumours had been circulating that Israel had been planning to announce a unilateral ceasefire that would be followed by Hamas doing the same thing. Israel launched well over 1,500 air strikes and other attacks on targets in Gaza, while more than 1,000 rockets pounded Israel after the fighting began on 14 November.

The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 161 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, while five Israelis died.

Announcing the ceasefire in Cairo, Clinton commended Egypt’s mediation. “This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace.”

She also thanked Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, for his mediation efforts and pledged to work with partners in the region “to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel”.

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, welcomed the deal as “an important step towards a lasting peace”.

He added: “The priority now must be to build on the ceasefire and to address the underlying causes of the conflict, including more open access to and from Gaza for trade as well as humanitarian assistance, and an end to the smuggling of weapons.”

Despite securing support from western governments for its initial military operation against Hamas, Israel had failed to win US and European backing for a ground invasion as a series of key US allies in the region, led by Egypt and Turkey, strongly protested against the Israeli assault.

The agreed truce, mediated by Morsi and his spy chief, Mohamed Shehata, came after days of talks and frantic shuttle diplomacy involving regional leaders, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Clinton.

Clinton had been engaged in talks with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before flying to Cairo to meet Morsi. Obama also intervened during a tour of Asia to call both Israel and Morsi to encourage them to find a solution, as well as making several calls to Netanyahu and Morsi.

The deal as it stands – despite comments by Clinton that efforts would continue for a wider settlement – leaves considerable areas of friction and uncertainty.

However, an Israeli government source said, following the ceasefire agreement, an “ongoing dialogue will start within 24 hours” covering underlying issues of concern to both parties.

They include the further relaxation of border restrictions and the issue of targeted assassinations.

On borders, he said: “These restrictions were imposed in the framework of hostilities.” In the absence of hostilities, they may no longer be necessary. Targeted assassinations, he added, were “an irrelevant question”. “If they are not attacking us, we don’t need to shoot them.”

Two other issues to be discussed in further talks were the rearming of militant groups and the Israeli-imposed buffer zone inside the Gaza border. The source said: “The buffer zone was only introduced in the framework of hostilities.”

An earlier attempt to reach a truce 24 hours earlier, which had envisaged a lull in hostilities leading to wider negotiations over key issues, including a lifting of the Israeli blockade of the coastal strip, fell apart because of internal opposition on both sides.

The last week of violence has seen Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government emerge as a key force in a region transformed by the Arab spring.

The agreement emerged despite a bus bombing in Tel Aviv that injured 15 Israelis close to the country’s defence ministry.

Israeli police quickly said it was a terrorist incident, immediately awakening fears of a return to the sort of violence associated with the period of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising, in which some 1,000 Israelis and 5,000 Palestinians were killed.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack. A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, called it “a natural response to crimes of the occupation and the ongoing massacres against civilians in Gaza”.

Israeli-Gaza ceasefire holds: Guardian

Hostilities cease between the two sides after eight days of fighting claims more than 160 lives

Chris McGreal in Gaza, Peter Beaumont in Cairo, Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 November 2012

Palestinians in Gaza celebrate the ceasefire brokered in Egypt between Israel and militant factions led by Hamas Link to this video
A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians appeared to be holding on Thursday after eight days of fighting in the Gaza Strip that claimed more than 160 lives.

Several rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel shortly after the ceasefire came into force late on Wednesday, according to Israeli police, but there were no casualties and no sign of an Israeli response.

Under the truce, which will be guaranteed by Egypt on the Palestinian side, Israel agreed to “stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals”. In exchange it committed “all Palestinian factions” to “stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border”.

Gazans awoke to discover the ceasefire had survived its first few hours. The mosque loudspeakers, largely silenced over the past week of fighting, resumed their dawn calls to prayer.

The area’s diminished and struggling fishing fleet once again put to sea, albeit under the watch of Israeli gunboats and constrained by tight restrictions on where they can work.

Gaza City’s notorious traffic jams once again began to build as Palestinians returned to work, or to clean up the wreckage of their shops and businesses. Convenience stores and cafes pulled up the shutters for the first time in a week.

But the incessant buzz of the Israeli drones, like an annoying unseen insect, is a constant reminder that a halt to the rockets is not an end to conflict.

Leaders on both sides were quick to claim victory. Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, said at a press conference in Cairo that Israel had “failed in its adventure” when it launched attacks on Gaza and had been forced to accept Palestinian terms.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Israel had destroyed thousands of missiles as well as Hamas installations.

The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 161 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, while five Israelis died.

Many people in Gaza regard the ceasefire as a victory for Hamas, which is seen as having resisted a deliberate escalation in violence by Netanyahu, in order to bolster support in January’s general election.

The truce – announced in Cairo by Egypt’s foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, and the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – included a pledge to open border crossings. That could ease the five-year blockade of the coastal enclave, a key point certain to be the focus of differing interpretations as the dust settles.

But even as the truce was being announced, Netanyahu warned more “forceful” action might be required if the ceasefire failed, a reference to a threatened ground invasion of Gaza which was postponed by Israel after pressure from the US president.

Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu said the operation had destroyed “thousands of missiles” as well as Hamas installations. Israel could not “sit with their arms folded” under attack, he said. He also repeated his veiled threat of a wider army operation if the ceasefire failed: “I know there are citizens expecting a more severe military action, and perhaps we shall need to do so.”

Netanyahu’s statement came as an instant poll by Israel’s Channel 2 television revealed that 70% of Israelis opposed the ceasefire deal.

Meshaal, speaking in Cairo, welcomed the ceasefire and said “the Israeli conspiracy” that had sought election propaganda and to “test Egypt” had “failed in its objectives”.

After the deal was struck Barack Obama called Netanyahu to commend him for agreeing to the Egyptian proposal and told him he would seek more money for the Iron Dome defence system that has protected Israel from rocket attacks.

Israel launched well over 1,500 air strikes and other attacks on targets in Gaza, while more than 1,000 rockets pounded Israel after the fighting began on 14 November.

Announcing the ceasefire in Cairo, Clinton commended Egypt’s mediation. “This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace.”

She also thanked Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, for his mediation efforts and pledged to work with partners in the region “to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel”.

Despite securing support from western governments for its initial military operation against Hamas, Israel had failed to win US and European backing for a ground invasion as a series of key US allies in the region, led by Egypt and Turkey, strongly protested against the Israeli assault.

The agreed truce, mediated by Morsi and his spy chief, Mohamed Shehata, came after days of talks and frantic shuttle diplomacy involving regional leaders, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Clinton.

The deal as it stands – despite comments by Clinton that efforts would continue for a wider settlement – leaves considerable areas of friction and uncertainty. However, an Israeli government source said, following the ceasefire agreement, an “ongoing dialogue will start within 24 hours” covering underlying issues of concern to both parties. They include the further relaxation of border restrictions and the issue of targeted assassinations.

In photos: Palestinians in Gaza celebrate victory, mourn those lost: The Electronic Intifada

22 November 2012

Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate a ceasefire bringing Israel’s eight-day bombing campaign to an end, 21 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Celebrations have erupted across the Gaza Strip after a ceasefire – agreed between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions – came into effect on Wednesday night, giving Palestinians their first peaceful night after eight relentless days of Israeli bombardment.

Under the terms of the agreement, brokered by Egypt, Israel committed itself to end its attacks on Gaza by land, sea and air and to ease its blockade of the coastal territory that is home to 1.6 million Palestinians, most of whom are refugees. In return, Palestinian factions agreed to end rocket fire and cross border military actions.

Many Palestinians saw the ability of resistance factions in Gaza to withstand the Israeli assault, and to force Israel to negotiate an end to its attack, as nothing short of a victory.

As people in Gaza reacted with relief and joy, the toll of the Israeli assault was heavy. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it had received reports that 158 people were killed in Gaza since the Israeli attack began whenIsrael broke a tenuous ceasefire on 14 November. Of these, 103 were civilians, including at least 30 children and 13 women, according to the figures reported by the BBC.

This information closely matched figures from the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. More than 1,000 people, the vast majority unarmed civilians, were injured.

“What has shocked me most over the last eight days – during which I have reported exclusively from Gaza, with BBC colleagues complementing in Israel, is the appallingly high number of children killed and injured,” wrote BBC correspondent Wyre Davis.

Despite these facts, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, claimed on US public radio that “most of the people that were hit in Gaza deserved it as they were just armed terrorists.”

UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said 10,000 Palestinians had been displaced in a Gaza Strip that was “traumatized and in crisis.”

In the West Bank, celebrations at the achievement of the Gaza ceasefire broke out in several cities and villages, while Israeli occupation forces embarked on an intensified arrest campaign, detaining hundreds of people in raids over the past week as attention was focused on Gaza.

Four Israeli civilians and one soldier were killed by Palestinian fire from Gaza during the Israeli assault. A second soldier died today of injuries suffered in an attack on Wednesday by Palestinian fighters, Israeli media reported.

As Palestinians everywhere celebrated an end to the violence, some Israelis felt that they had suffered a humiliation. Israel’s Ynet reported that dozens of Israelis rallied against the ceasefire in the Israeli settlement of Sderot near the boundary with Gaza, and several mayors expressed disappointment.

“The fighting should have been concluded with an accord indicating Israel’s clear supremacy and with the Israeli deterrence being restored to its former level,” said Sderot Mayor David Buskila. “After it was promised that Hamas would be eliminated and that we would not negotiate with it, the State of Israel negotiated with Hamas and failed to eliminate it,” Israeli TV presenter turned politician Yair Lapid was quoted by Ynet as saying.

For Palestinians, the damage and wounds of the latest Israeli assault will take time to heal. But for now as some of these pictures show, there is also great joy and relief.

Palestinians celebrate in Gaza City after a ceasefire takes effect, 21 November.

(Anne Paq / ActiveStills)

Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate what they say is a victory over Israel after a ceasfire takes effect, 21 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron celebrate the Gaza ceasefire, 21 November.

(Mamoun Wazwaz / APA images)

Palestinians celebrate what they call a victory over Israel in the West Bank city of Ramallah, 22 November.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

A Palestinian man cleans the streets in Gaza City a day after a ceasefire was declared, 22 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Hamas police officers embrace after their return to their destroyed al-Saraya headquarters in Gaza City on 22 November, a day after a cease fire was declared.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits after delivering a statement in Jerusalem following the ceasefire, 21 November.

(Baz Ratner / Reuters)

Arab League General Secretary Nabil al-Arabi and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meet with deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip, 20 November. Turkey’s foreign minister and a delegation of Arab League foreign ministers traveled to Gaza on a truce mission on Tuesday.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Emergency services inspecting the bus on which a bomb exploded in Tel Aviv, 21 November. More than twenty persons were injured, some critically.

(Keren Manor / ActiveStills)

Government offices destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 21 November.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Palestinians carry the body of Osama Shehada, 17, during his funeral in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, 20 November. Shehada was killed in an Israeli air strike the previous day while walking with his uncle in the camp, neighbors said.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

The mother of Foud Hijazi, 45, grieves over the bodies of her son and grandsons Suhaib, 2, and Muhammad, 4, killed in an Israeli strike, during their funeral at a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 20 November.

(Naaman Omar / APA images)

The brother of two-year-old Abdel Rahman Majdi Naim, killed in an Israeli strike, mourns in Gaza City, 21 November. The child was killed in a second Israeli strike on the building housing Agence France Presse’s Gaza offices, Gaza government health officials said. No AFP journalists were in the building at the time.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Palestinian men on a motorcycle drag the body of a man who was killed for allegedly collaborating with Israel, Gaza City, 20 November. Gunmen executed six alleged collaborators in Gaza City. Hamas chief deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk condemned the killings and called for accountability.

(Ezz Al-Zanoon / APA images)

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a blaze after an Israeli air strike on the Islamic National Bank building in Gaza City, 20 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Palestinians look at Wadi Gaza bridge, a strategic link between the northern and southern areas of the Gaza Strip, bombed during an overnight Israeli air strike, 21 November.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

A Palestinian boy salvages his books from a building destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, 20 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Displaced Palestinians whose fled their homes gather in their temporary residence at a United Nations-run school in Gaza City, 20 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Palestinian families evacuate their homes in the back of trucks following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, 20 November.

(Majdi Fathi / APA images)

Mourners bid farewell to Hamdi al-Falah in the West Bank city of Hebron, 20 November. Al-Falah was shot by the Israeli army during a Gaza solidarity protest two days prior.

(Mamoun Wazwazi / APA images)

Palestinian students at Haifa University protest Israel’s assault on Gaza, 19 November.

(Samer Khalifeh / The Electronic Intifada)

Palestinians and Israelis protest Israel’s attacks on Gaza at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, 20 November.

(Mahfouz Abu Turk / APA images)

Palestinian security forces stand guard as Palestinians in the West Bank city of Ramallah protest the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 21 November.

(Issam Rimawi / APA images)

An Israeli military jeep blankets Hebron Road in the West Bank town of Bethlehem with tear gas during protests against Israel’s attacks on Gaza, 20 November. The Israeli soldiers entered Bethlehem city streets even though they are part of Area A under the Oslo Accords, which are supposed to be under the sole security jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.

(ActiveStills)

Palestinian students rally in Bethlehem’s Manger Square to protest Israeli attacks on Gaza, 20 November.

(Ryan Rodrick Beiler / ActiveStills)

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