A tense ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist organization in the Gaza Strip appears to hold, after more than 36 hours without any recorded violent incidents. As a result, and in accordance with the Egyptian-mediated arrangement, Israel partially reopened the Kerem Shalom border-crossing into the Hamas-run enclave, to facilitate the delivery of fuel and other humanitarian goods.
That said, the IDF continues to maintain a high-level of alert, indicating an expected resurgence of violence in the near future. Following a security situation assessment and consultation that was held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF’s Southern Command, the Israeli leader stressed that the current ceasefire is merely a hiatus in cross-border violence. As such, the IDF continues to maintain a large military presence along the border with the Gaza Strip. The premier said: “It is clear that this is not the end of the campaign. So I ordered preparations for continuation and I ordered to keep armored and artillery forces deployed around the Gaza Strip.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also pointed to Israel’s decision to resume ‘targeted assassination’ of Palestinian terrorists. While the IDF refrained from applying these tactics for the past several years, the move aims to send a clear signal to the Islamist Hamas organization and its allies, in which Israel will use all the tools at its disposal to re-introduce quiet to its civilian communities. According to Netanyahu, “Over the last two days we renewed the policy of targeted killings of terror leaders, we killed tens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, we destroyed terror towers. We changed the rules of the game and Hamas understands that well.”
The Israeli leader also took the opportunity to praise the residence of southern Israel for their perseverance, and the Israeli military for its aggressive resolve in the face of heinous terrorism. Netanyahu said: “I want to praise the residents of the south (of Israel) for their bold perseverance, and the IDF commanders and soldiers for their aggressive actions.”
Despite the efforts by the Prime Minister and his cabinet to reassure Israel’s southern residents they are “maintaining control of the situation,” public frustration appears to be both growing and spreading with regard to what is perceived as “Jerusalem’s repeated capitulation to terror groups in the Gaza Strip.” According to Jack Mandel, a resident of southern Israel, “I think that a ceasefire is a mistake. You don’t do any ceasefire (agreement) with any terror organization. If this (violence) cycle isn’t finished properly and if Gaza isn’t cleaned of these terrorists who extort the country, nothing will help.” Another resident of the area, Glazier David Azorel, said: “I welcome the ceasefire. But, again, Hamas set the tone. I don’t like it, I want the state of Israel to set the tone and decide what to do, not that a terror organization will decide what to do for the state of Israel who has such a strong army.” Haim Cohen, who also resides in Southern Israel added: “In a month, in two weeks, in a month and a half, it will repeat itself again and we achieved nothing. I think the state of Israel needs to strike them very very hard so that they learn their lesson.”
Meanwhile in Gaza; Palestinian residents of the Hamas-run territory have voiced their frustration over the repeated cycles of violence. While stopping short from openly laying the blame on the Islamist groups that instigated the latest deadly-exchange, the civilian population increasingly voices its despair with regard to the destructive consequences of conflict. According to Mahmoud Al-Wehidi, resident of Gaza, “This truce will be the same of the previous ones, each time there is truce for a week or two and until they are back (to fight) again. This is how it has been throughout the history of the Palestinian people. We are suffering from the fight.” / “There should be truce because to be honest the people’s homes are destroyed and there are martyrs and a lot of people have been widowed. it is collective destruction, enough war.”
In response to the deadly escalation over the weekend, the United Nations urged both Israel and the Islamist organizations in the Palestinian enclave to adhere to the understandings that were reached, by means of Egyptian and Qatari mediation, that aimed to end the latest cycle of violence. While refraining from elaborating on the terms of the ceasefire, which were not made public by either-side, the world body insisted that “if the calm is sustained… discussions for a longer-term arrangement will emerge.” U.N. Secretary-General’s Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “The latest escalation over the weekend was the worst since the 2014 conflict. Fortunately, following a series of engagements with Egypt, Qatar, and all concerned parties, we were able to contain it, based on understandings on the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the livelihoods of people, with no violence at the Gaza perimeter fence. It is now up to the parties to implement these understandings. If the calm is sustained, the United Nations believes that we will be able to discuss longer-term arrangements to improve the situation and provide relief for the people of Gaza by easing the closures, and support for the reconciliation process.”
While specifics on the ceasefire arrangement were not made public, Qatar has announced that it will donate 480 million dollars to the Palestinians in the Fatah-controlled West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. According to a statement from Doha’s foreign ministry, 300 million dollars of the funds are earmarked for health and education programs in the Palestinian Authority, with the remainder intended to provide humanitarian aid, support for United Nations platforms, and the renovation of electrical infrastructure.
Hamas’ Political leader Ismail Haniyeh expressed his gratitude to Qatar for its decision to transfer the funds to the Palestinian people in the enclave, saying: “Qatar continues, even under the most difficult conditions, to support Palestine and its nation.” Israeli officials refused to respond to TV7’s request for comment, “whether these funds are part of the arrangement that led to the cessation of hostilities.”