Perhaps it’s just as well that Hamas rejected Israel’s suggested four-hour extension of the Gaza truce. It isn’t so much that the world will blame Hamas for the resumption of hostilities — no chance of that. It’s that Israel has unfinished business in Gaza: those insidious tunnels and Hamas’s cache of arms and missiles must be destroyed.
Hamas rejected the offer to extend the truce at least four hours and possibly longer, and fired missiles into Isreal.
The cease-fire rejection came after the Israeli Cabinet agreed to extend the 12-hour truce until midnight Saturday, and Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli Cabinet minister, said a further extension would be considered.
Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military had warned that it “shall respond if terrorists choose to exploit” the lull to attack Israeli troops “or fire at Israeli civilians.” It also said that operations to locate and neutralize tunnels would continue.
Meanwhile, at least 100 bodies were recovered Saturday, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said, as Palestinians used the cease-fire to move medical supplies and tend to the dead and injured in the Gaza Strip.
As the initial lull in hostilities began at 8 a.m. Saturday, Gazans poured onto the streets to find food supplies, look for missing family members or return to homes they left for shelters. The nearly three weeks of fighting has left swaths of rubble, destroyed roads and damaged power infrastructure in residential neighborhoods across the strip.
More than 1,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began on July 8. Another 6,000 have been wounded. In Israel, 43 have died, including 40 soldiers, two civilians and a Thai worker.
Imad Nasrallah, 38, said he and others have made it a point not to forget the living.
“With my brothers and neighbors, we volunteer and go help others, in case their homes were targeted,” Nasrallah said. “We transfer the wounded to hospitals or go carry the martyrs and bury them.”
Saturday’s temporary truce was the second and the longest since the conflict began on July 8. A humanitarian cease-fire on July 17 was quickly overlooked as rocket fire resumed as soon as the set five hours expired.
In Paris on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with European foreign ministers to find ways to build off Saturday’s lull.
It was not to be. Kerry is being ignored by the Israelis as the government seems utterly determined to carry on its military mission until Hamas is neutralized. They have gone to war with the terrorists three times in the last five years. Israel’s citizens are under constant threat from thousands of missiles launched from Gaza every year, and Hamas has used its network of tunnels to carry out attacks on civilians.
Israel will de-militarize Gaza one way or another. And all the efforts by western powers to get them to dial it back will go for naught.