Hamas has accepted an Egyptian proposal for another 72-hour cease fire with Israel. Renewed negotiations for a more permanent cessation of hostilities, including the demilitarization of Gaza, are planned.
Israel walked out of the talks when Hamas broke the last truce, saying it would not negotiate under fire. They have reiterated that position as rockets continue to hit targets inside Israel.
Heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, as well as 67 people on the Israeli side.
Hamas has refused to extend a temporary truce that helped launch the Cairo talks last week, saying it wants guarantees from Israel first that Gaza’s borders will open. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, to varying degrees, since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.
Since the truce expired Friday, smaller Gaza militant groups — though not Hamas, according to claims of responsibility — have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel, including two on Sunday. Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes on Gaza, including at least 20 on Sunday. Gaza officials said Sunday’s strikes killed at least two Palestinians.
Israel has said it will not open Gaza’s borders unless militant groups, including Hamas, disarm. Hamas has said handing over its weapons arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is inconceivable.
Various ideas have been raised to end Gaza’s isolation, including deploying international inspectors at all crossings to address Israeli security concerns about smuggling weapons and militants. Europe has floated the idea of a link between ports in Gaza and Cyprus, with inspectors at both ends checking people and cargo.
Palestinian officials have said that Israel has so far rejected such proposals.
Instead, one proposal circulated by the Egyptian mediators over the weekend offered an easing of some of the restrictions, according to Palestinian negotiators who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss internal deliberations with journalists. It was not clear if this was an Egyptian or an Israeli proposal.
Palestinian negotiators said they rejected the ideas, insisting on a complete end to the blockade. The Palestinian team includes Hamas officials and representatives of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from whom Hamas took Gaza in 2007.
You might remember what happened following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, where the UN International Force in Lebanon was charged with preventing Syria and Iran from rearming the terrorists.
So far, the UNIFIL “inspectors” have missed about 40,000 rockets flowing into Lebanon, among other arms. But Israel is to trust the UN to keep Hamas from being resupplied?
As for lifting the Gaza “blockade,” Egypt has as much to lose as Israel, which is why they have mostly maintained the restrictions on weapons and material that could be used for war on their side of the border. Hamas is not going to get a complete lifting of the restrictions, nor is Israel likely to get a complete demilitarization of Gaza — unless they choose to impose it via force of arms.
Prime Minister Netanyahu seems determined that this will be the last time that Israeli defense forces will be sent into Gaza to stop the intolerable hail of rockets being launched by the terrorists. How he achieves that goal — either at the negotiating table or on the battlefield — will dictate how much longer Israel will continue Operation Protective Edge.