Sunday, January 18, 2009

War With Hamas: Day 23 "Cease-Fire"

Despite the unilateral seven-day cease-fire called by Israel at 02:00 Sunday morning, Hamas fired nearly 20 missiles into Israel; one a direct hit on a home in Ashdod. One man was injured and another suffered from shock. Israel returned fire at targets reportedly firing the rockets.

According to Israel’s deputy Defense Minister Ben Eliezer it will take a few days for the cease-fire to filter down to all the fighters in the field. At approximately three-o’clock in the afternoon in the Middle East Damascus based Hamas leader Mashal said Hamas, joined by Islamic Jihad, would accept the weeklong cease-fire, and has instructed its fighters to stop firing at Israel.

Israel radio reporter Nissim Kenan said from Beer Sheva that rockets continue to fall, and that while Hamas has agreed to the cease-fire, rockets continue to fall.

Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet, said that not all the smuggling tunnels were destroyed, and that Hamas could rearm within months. Israel Radio’s Arab Affairs reporter Yoni Ben-Menachem said that it seemed to him inevitable that Israel would have to continue the fighting after the one-week break.

According to the IDF’s Chief of Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin, Hamas will seek retribution for damages it sustained during operation ‘Cast Lead.’ Yadlin said Hamas will try to change the picture Israel painted and “even the score,” using among other things terror attacks. Yadlin told the Israeli cabinet on Sunday that Hamas was left “shame-faced” by Israel’s call for a unilateral cease-fire and had trouble deciding which stance to take. He said hundreds of Hamas commanders were killed, and that Hamas is hiding the true extent of the damage to their organization.

Israel’s Chief-of-Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told the cabinet “Hamas has not disappeared.”

Defense Minister Barak originally suggested the cease-fire. Foreign Minister Livni wanted an immediate cease-fire that would mark the permanent end of the fighting. Analysts said the cease-fire is geared to allow the Palestinians time to look at the damage done and decide that further fighting was fruitless.

Hamas has demanded that Israel withdraw immediately from the Gaza Strip and open the six crossing points. Israel has said it will not withdraw the troops until a final cease-fire agreement is signed. Pundits say that if the Hamas fighters won’t stop firing then Israel will resume the fighting, pushing into the heavily populated Gaza City.

Hamas leaders said they give Israel a week to withdraw from Gaza. Iranian Foreign Minister declared a victory over Israel. This while the leadership is still in hiding, over 1,200 Palestinians killed, and over 5,000 wounded. Today another 95 bodies were found in the rubble in Gaza.

Aluf Ben writing in the Haaretz newspaper said that Hamas has won international legitimacy and sympathy, and that Hamas forces still control Gaza.

A summit on Gaza began in Sharm El Shek, Egypt, with the Prime Minister of France, Germany, Britain, and Egypt in attendance. France PM Sarkozy said that Egypt was a key figure in the peace. Egyptian President later said that he would not agree to an international force in the Egyptian side of Gaza. Egyptian spokesman said a solution must be reached to stop the smuggling of weapons.

Israel Radio’s commentator Yoni Ben-Menachem said the summit, according to Palestinians, is a precursor to the meeting of the Arab League in Kuwait this week, where the summary of the Sharm El Shek summit will be discussed. Ben-Menachem said the Kuwait meeting would discuss over $3 Billion in aid that PA President Abbas will request to rebuilt Gaza.

The struggle, according to Ben-Menachem is between the Egyptians, French, British and Germans, against the Iranian backed Hamas and other forces. He said that Egypt was against the international force because it worried that in the event of an unstable government in Egypt the force might decide to invade Cairo. Israel is also concerned the force could be used to prevent Israel’s air force from operating in the Negev in Israel’s south. “The agreement on the issue of tunnels is linked to the Peace agreement between Israel and Egypt,” said Ben-Menachem.

Talk is of an agreement between the British, French and Germans who will patrol the Gaza coast in an effort to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Hamas controlled Gaza.

According to Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer Hamas has been damaged to its core and will be hard put to recover. This was the line also espoused by Cabinet Minister Yitzchak Herzog. However, as they spoke to Israel radio interviewers Sunday morning the broadcasts were interrupted by announcements of more rockets that had fallen in Israel’s south. Analysts pointed out that even during the previous cease-fires with Hamas there was always sporadic firing.

Then there was the strange story of Dr. Al Aish, a Palestinian doctor and peace activist, calling from his Gaza apartment appealing for help from Chico Menashe, an Israel Channel 2 reporter. Dr. Al Aish called during a live TV broadcast because his apartment was being shelled by IDF forces and three of his daughters had been killed. The story was picked up by news agencies around the world. The Israeli reporter Chico Menashe helped the doctor, who also worked at Israel’s Saroka Hospital, and had been helping Menashe with updates from Gaza. The reporter made a call to a Gaza contact that sent an ambulance to rescue the doctor and his family. They were evacuated to Israel for treatment.

During the three-week fighting many Gaza residents were brought to Israel for treatment. An Israeli report stated that Gazans were brought to Israel for medical treatment on a regular basis and had been for years.

Political analysts say that the cease-fire will be in time for the inauguration of U.S. President Barak Obama who will be able to start his term in office without an on-going shooting war in the Middle East.

One analyst said that the real long-term solution to the problem is recognizing Arab pride and the concept of honor. If the Arabs were allowed to feel they had exited the battle-field with honor they wouldn’t feel obliged to continue waging war. The occupation of their land was considered a personal affront, and each victory by Israel an insult to the Arab people. Israel must find a way to mollify the Arabs and sooth their wounded pride.

Another analyst pointed to a recent BBC documentary on the terrorist attacks in Mumbai by apparent Pakistani Islamic militants. One of the Pakistani Imams was interviewed in the documentary. The religious figure told the reporter, “The difference between you and us is that you are fighting to stay alive, and we are fighting to die.”

So it seems “Honor” isn’t as important as some people think. Becoming a “Martyr” seems to trump all other goals. Pundits think that the martyr syndrome offers limited alternatives; the most obvious solution is that a consistent battle must be waged until one side or the other is permanently subdued. The most obvious, and the most painful.