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GAZA CEASEFIRE EXPECTED TO HOLD

A 72-hour ceasefire has gone into effect between Israel and Hamas - the question now is whether it can be expanded into a more permanent mechanism.

 7:48 AM-August 5th, two minutes before the latest Egyptian brokered ceasefire was to go into force: Hamas launches a barrage of 25 more rockets at Jerusalem and communities in central Israel. Again, air raid sirens wail and hundreds of thousands of Israelis rush to their bomb shelters. Israel's Iron Dome missiles blast off, knocking seven of the incoming rockets out of the sky. They were on target for population centers. Several others do explode on the ground but there are no Israeli casualties. The rest are allowed to land harmlessly in open areas. Imagine how many Israeli children, women and men would have been killed and wounded if those seven rockets had hit apartment buildings. This has been at the core of the current conflagration and the IDF's mission to suppress this rocketing of Israeli civilians that has escalated ever since Israel totally evacuated the Gaza Strip in 2005. The IDF estimates that Hamas terrorists fired 3,350 rockets during its 26-day Operation that was triggered by hundreds more rockets in the preceding week. Yet critics of Israel, including some foreign governments, are castigating the Jewish state for not acting proportionately to the Hamas threat. 

Pillay was peeved that Israel did not agree to share its Iron Dome system with the Palestinians...

 How come, they ask, were some 1,800 Palestinians were killed, many of them while serving as human shields by Hamas terrorists, but only 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians? This was disproportionate and therefore Israel was guilty of committing war crimes! In other words, Israel should apologize for having smart scientists who developed Iron Dome that protects its civilians. In fact Navi Pillay, the Chair of the UN's Human Rights Council, has taken this moral absurdity even one step further. Pillay was peeved that Israel did not agree to share its Iron Dome system with the Palestinians! A senior UN official has soared to a new summit in Israel bashing. Would Pillay's comment not be tantamount to the Brits sharing their radar invention and Enigma code breaker with Nazi Germany to make it a fair fight in the Second World War; or, moving fast forward, how about the US supplying Muslim terrorists with drones In Afghanistan and Yemen?

 

 Nonetheless, Jerusalem is bracing for another UN investigation such as the one headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, who at first castigated Israel but later recanted when he perused the unadulterated facts and drew the conclusion that Israel had acted in keeping with Cicero's dictum: 'The only excuse for war is that we may live in peace, unharmed'. How else would the permanent members of the UN Security Council act if their civilians were being rocked day in and day out by Muslim fanatics? Consider how the US, Russia, China, France and Britain have and would act in similar situations. Speaking on Channel 2 TV in Israel, former British PM Tony Blair stated: 'If my own country were under such attack, I have no doubt the people would expect me to take forceful action to stop it'.

  

Nevertheless, the proportionality myth, which is never applied to any other country, is always trotted out to vilify Israel when it exercises its right to self-defense.

 Nevertheless, the proportionality myth, which is never applied to any other country, is always trotted out to vilify Israel when it exercises its right to self-defense. The truth is the Palestinians deliberately target Israeli civilians while Israel takes exceptional actions to warn Palestinians to evacuate areas being exploited by the terrorists before an impending IDF attack. As a rule, no other country follows such a practice - certainly not the French, say in Algeria. The fact is that if Israel had not warned Palestinian civilians to evacuate before Israeli pilots carried out precision strikes at the rocket squads and facilities, a much higher number of Palestinians would have been killed. Nevertheless, the TV coverage of the bloodshed inside Gaza is appalling.

  

 But the question foreign correspondents rarely, if ever asked the wounded and homeless Palestinians is why their Hamas government did not halt the rocketing of Israel? On the contrary, the Hamas terrorists hid behind their own civilian population to launch the rockets at Israel. They also flagrantly violated UNRWA schools and buildings as launch sites and rocket depots. (The UN Relief & Works Organization for Palestine was established after the war in 1948, when the Palestinians and six Arab countries rejected the UN plan for a two state solution and attacked the new-born Jewish state).

 

In any case, Hamas could have halted the Israeli counter-attack at any point by simply pledging to halt the rocketing of Israel. However, it refused repeatedly to do so.

 During this flare-up, an angry official of UNRWA blasted Hamas for storing rockets under an UNRWA school. (The fact is that UNRWA employs no less than 30,000 Palestinians, many of whom are in cahoots with Hamas). In any case, Hamas could have halted the Israeli counter-attack at any point by simply pledging to halt the rocketing of Israel. However, it refused repeatedly to do so. For example, on August 1 Cairo had worked out a ceasefire with the warring sides, but Hamas violated it by ambushing and killing three IDF soldiers. If Hamas started the latest war and refused the Egyptian offers for a ceasefire, does Hamas not bear responsibility for the death and disaster it has brought to Gaza? It can be said that Hamas exploited its own people as both offensive and defensive weapons. By hiding behind the civilian population, the rocket squads were able to climb out of their bunkers and launch their missiles into Israel. Secondly, they would then hide between civilians. The Hamas justification for rocketing Israel is that the Palestinians of Gaza have been caged in by Israel both on land and sea, and had no alternative but to try and break out.

 

 The fact is that Hamas is a Muslim terror organization no less dangerous than al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the new ISIS fanatics who are the warpath in Iraq, Syria, and now Lebanon. The Hamas Covenant calls for the obliterating of Israel and killing every Jew. It includes an anti-Semitic and even an anthropomorphic passage so every Muslim gets the message: "On Judgment Day, the stones and trees will cry out: 'O Muslims, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!'" This is the nature of the Hamas enemy that Israel faces in Gaza and why it is necessary to prevent more rockets and weapons from being smuggled in.

 

the Palestinians repeatedly complained that Israel was preventing adequate supplies of cement into Gaza. It now transpires that...Hamas used it for constructing long tunnels under the border with the goal of sending terrorists to pop out and massacre Israeli civilians.

 Take cement for example: the Palestinians repeatedly complained that Israel was preventing adequate supplies of cement into Gaza. It now transpires that instead of utilizing most of the cement for building schools and hospitals, Hamas used it for constructing long tunnels under the border with the goal of sending terrorists to pop out and massacre Israeli civilians. On this score, the IDF succeeded in destroying all of the thirty-two tunnels that were uncovered after ground forces were sent. Although IDF Intelligence was aware that Hamas had been digging the tunnels, it apparently underestimated the number and the threat they posed to Israeli civilians living along the border. Many families abandoned their homes after the first tunnel raids killed several soldiers. Being rocketed is one thing, but living over a Hamas tunnel that Jihadi terrorists could pop out from in the middle of the night and burst into your home is another.

 

Hamas Tunnel uncovered by the IDF (photo credit: IDF)

 The IDF has announced that it will build a more sophisticated border fence, as well as station combat troops in the communities along the border. Israel has more or less neutralized the rocket threat by developing Iron Dome; it now faces a new challenge of producing a unique tunnel detecting system that does not exist anywhere in the world. After every military operation, the IDF always conducts enquiries into what went right and what went wrong. In this case, the apparent failure of the Intel branch to identify the real danger of Hamas tunnels is likely to be high on the agenda. (This danger also has implications for Israel's border with southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is in control).

 

 Mission accomplished?

 At the outset of the operation, Prime Minister Netanyahu defined its goals:

  1. To suppress the rocketing of Israeli civilians
  2. To restore security for a significant period
  3. To degrade Hamas military capability

  

 It can be said the IDF dealt Hamas a severe blow - some 1,800 Palestinians, many of them women and children, were killed mainly by Israeli air strikes, despite the effort to spare civilian casualties. Although it is impossible to know how many terrorists were killed, the number is believed to be about 1,000. Two-thirds of its rockets have been expended or destroyed. Israeli technicians constantly fine-tune Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, which performed admirably. Although the Hamas tunnels came as a surprise, after the initial shock, the IDF improvised methods to counter-act the threat. For example, only specially trained soldiers from the engineering corps were permitted to enter any of the Hamas tunnels for fear they were booby-trapped. Hamas’ attempts to land naval commandos from the Mediterranean Sea were also detected and thwarted. Israel's demand that Gaza be demilitarized is likely to fall on deaf ears, but Hamas may also have to commit to no more rocketing as a condition for massive economic aid from abroad.

  

 Cairo conference: the next stage of the ceasefire will continue under the auspices of President al Sisi, who has proven to be adept at persuading Hamas and Israel to call it quits, if only for the time being. The warring parties will not be sitting together - Hamas will be represented by its rival, President Mahmoud Abbas from the West Bank, who does seek a political compromise with Israel. On this score, the regional prestige of Abbas and al Sisi has risen as a result of their positive political roles. (Abbas sharply criticized the Hamas rocketing of Israel that triggered Israel's counter-attack). Bear in mind that Hamas is an offshoot of the radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a bitter rival of President al Sisi. Not only Egypt, but also Saudi Arabia, Jordan and most of the Gulf States, except for Qatar, detests Hamas, viewing radical Islamists as a threat to their stability. It is notable that while there may be demonstrations in the 'Arab Street', the Arab regimes were rooting for Israel.

  

 Most notably, and to his credit, Netanyahu has cooperated with Al Sisi. This will serve to boost Washington's acceptance of al Sisi as a positive player in the Middle East. (At the outset, Secretary of State John Kerry had even proffered the idea of Turkey as a mediator between Israel and Hamas! Turkey, whose leader Recipp Erdogan accused Israel of war crimes comparable to the Nazis; this coming from the leader of the country which in fact did carry out the genocide of the Armenians during the First World War).

 

 West Bankers & Israeli Arabs

  

In Cairo, the sides will have to compromise if they want to parlay the temporary ceasefire into a more long-lasting mechanism. Hamas is still bent, like its mentor Iran, on wiping Israel off the map. On the other hand, the Jewish state will hit back hard if Hamas violates the ceasefire.

 Under the leadership of President Abbas, the 2.7 million Palestinians on the West Bank remained quiet except for the sporadic terror attack and public demonstrations, which were kept under control by the Palestinian Police. Israeli Arabs also demonstrated more or less peacefully. Outlook: In Cairo, the sides will have to compromise if they want to parlay the temporary ceasefire into a more long-lasting mechanism. Hamas is still bent, like its mentor Iran, on wiping Israel off the map. On the other hand, the Jewish state will hit back hard if Hamas violates the ceasefire. Nor will Israel acquiesce in Hamas rebuilding tunnels under the border for attacking Israelis in the future. President al Sisi, who is highly regarded in Israel, should have a role to play in monitoring cargos to Gaza to improve the dire economic situation, now made worse by the Hamas decision to again take on Israel. But the proof of any lasting ceasefire will be in the proverbial pudding. Hamas will be expected to keep a tight rein over the Islamic Jihad and other Islamist terrorists, whose very reason for existing is to attack Israel.

 

   

 David Essing

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