May 15, 2024
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May 15, 2024
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With a ceasefire agreed to by Hamas and Israel last Wednesday that lasted for five days, many hoped the talks signaled an end to bombardments on both sides of the Israeli-Gaza conflict. Those dreams died on Tuesday night when nine rockets flared into Ashdod, Beersheba and Netivot, two blocked by the Iron Dome, causing little destruction in Israel but more dead children and citizens in Gaza when Israel retaliated with airstrikes.

With Israel’s refusal to talk peace under fire, its delegation left Cairo. “Today’s rocket attack on Beersheba is a grave and direct violation of the cease-fire to which Hamas committed itself,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli government. “This is the 11th cease-fire that Hamas has either rejected or violated.”

It had looked like a cease-fire might have been in the offing and backed in part by Hamas. While neither side appeared to give an inch on their long-term demands—Hamas demands a seaport and airport and lifting all restrictions on the Rafah checkpoint in Egypt—it seemed likely that there would be some easing of restrictions at Rafah and an extension of the fishing range if mechanisms to prevent rearmament of Hamas would be put into place. And while Israel is calling for full demilitarization of Gaza, a Palestinian official stated that a partial agreement for gradual measures, such as fewer restrictions on reconstruction materials for the thousands of home destroyed in Gaza and a month-long cease-fire were on the table.

An 11-point proposal, leaked to the media and reportedly submitted by Egypt included the following:

The security blockade would be lifted but would be overseen by Israeli and Egyptian forces as well as the PA—which would play a leading role in restoring Gaza. There would be a gradually reduced buffer zone along the Gaza-Israel border guarded by the PA.

Negotiations on a seaport and airport would be postponed for a month.

All cross border attacks of any sort would be halted, construction of tunnels into Israel stopped immediately. (This last has always been accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas.)

Negotiations on handing over the remains of two dead Israel solders in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails would be postponed.

Egypt would agree to open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai on condition that Hamas accept PA troops as border guards on the Gaza side.

European Union foreign ministers also offered to send troops to police the crossings and train PA police to supervise construction material inside Gaza. However another point was that Israel would give up demands for disarming Hamas.

The proposal was supported by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UN ministers and the UN would be willing to place forces in the Rafah Border crossing, in order to help thwart weapon smuggling into Gaza. However this did not meet with approval in Israel.

Yousef al- Hasayneh told Ma’an news agency last Friday that they expected a complete truce agreement to be signed just as the five-day cease fire ends. He said the Palestinian delegation “has made much progress in ending the siege and the offensive on Palestinians…(and) a final truce,” would ease Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, expand the fishing zone and increase imports into Gaza, especially of construction materials.

It was also reported on Monday that Netanyahu had the agreement but kept it quiet until confronted by foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Netanyahu told the cabinet that he rejected the proposal because it failed to sufficiently address Israel’s security concerns, the demilitarization of Gaza. He reportedly stated, according to Haaretz, that if a draft agreement was presented with that concession he would bring it to the Cabinet for discussion and a vote.

He has faced criticism from several factions concerning the negotiations including from residents of the communities adjacent to Gaza as well as Liberman and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party. Both have argued for a continuing assault on Gaza until it has been taken over and Hamas disarmed or dismantled.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnuah and Finance Minister Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid want Netanyahu to end the fighting by convening an international Middle East peace conference in cooperation with the Arab League. The purpose would be to negotiate an agreement for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Both ministers have been against the Cairo based mediations because it violates Israel’s stance against negotiation with terrorists.

But on Saturday, Egypt said it would not submit any more cease-fire proposals to either side, and senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan threatened Israel with a prolonged war of attrition with strategic tunnels and more precise rockets if its terms for the seaport and airport was not met.

Then the rockets started flying on Tuesday night. The Israelis left Cairo, and Netanyahu vowed to retaliate. The cease-fire, which was to have lasted until Thursday night, was over and so were the talks.

Hamas denied it had attacked. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas said “Hamas does not have any information about the launching of any rockets from Gaza,” and said this was an Israeli tactic to abort the indirect Cairo talks.

The new attacks add credence to reports that the terrorist forces in Gaza are in disarray despite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ efforts to unify all the factions. Abbas is against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts, and has not been able to stop them. Arab media reports of a stronger and more unified delegation also seem to be exaggerated as well as mixed.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah senior official and head of the Palestinian delegation to the truce talks stated more progress than had been made with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Another Palestinian delegation member, Bassam al-Salahi also said there had been some progress but only by postponing talks on a seaport and airport.

However Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri insisted that there can be no long-term calm without the lifting of the Israel coastal blockade imposed with the cooperation of Egypt in 2007. An extension of the cease fire was off the table unless Hamas got immediate concessions. That was backed up by exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who told Al Jazeera Television in Qatar, that delay on their demands would not be acceptable. “We want the passages opened. We want our own port, our own airfield and the central demand—ending the occupation and the settlement project.”

But this changed, according to another PLO official, after a meeting during last weekend between Mashall and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat. According to AFP, he said “It looks like Saeb Erakat persuaded Kahaled Mashaal to push Hamas to accept the Egyptian initiative. It looks like Hamas and Islamic Jihad will agree to the Egyptian paper.”

Other reports were that the Palestinian side was stymied by the refusal of Meshaal and the head of the Hamas military wing, Mohammed Deif (who might have survived an Israeli attempt on his life on Tuesday) to agree with a compromise. It was later learned that Qatar threatened to toss Mashaal out of the country if he agreed to a ceasefire under those terms.

On Sunday Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the US would guarantee Israel’s commitment to any agreement signed with Hamas.

However on Monday, Hamas said it would not accept the Egyptian proposal. On the same day, Israel revealed that during the searches for the boys kidnapped by Hamas on the West Bank, they had discovered an alleged Hamas plot, master minded by Saleh al-Arouri, who lives in Turkey. The plan was to topple Abbas and start a third Palestinian Intifada, including a series of terror acts against targets on both sides of the West Bank.

More than 70 militants were arrested by Israel, and arms and ammunition were found, as well. The coup was potentially the most expansive Hamas operation there since the Second Intifada. Then Abbas indicated that this could break the pact between Fatah and Hamas that was signed in June.

On Tuesday Abbas travelled to Doha to meet with Mashaal and the Qatari emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Qatar, which backs Hamas, also funds ISIS.

ISIS which has changed its name several times, has been seizing land in Iraq and Syria forming a self-proclaimed “caliphate,” and aspires to bring Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Cyprus and Hatay in Turkey under its control.

Purportedly supported by Qatar, ISIS, rejected by Al Qaeda as too extreme, is murdering people—including children, and enslaving women of all religions, primarily other Muslims, Christians and Kurds, if they don’t convert to the ISIS restrictive and harsh form of Sunni Islam. Ironically, the also regard Hamas as apostates have no legitimate authority to lead jihad and consider them an enemy.

A ISIS terrorist, identified by Great Britain as one of its own, beheaded freelance American reporter John Foley on Tuesday and threatened to exterminate 20 others they are holding as hostages.

Reacting to this on Wednesday, President Barack Obama compared ISIS to a cancer that must be extracted from the region.

By Anne Phyllis Pinzow

(from combined sources)

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