It appears that a serious diplomatic miscommunication between Israel and the United States may have led to the breakdown of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas during Operation Protective Edge last month, according to Army Radio.
The IDF-run radio station reported on Tuesday that the Americans mistakenly led Israel to believe that Hamas accepted an unconditional 72-hour cease-fire when in fact the Palestinian Islamist group never gave its consent to a key Israeli demand that it refrain from attacking troops already on the ground in Gaza.
On August 1, there were reports that Israel and Hamas would abide by a 72-hour cease-fire brokered by the US and the United Nations. The truce was scheduled to go into effect at 8:00 a.m.
Ninety minutes into the cease-fire
, two IDF infantrymen were killed by Hamas operatives in an ambush near Rafah
as they were searching for underground tunnels. In the attack, Hamas terrorists ran off with the body of Sec.-Lt. Hadar Goldin
, who was later declared killed in action
In the subsequent chain of events, heavy artillery fire was reported in the Rafah area, resulting in dozens of Palestinian casualties
, according to reports.
Citing Israeli officials who have confirmed fresh details that have come to light, Army Radio says that the incident appears to have been borne out of a misunderstanding between the two men who brokered the cease-fire – US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – and the Israeli government.
Israel and the US accused Hamas of violating the cease-fire
. For his part, Hamas diplomatic bureau chief Khaled Mashaal claimed that there was no violation of the truce, since Hamas never agreed to hold its fire against IDF soldiers who were operating on Gazan soil in search of tunnels.
Israeli officials confirmed to Army Radio that in retrospect Mashaal and Hamas never committed to a truce deal whereby it pledged not to act against IDF troops in Gaza even though Washington led the Israeli government to believe that Hamas did in fact promise to do just that.
Just before the cease-fire went into effect, Israeli officials were wary that Hamas would exploit the truce in order to launch attacks against soldiers and civilians
“We demanded two things from the Americans,” a diplomatic source in Jerusalem is quoted as telling Army Radio. “We wanted a cease-fire, and we wanted complete freedom of operation against the tunnels, without the threat of coming under fire from Hamas.”
“We demanded it in writing, that Hamas accepts these conditions,” the official said. “There were also the statements to the press.”
Kerry broke the news of the three-day, unconditional truce in a statement to the media. A UN spokesperson also confirmed that as part of the cease-fire, IDF troops would be permitted to remain in place, where they would have a free hand to ferret out more tunnels. In other words, the perception in Israel was that Hamas had agreed to hold their fire while the IDF searched for tunnels in Gaza, what in hindsight turned out to be incorrect.
According to Army Radio, the US misled Israel, though Israeli officials do not believe there was any malicious intent on the part of Washington. Nonetheless, the mishap and breakdown in communication between the Israeli government and the Obama administration
was symptomatic of an overall deterioration in trust
, something which was amplified during the Gaza operation