Israel accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal on Monday night that is to go into effect Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.
Senior diplomatic officials pointed out that from the early stages of the Gaza operation Israel had accepted the Egyptian proposal.
They stressed that the ceasefire was unconditional and pointed out that its acceptance came after Israel finished destroying the terror tunnels.
The officials said Israel was preparing for the possibility that Hamas would violate the cease-fire, as it has done in the past, and also cautioned the Israeli public to continue to be vigilant as Hamas could try to carry out a major attack for a final “victory picture” before the cease-fire goes into effect.
It was not immediately clear when an Israeli delegation would head to Cairo for indirect talks on a long-term agreement.
The officials said that if the cease-fire was honored there would be no reason for a continued IDF presence inside the Gaza Strip.
The members of the security cabinet were informed of the decision, but there was no reason for a vote.
Earlier on Monday, Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo discussions on a cease-fire formula, confirmed that a ceasefire would go into effect Tuesday morning. Al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, said the cease-fire would be for 72-hours, during which Israel and the Palestinian factions would hold indirect talks in Cairo about consolidating the truce.
Other Palestinian and Egyptian sources had claimed on Monday night that a cease-fire agreement would go into effect at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Ziad al-Nakhaleh, deputy head of Islamic Jihad and a member of the delegation, said in a TV interview that he expected a cease-fire agreement to be announced “in the coming hours.” He added that the Egyptians had demonstrated “great understanding” for the demands of the Palestinians regarding a cease-fire.
The Palestinian delegation presented their demands to the Egyptians late on Sunday. The demands called for an immediate cease-fire and a lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip, in addition to the reopening of all border crossings. They also called for international assurances that Israel would refrain from launching military attacks, and for UN assistance in rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians also demanded an airport and seaport in addition to free passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Israeli officials dismissed this list of demands in recent days as “completely unrealistic.”
Before the flurry of reports about a possible cease-fire, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday afternoon that the Gaza campaign was continuing and the only element coming to a conclusion right now was the actions against the tunnels.
“The campaign will end only when quiet and security for a prolonged period of time is restored to Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said following security deliberations with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz at the headquarters of the IDF’s Southern Command in Beersheba.
Netanyahu, in his comments, made no mention of an imminent ceasefire.
A 72-hour cease-fire brokered last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ended 90 minutes after it began, with the killing of three soldiers in Rafah.
With questions increasingly being raised in Israel as to the wisdom of redeploying IDF troops along the Gaza border as Hamas rocket fire on Israel continues, Netanyahu reiterated what he had said repeatedly over the past few weeks: that Israel was delivering a very hard blow to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.
“We have no intention of harming Gaza civilians, and those harming them are for all intents and purposes Hamas, which also denies them access to humanitarian aid,” the prime minister said. “I think the international community needs to roundly condemn Hamas and demand, as we are, that the rehabilitation of Gaza will be linked to its demilitarization.”
Ya’alon, who also stressed that the campaign had not yet ended, said it had “set Hamas back five years.”
In light of Hamas’s violation of the 72-hour cease fire declared on Friday, Ya’alon said, “we are acting independently without [being involved] in any process. If someone in the final analysis wants to stop the fire, they should call us.”
Israel’s campaign would not end “until there will be a full cease-fire and an understanding that they don’t fire on us and don’t threaten us,” the defense minister added.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday during a visit to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems’s Iron Dome development and manufacturing facility that “since Israel cannot agree to a long-term war of attrition, in the coming days we will need to decide – according to the developments on the ground – if we are headed to a cease-fire and an agreement or to new escalation of the campaign and a decision.”
Earlier in the day, Netanyahu visited wounded soldiers at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.
“You are the finest of our sons,” he told some of the soldiers. “You are doing holy work in defending the citizens of Israel. The entire nation is behind you. I am proud of each one of you.”
In the halls of the hospital Netanyahu spoke, and at times exchanged hugs, with the families of the soldiers, as well as with the medical staff.
In a related development, diplomatic officials did not attach too much significance to a statement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday calling on the world powers to impose a political solution to halt the conflict.
Relating to Sunday’s killing of 10 people at a UN school facility in Rafah and the ongoing rocket fire on Israel, Fabius said: “This is why we need a political solution, of which the components are known, and which I believe should be imposed by the international community, because the two parties – despite countless efforts – have unfortunately shown themselves incapable of completing talks.”
“Cease-fire, imposition of a twostate solution and security for Israel – there is no other way,” he added.
One diplomatic official in Jerusalem dismissed this as simply “posturing,” saying there was no “organized idea or plan” behind the words.
It shows a certain degree of frustration at the situation, but no more than that, the official said, adding that there was no move inside the EU at this time to try to impose a solution on the sides.
Another official said that Jerusalem had been “pleasantly” surprised by support from European leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron and France’s François Hollande.
The problem in Europe, the official said, was not with the leaders but with the various publics, which were heavily influenced by the unending pictures of the carnage and destruction inside Gaza. That public opinion does trickle up and impact on the leaders, the official acknowledged.
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