The IDF accepted the ceasefire, crafted by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas Saturday night, with more suspicion and hesitancy than excitement.
On the one hand, military officials are hopeful the cease-fire will last and turn out to be the first step toward a real long-term resolution with the Palestinians.
On the other hand, the IDF is concerned that the Palestinian terrorist factions will take advantage of the quiet on the military front and step up the smuggling of large quantities of weapons from Egypt into Gaza. In other words, build up the terrorist infrastructure.
Before the truce that came into effect Sunday at 6 a.m., the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) were talking about launching widespread operations in the Gaza Strip, retaking the Philadelphi Corridor along the border with Egypt and grabbing swaths of land in the northern Gaza Strip to stop Kassam rocket attacks.
Less than two weeks ago, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin told the Knesset that since implementation of the disengagement plan more than 33 tons of military-grade explosives and between $50 million-$70m. in cash have been smuggled into Gaza. OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant has also expressed grave concern over the smuggling and was in favor of a large-scale operation to stop it.
The IDF is suspicious of the terrorist organizations' true intent for accepting the cease-fire and stopping the Kassam attacks on the Western Negev. While some defense officials cited US President George W. Bush's scheduled visit to Jordan on Wednesday as one motive for the respite in violence, most IDF and defense officials agreed that a large-scale, brigade-level operation planned to be launched on Tuesday was the real reason. The Palestinians were scared of the consequences and now with the cease-fire those plans have been suspended.
This is not the first time a cease-fire was reached with the Palestinians and used to build up an army. In February 2005, prime minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas declared a cease-fire to end four years of violence. In the end however, Military Intelligence (MI) and the Shin Bet discovered that the cease-fire was mostly used as a cover-up for terrorist factions that used the quiet to rebuild their destroyed infrastructure in the Gaza Strip ahead of disengagement.
With financial support from Teheran and direct logistic support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas has, according to MI, built up a 10,000-strong military in Gaza. Split into four brigades - corresponding to four sections of the Gaza Strip - it is welltrained and equipped with top-tier antitank missiles, high-grade explosives and even antiaircraft missiles, all smuggled into Gaza from Egypt.
Despite the cease-fire, the Shin Bet and Southern Command plan to keep a close eye on the Egyptian border to ensure that the smuggling, which according to the ceasefire terms is supposed to stop, does at least decrease.
If it doesn't, the IDF could find itself, when the violence resumes, facing a much stronger and deadlier Hamas military machine.