An explosion is seen during an Israeli air strike in Gaza City August 8, 2018. .
(photo credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS)
By the time you read this, any number of scenarios could have played out. The situation in the South could be calm. Thursday’s routine of rockets fired at Israel and IDF retaliation on Gaza could continue. Or, as was stated during the day by an IDF official, Israel could be preparing for a large-scale operation in Gaza to restore quiet to Israel’s southern communities, especially after rockets reached as far as the Beersheba area.
That’s been the unfortunate reality for Israelis who spent another night in their bomb shelters trying to avoid the latest onslaught of rockets fired by Hamas and its fellow nefarious peace rejectionists in Gaza – not knowing whether the next day will be normal or war. It can’t continue like this.
The latest escalation ostensibly was triggered by the IDF’s killing of two Hamas snipers on Tuesday, which the IDF conceded had been an error. The snipers were apparently conducting a training drill and not firing at Israelis.
Still, Hamas pledged retaliation, and we again witnessed the tit-for-tat attacks that have plagued Gaza and southern Israel ever since Hamas forcibly took control of the Strip on June 14, 2007, after Israel’s unilateral disengagement led by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz accused Iran and the Palestinian Authority of inflaming the situation, and warned in an interview on Israel Radio’s Kan Bet that the IDF could carry out a broad military operation against Hamas in Gaza.
The surreal aspect of the last few days is that Israel and Hamas are in the deep throes of considering an Egyptian and UN-brokered comprehensive cease-fire plan. Asked if some kind of cease-fire arrangement was still possible, Steinitz said, “Yes, but the question remains if it will come before or after a military operation.”
Israel’s security cabinet convened on Thursday to consider its response to the escalation and discuss a possible five-year hudna (truce) with Hamas, after the UN and Egypt indicated that a new deal was in the works. According to a Turkish news agency report, Hamas and Israel would observe a two-week trial cease-fire as part of the deal. So far, every attempt at a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has failed, and there are no guarantees that this one will last either, even if both sides are not interested in a devastating war. The only solution, it appears to us, is for the international community to intervene immediately and demand the following:
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• There can be no more attacks on Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad or any other terrorist groups. In response, Israel will halt its attacks on targets in Gaza.
• Hamas must immediately return the two Israeli citizens and the remains of the two IDF soldiers being held in Gaza. In exchange, Israel will reopen all crossings into Gaza and allow the transfer of humanitarian supplies.
• Hamas must hand over power in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, as required by all previous peace deals. Israel will then gradually ease its blockade on Gaza and allow international aid with suitable monitoring mechanisms.
Israel has acted with restraint time and time again, even as Palestinians in Gaza attempted to storm the border with Israel week after week and launched a lethal “kite intifada,” threatening life and property by sending hundreds of hectares in Israel’s South up in flames. More international pressure clearly must be put on Hamas to cease its attacks, instead of the usual diplomatic tightrope act that usually accompanies the world community’s attempts to blame both sides for the escalation.
In the meantime, Israel has to convey a message of strength while promising that if calm is achieved, it is ready to help in solving Gaza’s real problems: providing food, water, electricity, fuel, medical and other supplies to its more than 1.8 million residents.
Their suffering can only end when the residents of southern Israel can live without fear of constant attacks, warning sirens, running into shelters, and intolerable disruptions to their lives. They deserve, as do the people of Gaza, to live in peace. We hope cooler heads will prevail and the current violence is precursor for the cease-fire plan being worked out. But if not, we count on the IDF to do what it takes to bring quiet to the South.
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