Gaza Cease Fire a Mirage

photo - www.un.orgAs Gaza continued under Israeli air, artillery and naval bombardment throughout Tuesday, a flurry of activity aimed at achieving a ceasefire agreement continued throughout the day as well.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew in from Asia on orders from President Obama, and diplomats from around the Middle East and the rest of the world huddled intensely over the issue.

At times it looked as though HAMAS, Egypt and Israel seemed to be competing to send optimistic messages, with HAMAS and Egypt both offering hope that a ceasefire would be arranged by the end of the day. Both parties subsequently backed away from that position, though HAMAS continued to hint at a possible ‘calming down’.

Adding to the chorus of hope for an early cessation of hostilities, Israeli authorities suggested that while the Israeli Defense Forces were ready to launch a ground offensive against HAMAS in Gaza, Israel would much prefer not to be forced to resort to such an eventuality. Speaking alongside Secretary Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem with diplomatic means, we prefer that, but if not, I'm sure you understand that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people."

In the meantime HAMAS sources continued to issue defiant statements, and to target Tel Aviv and other population centers with rockets. Israel Defense Forces continued air-strikes overnight. IDF sources said 70 rockets were fired from Gaza on Tuesday.

More than 105 people in Gaza and three people in Israel have been killed during the hostilities, which began last Wednesday after Israel targeted a HAMAS military leader in a drone attack. Since then HAMAS has targeted Israeli territory with hundreds of rockets and missiles. The IDF have responded with some 1500 strikes against targets inside Gaza. Tens of thousands of Israeli reservists have been called up in preparation for a looming ground assault.

By evening on Tuesday it was clear that despite upbeat statements from HAMAS and from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, there would be no early ceasefire, as HAMAS rockets continued to land in Israel and IDF weaponry responded vigorously. Israel suffered its first military fatality in the week of violence, and another child was killed in Gaza.

HAMAS continues to make demands of Israel without offering any concessions in return. This makes it unclear what solution can be arrived at without a devastating Israeli ground offensive. HAMAS may wish to pull Israel into such a confrontation, hoping that by doing so the Palestinian cause may acquire leverage against Israel with Western governments.

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