Gaza Ceasefire Signed

United States Secretary of State Hillary ClintonIf one were to take a cue from the behavior exhibited by HAMAS cadres and ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza after the announcement that a ceasefire agreement had been reached and signed between Israel and HAMAS, one might be excused for believing that HAMAS had won a major military victory over Gaza’s larger, much more powerful neighbor.

Perhaps the major driving emotion among residents of Gaza, after a week of unrelenting air, naval and artillery bombardment of their territory, was actually relief that the bloody confrontation that had caused the deaths of over 140 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and injured a thousand more, was finally over.

Israel suffered 5 deaths over the 8 days of hostilities. Literally hundreds of rockets were launched against Israel, with most of them falling harmlessly into the countryside or intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Some HAMAS rockets did strike home, and the city of Tel Aviv was several times targeted, though without success. Israel launched over 1500 sorties against HAMAS weapons emplacements and bases, and had made preparations for a major ground offensive, calling up 75,000 reservists.

It may well have been the practical realization that further confrontation would force Israel’s hand, requiring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send in the Israeli Defense Forces to suppress HAMAS and occupy Gaza, that induced the HAMAS leadership to yield to reason and call a halt to their rocket attacks.

Netanyahu had repeatedly warned that Israel could not permit HAMAS rocket attacks to go unanswered, but that Israel would much prefer to see a diplomatic solution over a military incursion.

The facts, though, are that for eight days HAMAS found itself at the center of the world stage, attracting pronouncements of moral support from many sources and enjoying the spectacle of Middle Eastern and Western nations scurrying around attempting to bring closure to a bloody episode.

President Obama, in Asia on a tour of ASEAN nations, dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Israel to press for a ceasefire agreement. The HAMAS leadership played their role to the hilt, making demands of Israel as though HAMAS was in control of the situation and Israel the one on the ropes.

However, Israel’s clear determination to press home a vigorous response to continuing HAMAS attacks, combined with strenuous efforts by Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi to broker a ceasefire agreement, eventually cut through HAMAS’ will to resist. HAMAS had attempted to bring down international opprobrium on Israel by trumpeting the deaths of women and particularly children at the hands of Israeli weaponry.

However, Israel was able to blunt this appeal by showing that HAMAS had deliberately placed its own weaponry and bases among civilian dwellings, thus creating an untenable situation for innocent civilians who were sacrificed for HAMAS’ political objectives.

The ceasefire agreement was made public via a joint announcement in Cairo by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and came into force at 3pm East Caribbean time. Egyptian President Morsi has garnered international credit for doggedly pursuing the ceasefire solution, and eventually being instrumental in brokering the final agreement.

The agreement calls for the discussion of a number of issues, including freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, and a commitment by Israel not to target Palestinian militants within Gaza.

It was the November 14 assassination by Israeli forces of Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the head of Hamas' military wing, that ignited the fighting.

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