Gaza: will ceasefire last?

Israeli forces began slowly withdrawing from the Gaza Strip Jan. 19, following a tentative truce with Hamas. Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip agreed to honor Israel’s declared ceasefire on the condition that Israeli troops are out of the Gaza Strip within one week. Hamas and other Gaza factions denied that Israel had “imposed its conditions” on the resistance.

In a joint statement, Hamas and its resistance partners declared: “We the Palestinian resistant factions, announce a ceasefire from our side in Gaza Strip. We confirm our stance and our demand for Israeli troops to withdraw from Gaza in a week, that Israel opens the borders, and crossing points for humanitarian aid convoys.”

“The enemy has failed to achieve its goals,” Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Hamas administration in Gaza, said in a speech, calling the cease-fire decision “wise and responsible.” Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha emphasized the necessity of pressure on Israel to fully withdraw and lift the siege of Gaza, and hailed the decision of the Jan. 16 Doha Summit of Arab nations to implement a boycott of Israel.

Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab said the decision was based on consideration for the “common national interest” of the parties involved in the war, and to allow aid convoys to enter Gaza. Shehab told Ma’an News Agency, “The resistance won on the ground and now we will go onto the political battle.” When asked what will happen if Israel does not evacuate the Strip by Jan. 25, Shehab replied: “Then all options are open and no-one would dare…hold us accountable.”

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz cited anonymous Israeli officials as saying that troops would withdraw completely before Barack Obama’s inauguration as the new US president on Jan. 20. Government spokesman Mark Regev would not confirm the timetable, but said that if Gaza remains calm Israel’s departure will be almost immediate.

The sole holdout in the ceasefire agreement is reportedly the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In an interview with AlJazeera, PFLP politburo member Maher At-Taher insisted that “the Israeli attack is continuing.” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 19; Ma’an News Agency, Jan. 18)

See our last post on the Gaza.

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