Amidst great uncertainty the Egyptian negotiated ceasefire went into effect this morning between Hamas and Israel.
Under the truce Hamas has agreed to halt the Qassam shell attacks against neighboring Israeli territories, in return for an incentive laden plan that starts with the cessation of military action, and could result in the easing of the blockade as well as the potential reopening of the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Israel.
In an attempt to maintain the calm, Hamas has pledged to withdraw its fighters from the border, as the Israeli army has been ordered to show the utmost restraint. However even with these measures the early going has been shaky as the rules of engagement for Israeli forces remain unclear, except that if fired upon they may respond. On the other side, the numerous Palestinian factions have agreed to all abide by the truce, as head of the political-security bureau at the Israeli Defense Ministry Amos Gilad made it clear that “even if a single Qassam rocket is launched by a small faction, that is a fundamental violation of the agreement”.
While both sides take a much-needed respite from the conflict, there is already discontent amongst Israelis as the cease-fire does not provide conditions for captured soldier Gilad Shalit’s return. Additionally the deal struck is a far cry from the “quiet for quiet” plan that was initially proposed. Many fear that an easing of the blockade could lead to a re-arming of Hamas by allowing desperately needed supplies into the region, as well as open the door for the smuggling of arms to pick up as third party Europeans would monitor the crossing.
Yet amidst all of these concerns, there is still hope that the truce will last. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the agreement would help ease the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip in addition to providing steps towards mutual security. For the residents living through the conflict on both sides it is a welcome break from the pervasive violence that has come to characterize their daily lives.