The 8th day of Operation Pillar of Cloud, or Pillar of Defense, has come to an end, and with it the operation itself, with a “ceasefire” which went into effect at 9 p.m. local time.
The reason I wrote ceasefire in quote marks is because it had barely started when it was broken by Hamas firing 12 rockets into Israel (Times of Israel updates the number to 20).
From the first link:
Several rockets were launched from Gaza toward south Israel after 9 pm Wednesday, when the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel took effect. The IDF held its fire.
I don’t call that “a ceasefire taking effect”. I call that “a ceasefire being broken by Hamas”.
Air raid sirens were heard after 9 pm in Eshkol, Sderot and the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils. Rockets landed in the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils, but there were no reports of injury or damage.
Sirens were sounded in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and surrounding communities shortly after 10 pm. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted one rocket over Ashdod. Around 10:30 sirens were heard in Ashdod, Gan Yave and Gedera.
IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai confirmed that the ceasefire had taken effect at 9 pm in accordance with the political echelon’s instructions. “The IDF has stopped firing at the Strip and will open fire only if our forces are put in danger,” he said.
How can he confirm the ceasefire taking effect if the firing hasn’t stopped? As a friend is wont to say: “We cease, they fire”. We are insane.
The IDF spokesman added that a decision on whether to release the reserve forces would be made on Thursday.
“The operation’s goals have been achieved. Hamas suffered a serious blow and is in a great amount of distress. After the organization’s leaders come out from their hiding places, they will see the extent of destruction. We understand from intelligence sources that Hamas is in distress.”
According to Mordechai, time will tell what the deterrence did to Hamas. “We’ll know within weeks or months. The chief of staff is in the south, issuing orders to the forces. We are alert and ready.”
Hamas said that it has officially ordered its military wing to stop firing projectiles on Israel, but rockets continued to be fired from Gaza towards the south of the country after the ceasefire took effect.
So either Hamas is lying, and they haven’t ordered their “military wing” (as if thy have another wing) to stop firing, or they have no power, in which case what is the point of making a ceasefire with them?
A Grad rocket that was fired towards Beersheba at around 8 pm Wednesday hit a house, but there no reports of injury. At least five rockets were fired toward the southern city shortly after Egypt declared that a truce between Israel and Hamas will go into effect at 9 pm. Rockets also landed in Netivot and Ashkelon.
Later, additional rockets were fired toward Ashdod, Netivot, Beer Tuvia and the Bnei Shimon and Hof Ashkelon regional councils. Some of the rockets landed in open areas, while others were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.
It was further reported that a projectile exploded in an open area on the Israel-Egypt border. The IDF estimates that the rocket was fired from Sinai. No injuries were reported.
The IDF responded to the rocket barrage with heavy artillery fire and aerial strikes. Palestinian sources in Gaza said one person was killed and eight others were injured.
Earlier, Egypt announced that a ceasefire had been reached to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Heavy rocket barrages on south Israel followed the announcement, but there were no reports of injury.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr made the announcement in a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The ceasefire would come into effect at 9 pm, Amr said.
“These efforts … have resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen,” Amr said.
The deal was brokered by the new Islamist government of Egypt, solidifying its role as a leader in the quickly shifting Middle East. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.
Now there’s a comforting thought, with an Islamist Egyptian government who has suggested abrogating the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, now being granted the power to monitor and maintain the Israel-Hamas truce. Unbelievable.
Clinton said the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza had come at a crucial time for countries of the Middle East.
“This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone for regional stability and peace,” she said at the joint news conference with her Egyptian counterpart.
You can guess from my snarky comments above how I really feel about this ceasefire. I am almost incoherent with frustration at the short-sightedness of our leaders. The job has not been finished and I can guarantee that within a year or two at most we will be at this very same spot all over again. Hamas may be “distressed” but they are not disarmed, they are still in power and they can claim “victory” over Israel at having forced us into a ceasefire while having shot at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and even bombed a Tel Aviv bus earlier today. What more could any terrorist organization ask for?
I shall quote here some comments from my previous post which express my sentiments perfectly:
Well there’s now a ceasefire set for about 10 minutes from now.
– There’ll still be a few rockets from Gaza, but Hamas will deny responsibility and Clinton et al. will say, “Oh, it’s a radical group they can’t control.”
– The number of rockets will increase.
– Israel will (as it did over the last few months) complain to the UN and whoever is supposed to be “guaranteeing” the ceasefire.
– The number of rockets will continue to increase.
– Israel will then, in the words of the BBC, CBC, etc. “shatter the ceasefire”
It might take days, it might take weeks–it might even take months–but that’s what’s going to happen.
Well, I was optimistic–they’re firing already.
Will Israel respond? If they do, you know who’ll get the blame for breaking the ceasefire.
Leslie Greenberg says:
I can vouch for that! I hear booms from my apartment in Ashkelon. I, too, predicted it when I heard about the alleged ceasefire. The only country in the world that has a building code that requires a bomb shelter in every home and apartment is Israel. Do they think it’s a decorating choice??
Here is the (very short) text of the ceasefire agreement:
1: (no title given for this section)
A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.
B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
C. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
D. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2: Implementation mechanisms:
A. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect.
B. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
C. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.
Regarding point 1C, the crossings between Israel and Gaza have always been open for certain periods of time so I don’t know why Hamas need to demand something that already exists.
However regarding point 2C, since Hamas breached the ceasefire almost as soon as it came into effect, what is Egypt proposing to do about it? As an interested and non-neutral party, can Egypt even be trusted at all?
I am in good company in my opinion of the ceasefire. Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz asserts that the ceasefire means that Hamas has won:
Politicians to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right and left spoke out against Wednesday night’s ceasefire, with only Labor, Meretz and others on the left supporting it.
“The goals of his operation were not reached, and the next round is only a matter of time,” opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said. “We should not have stopped at this stage. Hamas got stronger and we did not gain deterrence.” Mofaz referred to his experience as IDF chief of staff and leading Operation Defensive Shield, saying it is possible to defeat terror.
“The army knows how to do its work, and we could have won this time. A ceasefire at this point is a mistake; this is not how a war against terror ends. Hamas has the upper hand,” he stated.
Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh accused Netanyahu of cynically using the residents of the South and making the equation “the higher the number of victims, the higher number of Knesset seats.” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid criticized Netanyahu for ‘failing to achieve the goals” that the government had set for itself in the ceasefire announcement.
I feel that Ronit Tirosh went too far here. I do not believe Netanyahu used the war for election purposes. However I am astonished to find myself agreeing with Yair Lapid.
“While the IDF showed impressive capabilities and the Israeli home front displayed strength, the government showed weakness and hesitation in reaching its objectives and promising quiet to the residents of Israel,” Lapid said.
He added that Netanyahu had said he would not speak with Hamas, but then changed direction and negotiated with them Lapid also called for immediate compensation of those living in the South who suffered from rocket attacks.
“Despite the heavy disappointment of tens of thousands of reservists and millions of residents that sat in shelters, we will beat Hamas and remove the threat of missiles,” newly-elected Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett said.
“If it doesn’t happen now, it will happen in the coming months.” Strong Israel leaders MKs Michael Ben-Ari and Arieh Eldad called the ceasefire a “white flag and a surrender to terror.”
“Instead of letting the IDF smash [Hamas], the government left this operation with its tail between its legs and not reaching any of its objectives,” they stated. “Even the Right thinks Netanyahu must go home.”
National Union leader-elect Uri Ariel called Netanyahu’s press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman “a sad performance meant to give an excuse for the embarrassing surrender.” “Residents of Israel feel they have been betrayed, and they know they will painfully pay for the government’s hesitation,” Ariel said.
As Hamas continued launching rockets into Israel after the ceasefire began at 9 p.m., MK Danny Danon (Likud) said that if the terrorist group even throws a rock into Israel, there must be “a disproportionate reaction that will wipe out Hamas, its command, its soldiers and its missiles, even if the whole world is against us.” Danon called to cut off electricity to Gaza every time a missile is launched toward Israel.
I have a better idea. Cut off the electricity to Gaza altogether. Let them get it from their Egyptian pals. Why should Israel fuel them and feed them, only to have it all thrown back in our faces with the next rocket attack?
PM Binyamin Netanyahu predictably praised the ceasefire, President Obama, and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. The only tiny bit of good news was in this line:
Israel has agreed to the truce, but will not lift its blockade of Gaza as part of the deal, according to an Israeli official.
We can be thankful for small mercies.
Here’s a final summing up of the last day of Operation Pillar of Cloud from the Times of Israel’s live-blog:
14:53 Hamas is expressing joy over the bus explosion in Tel Aviv, calling it a “valiant and courageous operation” and a “natural response to the aggression against Gaza,” the Palestinian Quds Press news agency reports.
However Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi condemned these celebrations:
14:45 Deputy Knesset Speaker MK Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Ta’al party condemns the Gazan celebrations of the Tel Aviv bus bombing via Twitter, and expresses his opposition to the targeting of civilians.
The Israeli Air Force has stepped up strikes across the Gaza Strip in the wake of Wednesday’s bus bombing, Channel 2 is reporting.
Ehud Ya’ari, the channel’s Arab affairs expert, says Israeli aircraft are bombing targets from Rafah, at the territory’s southern edge, to neighborhoods north of Gaza City.
Yaari says “tens of thousands” of Palestinians have fled their homes in Gaza in recent hours, fearing Israeli retaliation for the Tel Aviv bombing. They are seeking shelter in schools and other facilities run by the United Nations in the Palestinian territory, he said.
In “astonishing news of the day” category, we read the following:
15:36 Israeli rocker Aviv Geffen, a longtime symbol of the peace movement, is defending Israel’s military operation in Gaza.
“You can’t come and criticize and say, ‘How dare you?’ Come and live here. No country would tolerate such a prolonged missile attack without responding,” Geffen said in an interview with the Israeli news site Ynet on Wednesday.
“I say that if you don’t live here, in this conflict, it will be very hard for you to criticize,” Geffen said.
Geffen was speaking ahead of a benefit concert Thursday for residents of southern Israel.
Geffen became famous in the 1990s as a teen idol who supported reconciliation with the Palestinians and did not serve in the military.
Non-surprise of the day:
16:30 AP reports: An Iranian news agency says the head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard has disclosed his country has given fighters in Gaza the ability to produce longer-range missiles on their own, without direct shipments.
The comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency, offer some of the clearest insights on Iran’s weapons support for Hamas, whose Iranian-engineered Fajr-5 missiles have struck near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the past week of rocket exchange with Israel.
The report Wednesday quotes Jafari as saying Iran has supplied technology to Gaza for the missiles to be produced “quickly.”
Up to now, Iran denied it directly supplied Hamas with the Fajr-5.
Iran also backs the anti-Israel faction Hezbollah in Lebanon, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel during a monthlong 2006 war.
One of the houses damaged earlier today in the Be’er Tuvia region was hit for the second time in a matter of days, Ynet reports. Several days ago, a rocket exploded several meters from the house and sprayed it with shrapnel; today, the house suffered extensive damage after a Grad rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck the courtyard.
Haya, 83, who lives alone in her house, stood in the hallway when the rocket hit, Ynet reports. She says that workers had just finished cleaning up the broken glass and debris from the last attack when the second rocket hit.
“The explosion was massive,” she tells Ynet. “All of the glass shattered around me and I saw fire and smoke before my eyes. I feared that the gas [line] would explode, but my daughter arrived and hugged me and helped me get out.”
Channel 2 TV’s political analyst says Israel does not want a written ceasefire deal with Hamas, but rather an informal arrangement.
Israel’s government believes a written deal would be “like a deal with the mafia,” Udi Segal says.
Israel does not want formal guarantees from Egypt, because that would risk involving Egypt in the next round of Gaza violence, risking a historic peace agreement that Israel sees as a “strategic asset.”
Israel is currently ratcheting up its strikes in Gaza to show Hamas that dragging its feet on a ceasefire will cost it dearly, he says.
If Hamas ceases shooting, so will Israel, Segal says. The quiet will then be tested over a period of days or weeks, after which Israel might consider a gesture to Hamas like green-lighting the full opening of the Gaza-Egypt border terminal at Rafah.
In return, Egypt would promise to cut off the flow of rockets into Gaza, he says.
Conflicting reports are coming in about at least four Israelis injured after a volley of rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in the Eshkol border region.
Ynet reports seven injured, one moderately and two lightly injured.
Four are being evacuated by helicopter to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and three are being evacuated to Tel Hashomer Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, according to Ynet.
17:53 At least 116 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, 71 of which exploded in Israeli territory, the IDF spokesperson tells The Times of Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted at least 21 inbound rockets.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr announce an Israel-Hamas ceasefire which will take effect at 9 p.m. local time.
According to Reuters, truce includes end to assassinations and incursions, and easing of movement for Palestinians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman are expected to hold a press conference later this evening.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed “to give the Egyptian ceasefire proposal a chance,” his office announces. This would allow the situation “to stabilize and to calm” before the need would have arisen to expand Operation Pillar of Defense.
Netanyahu says Israel reserves the right to “take all necessary steps to protect its citizens.”
The last rockets to hit Israel exploded near Shaar Hanegev and Ashkelon around 7:30 p.m.
19:52 Israeli media urges citizens to remain vigilant until and after the ceasefire takes effect at 9 p.m. Less than a half hour after ceasefire is announced, Channel 2 reports air-raid sirens in Beersheba.
19:58 Five Grad rockets fired from the Gaza Strip moments after the announcement of an Israel-Hamas ceasefire explode near Beersheba, Channel 2 reports. Four are believed to have landed in open areas; one scores a direct hit on a house in Beersheba, causing damage but no injuries.
The live blog then goes into details about the ceasefire which I have discussed at the beginning of this post, and then brings a very interesting item:
A Channel 2 snap poll finds that 70 percent of the Israeli public does not support signing a ceasefire with Hamas, while 24% are in favor of it. Six percent say they don’t know.
Asked how long they believe the ceasefire will hold, 64% say they think it will last a short while, 24% say it won’t last at all, and 7% say it will last for a long time.
Asked if Operation Pillar of Defense reinstated Israel’s deterrence, 58% say it has been strengthened, 15% say it was weakened and 26% say it hasn’t changed.
A rocket fired from Gaza after the ceasefire took effect at 9 p.m. explodes outside the town of Shaar Hanegev, causing no injuries, Israeli media report.
Military sources indicate that they would not be surprised if rogue terror cells test the ceasefire in its early phases.
And this is called a ceasefire. What part of the word “cease” do these people not understand?
22:01 One of the soldiers injured in a rocket attack in the Eshkol region earlier in the day is reportedly fighting for his life.
This statement from Hamas’s leader demonstrates perfectly what is so completely wrong with this ceasefire:
Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal says the “package deal” bars the IDF from the Gaza border area and frees up trade access to Gaza, reports Channel 2′s Ehud Yaari — “a very different picture from the one painted by Israel of the deal,” he says.
In a joint press conference with Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Saleh, Mashaal says “Israel capitulated to our demands.”
“The enemy’s leaders failed in their adventure. The border crossings will be opened to people and goods. We were adamant about going ahead with a package deal and despite Israel’s refusal, we got our wish,” Mashaal says.
As long as their “achievements” can be presented as a victory, and the ceasefire terms can be perceived as a loss for or humbling of Israel, Hamas will never be defeated. Their people will either be too supportive or too frightened to oppose them and bring them down.
And a final accounting of the figures for Operation Pillar of Cloud:
22:28 At the official conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense, a total of 1,506 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of which exploded in open, rather than populated areas, of the country, the IDF Spokesperson reports.
At least 875 rockets, 58 percent, landed in open areas of Israel, and a mere 58 — 3.8% — exploded in urban areas, according to the IDF’s statistics. Attempted launches of rockets failed 152 times. The Iron Dome missile defense system scored 421 interceptions, with an overall success rate of 84%. Five Israelis were killed by rocket fire, and 240 were injured, and 177 Palestinians were killed — of whom approximately 120 were combatants, according to the IDF — and over 900 were injured.
According to the statement published by the Spokesperson Unit, the IDF carried out over 1,500 airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, including “19 senior command centers, operational control centers and Hamas’ senior-rank headquarters, 30 senior operatives, damaging Hamas’ command and control, hundreds of underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 terror tunnels,dozens of Hamas operation rooms and bases, 26 weapon manufacturing and storage facilities and dozens of long-range rocket launchers and launch sites.”
And for a Grand Finale, how could we have managed all week without the UN?
With a cease-fire announced in the Gaza crisis, the Security Council suspends a formal open debate that had been scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
The council has been silent since Israel launched air raids on Hamas in Gaza, responding to months of Hamas rocket fire into Israel.
Arab nations on Tuesday had called for an open debate if a ceasefire was not arranged.
Instead, the council will hold closed consultations, then hear a report by videoconference from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been talking with leaders in the Middle East on the crisis.
Let us hope the ceasefire holds although, as you may have guessed by now, I have zero confidence in such an unlikely thing happening. And when it is broken, it will only be considered as such when Israel “hits back first”. Sound familiar?