Nov 22, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from ABC News: With a tenuous cease-fire in place and no rocket fire between Israel and Hamas for the first time in more than a week, Palestinians have begun to clean up rubble and damage inflicted by Israeli missiles.
People in Gaza filled the streets Thursday morning, inspecting damage to homes and businesses. Overnight, gunfire erupted in the crowded streets of the Palestinian enclave to celebrate the announcement of a cease-fire in the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant political group that essentially controlsl the Gaza Strip.
“It’s a nice message from Palestinians – don’t mess with Palestinians,” said Jalal Marzen Wednesday night during a celebration outside Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital. He and others pointed to the targeting of Tel Aviv by Hamas rockets as a shifting in the balance of power, arguing Israel’s calculations would be forced to change ahead of the next flare-up. “It’s huge, it’s huge for us!” Marzen exclaimed.
Later, however, Israeli officials said several missiles from Gaza flew into Israel after the cease-fire. Israel did not respond with the air srikes that have blanketed Gaza in the past week.
Hamas has declared Nov. 22 a national holiday and said it would be celebrated every year.
“We call on everyone to celebrate, visit the families of martyrs, the wounded, those who lost homes,” Hamas said.
A sense of normalcy returned to Gaza Thursday morning, with traffic again clogging busy intersections and stores opening for business.
“For first time, the Israeli people felt what bombs mean, what rockets mean, what war means, what killing people means,” said clothing store owner Bassem Diazeda, who said he only became a supporter of Hamas since the escalation.
The fighting came to an end after a meeting between Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary. Clinton, who said Egypt and the U.S. would help support the peace process going forward. The eight days of fighting left more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis dead.
The concern now among top diplomats is whether the cease-fire will hold while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders work on a long term solution for peace. Israel is demanding an end to rocket fire from Gaza, while Hamas wants an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and targeted assassinations, the kind that launched Israel’s operation “Pillar of Defense.”
Hamas was not the only group firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Other militant groups in Gaza, such as Islamic Jihad, fired rockets during the eight-day assault. A splinter Palestinian group took responsibility for Wednesday’s bus bombing in Tel Aviv that wounded 23 people.
So the question is whether Hamas can control the more rogue groups in Gaza and stake out a real leadership role.
Clinton said that Egypt and the U.S. would help support the peace process going forward.
“Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for people of the region,” Clinton said.
An Israeli official told ABC News that the cease-fire would mean a “quiet for quiet” deal in which both sides stop shooting and “wait and see what happens.”
“I agree that that it was a good idea to give an opportunity to the cease-fire … in order to enable Israeli citizens to return to their day-to-day lives,” Netanyahu said.
After a 24-hour cooling-off period, the cease-fire calls for “opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents’ free movement.” That could amount to the biggest easing of Israel’s blockade of Gaza since it shut off the territory from much of the world five years ago. Hamas officials said details on the new border arrangements would have to be negotiated.
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Clinton and Morsi met for three hours in Cairo Wednesday to discuss an end to the violence. The U.S. secretary of state met with Netanyahu Tuesday night for more than two hours, saying she sought to “de-escalate the situation in Gaza.”
Both Clinton and President Obama heaped praise on the Egyptian president, who emerged as perhaps the most pivotal party in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Both Obama and Clinton made multiple calls to Morsi, understanding the long-term diplomatic consequences for America’s historically strongest Arab ally in the Middle East, an ally that receives billions of dollars in aid annually.