Update – 22 November 2012

Posted by Emily Gian on 22 November 2012 at 3:32pm:

Just over 9 hours ago, a ceasefire between the Israelis and Hamas came into effect, but much has happened in the last 24 hours, so I think it is worth taking a step back before looking over the terms of the ceasefire.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu was visited by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and later by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Both came in the hopes of laying down the basis for some sort of ceasefire.

Just before Ban Ki-Moon was expected to arrive in Jerusalem, “Code Red” sirens wailed throughout the city, as Hamas fired a rocket in that direction. The rocket landed in Gush Etzion in an open area between two Palestinian villages, causing no damages or injuries (see more). One does need to seriously question the aims of Hamas as it has not only fired rockets on a city which is supposed to be so holy to it, but could potentially injure their fellow Palestinians (rational people following the conflict already know that Hamas has no issue whatsoever with causing death or injury to its own people) and this extends even to those who would support this thuggish regime. This video is of a group of radical students protesting against the IDF action outside of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It shows students who are basically supporting Hamas in this conflict, quickly rushing for cover when the “Code Red” siren went off during their protest. Oh, the irony!

The meeting between the Prime Minister and the Secretary General went ahead as planned, with both exchanging pleasantries about taking care with civilians, and bringing peace and stability to the region (see more).

Later in the day, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. They conveyed to each other a mutual understanding of the situation and Israel’s right and responsibility to defend itself (see more). At the time, social media was buzzing with rumours that a ceasefire would take effect at 12:00am Wednesday, but as the rockets continued rain down on Southern Israel, and even a direct hit on an apartment building in Rishon Letzion (see more), it became blatantly clear that this was not the case.

On the same day, Israel unfortunately added to more names to the list of Israelis killed with Cpl. Yosef Fartuk (18) was killed in a rocket and mortar salvo in the Eshkol Regional Council, and Alayaan Salem al-Nabari (33) from the Beduin village of Rejwan in the Negev, was killed by a second mortar salvo in the same area (see more).

At the same time, many of us were shocked to see horrifying images of six Palestinians taken to busy Gaza City street and shot by masked gunmen as they were suspected to have been collaborating with Israel. One of the six corpses was then dragged on the back of a motorcycle through the streets of Gaza with his pants down, while gunmen travelled alongside on other motorbikes (see more). One bystander noted, “They should have been killed in a more brutal fashion so others don’t even think about working with the occupation (Israel)”.

Of course, it does not help when there are those in the media who are happy to carp on constantly in critical tones about Israel and yet cover the incident irrationally as if to present the case for these extrajudicial killings. Please read today’s offering in the Age by Ruth Pollard entitled ‘Hamas militants publicly execute “collaborators”’. Pollard’s article ends with a customary “scoreboard” of deaths on either side, though presumably even Pollard would be puzzled as to where to place these six men, as well as those that have been killed by Hamas rockets in Gaza (a statistic that nobody is willing to talk about).

At around noon on Wednesday, terror made its way back to Tel Aviv when a bomb exploded on a bus in the city for the first time since 2006. The attack took place on bus line 142 on Shaul Hamelech Street, which is just a few hundred metres from the Kirya military compound. 28 people were injured but fortunately there were no fatalities (see more). Two people sustained moderate to serious injuries, but none were life threatening. Looking at images of the burnt-out shell of the bus brings back images of the wave of suicide bombings that terrorised Israelis for many years back in the 90s and early 2000s. The unhinged among Hamas supporters claimed it to be a military attack because of the proximity of the military compound even though the target of the attack was clearly the civilians travelling on the bus. The Age of course, simply avoids having to deal with this sort of claptrap by not concerning itself much with such issues. Ruth Pollard made no mention of the attack on her Twitter feed while reporting from Gaza.

The bomb appeared to have been planted on the bus, and as the hunt for suspects was carried out, many areas of Tel Aviv were closed or blocked off. A gag order has been placed over the continuing investigation (see more).

While Israelis were reeling from the news of the attack, and while “Code Red” sirens were still going off in the South, the mood on the other side of the border was far more jovial, with celebratory shots being fired into the sky and sweets being handed out in the streets (see more). A news report from Hamas’s al-Aqsa TV declared “God willing, we will soon see black body bags… Right now in these moments, the mosques in the Gaza Strip – their minarets are loudly sounding cries of Allahu Akbar and cries of joy, and the residents of the Gaza Strip are bowing down to Allah for this offering. The morale of the Gaza Resistance is in the sky right now, and is rising just as the rockets of the Resistance” (see more).

Hamas’s twitter page then tweeted the following:
‘We told you IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are, “You opened the Gates of Hell on Yourselves”’
‘Oh Zionists, Netanyahu’s government dragging you for hell, you have to choice whether to stay in hell or escape, go back home in Germany’.
‘Oh Zionists You have to drag yourselves out of hell, go back home now, go back to Germany, Poland, Russia, America and anywhere else’ (see more).

Quite blatantly from these tweets one can see that Hamas sees no place for Jews on any part of the land, but putting that aside for one moment, I wonder where Hamas thinks that Jews from Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and other such “friendly” countries would go back to?

Despite all of this, after eight days of operation, it was announced in a joint news conference with Egyptian FM Mohamed Kamel Amr and Secretary of State Clinton that a ceasefire would come into effect at 9pm Wednesday evening Israeli time (6am Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time).  Haaretz is reporting that the agreement is almost identical to the agreement reached at the end of Operation Cast Lead back in 2009 (see more).

The full details of the ceasefire are as follows:
Agreement of Understanding For a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip
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.

Prime Minister Netanyahu held a Press Conference shortly after where he thanked the United States and the Egyptians for helping to broker a deal and declared, “In a phone call I had this evening with President Obama, I agreed with him that we should give the cease-fire a chance in order to enable a lull in the situation and allow for the citizens of Israel to return to routine. However, Israel obviously cannot sit idly while our enemy reinforces itself with weapons of terror. Therefore we decided, President Obama and myself, that the United States and Israel would work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terror organisations – weapons, virtually all of which come from Iran” (see more).

Addressing the fears of many that more needed to be done to halt Hamas’s capabilities he stated, “Now, I realise that there are citizens who expect a harsher military action and we may very need to do that. But at present, the right thing for the State of Israel is to exhaust this possibility of reaching a long-term cease-fire.”

In the meantime, our two broadsheet papers showed how ineffective newspapers can be in a world of social media and 24-hour news, with both the Australian and the Age reporting that there is no Gaza ceasefire, and neither paper mentioning the terror attack in Tel Aviv. Please see the Front Page and World News section of the Australian, and the World News section of The Age. 

Australian’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Bob Carr released a joint statement this morning welcoming the ceasefire and condemning the terror attack in Tel Aviv (see more).

Immediately after 9pm, when the ceasefire was supposed to come into effect, “Code Red” sirens went off in Eshkol, Sderot and the Hof Ashkelon and Sha’ar Hanegev regional councils. Around 10pm, sirens sounded in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and surrounding communities. At 10:30pm, sirens sounded Ashdod, Gan Yavne and Gedera (see more). While reports suggest that as many as 12 rockets have been fired since the ceasefire, IDF military spokesperson Avital Leibovich reported that 5 rockets have been fired and two have been intercepted. The IDF has refrained from returning fire.

IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai stated, “The IDF has stopped firing at the Strip and will open fire only if our forces are put in danger… The operation’s goals have been achieved. Hamas suffered a serious blow and is in a great amount of distress. After the organisation’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”. Hamas on the other hand tweeted, “Israel’s army has raised the White Flag in front of Hamas’s armed wing”.

With deaths and destruction on both sides, it seems hard for either side to mark this as a “victory”, but in terms of the IDF goals and achievements, they cannot be overlooked.

According to a flyer released by the IDF these are some of the figures:
1,500 terror sites hit including:
•         30 senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists
•         19 high-level command centers
•         980 underground rocket launchers
•         140 smuggling tunnels
•         66 tunnels used for terrorist operations
•         42 operation rooms and bases owned by Hamas
•         26 weapons manufacturing and storage facilities
•         Dozens of long-range rocket launchers and launch sites.
For more details, click here. The ceasefire has been met with opposition from many high-level politicians (see more).

The next few days will be crucial in determining whether this ceasefire will hold up, but Israeli leaders are going to need to start thinking about long-term solutions for keeping their citizens safe and restoring a lasting peace on the borders.

Now it would appear that after putting all political campaigning on hold during the eight-day operation, the politicians have returned to campaign-mode.  Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni will be announcing their elections in the next few days (see more).

We will continue to keep you updated as more information becomes available.

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