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Israel Declares Ceasefire but Keeps Troops in Gaza

Posted January. 19, 2009 03:04,   


Gaza Strip residents spent a “night without bombs” as Israel suspended air strikes early yesterday morning. Israel had conducted air strikes every day since the conflict began Dec. 27 last year.

Battles in the war have subsided after Israel unilaterally declared a cease-fire after massive air attacks. However, foreign news media have reported the cease-fire is ‘insecure silence’ that could break at any moment.

One 37-year-old Palestinian housewife who is taking refuge with her family said, “Residents do not want a temporary ceasefire but lasting peace. Both Israel and Hamas have failed to give hope and are losers.”

Countries including the United States, Britain, and Germany hailed Israel’s declaration of a ceasefire, but pessimists question the efficiency of the ceasefire that excluded Hamas.

Hamas instead said it will continue its struggle, effectively rendering Israel’s declaration of a cease-fire a unilateral announcement. Analysts say that though Hamas has suffered dearly from Israeli attacks, it will continue to occupy the Gaza Strip, since no other alternative force can control the district.

A number of obstacles are also blocking the conclusion of a complete armistice that the international community hopes to see.

The first and foremost obstacle is the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Israel says it will consider pulling its forces at an appropriate time if Hamas stops its rocket attacks. Hamas, however, said it is determined to attain the immediate and complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Another problem is the reinforcement of security at border regions between Egypt and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Israel signed Friday a memorandum of understanding with the United States to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons through underground tunnels in border regions. Egypt is resisting the move and disregarding the agreement, however, saying it will not allow foreign monitors in its territory.

Hamas suggested as preconditions for a ceasefire Israel’s withdrawal of its blockade and the opening of border crossings. Hence, the opening of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will likely face intense discussions.

The reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which has been reduced to ashes after 22 days of Israeli air strikes, is another challenge. The Palestinian government said the attacks caused 1.7 billion U.S. dollars worth of damage, including the destruction of more than 20,000 homes.