GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A cease-fire agreement between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers took effect Wednesday night, bringing an end to eight days of the fiercest fighting in years and possibly signaling a new era of relations between the bitter enemies.
The Egyptian-sponsored deal delivered key achievements for all involved. It promised to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel and ease border closings that have stifled Gaza's economy, and it affirmed the emergence of Egypt's new Islamist government as a key player in a changing region. But vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.
News of the truce, announced in Cairo and reached after furious diplomacy that drew in U.S., U.N., European and regional diplomats, set off ecstatic celebrations in Gaza, where thousands poured into the streets, firing guns into the air, honking horns and waving Palestinian, Hamas and Egyptian flags.
In Israel, small demonstrations were held in communities that were struck by rockets. Protesters said the military should have hit Hamas harder and some held signs demanding security and denouncing "agreements with terrorists."
Leaders on both sides used tough language as they prepared to engage in indirect negotiations on a future border arrangement through Egyptian mediators.
"I know there are citizens that expected a wider military operation and it could be that it will be needed. But at this time the right thing of the state of Israel is to take this opportunity to reach a continuous cease-fire," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
At a news conference in Cairo, the top Hamas leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, claimed victory, saying the Israelis "failed in their adventure" and that Israel is "inevitably destined for defeat."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it "a critical moment for the region."
"Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace," Clinton said.
Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza on Nov. 14 in to halt months of renewed rocket fire from Gaza. In a first salvo, it assassinated the Hamas military chief, then bombarded more than 1,500 targets in eight days of airstrikes and artillery attacks. Palestinian militants led by Hamas showered Israel with more than 1,500 rockets, including longer-range weapons that reached as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The fighting killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, and forced hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the border to remain huddled indoors. Five Israelis were killed. It was the worst bloodshed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago that left hundreds dead.
Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace. The U.S. also pledged engagement.
"In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel," Clinton said at a joint news conference in Cairo with her Egyptian counterpart, Mohammed Kamel Amr.
By agreeing to the cease-fire, both Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers stepped back from the brink of what could have been a full-fledged war. Both had compelling reasons to accept the Egyptian deal, even though its outlines are vague.
Israel, which had massed thousands of troops along the Gaza border, was warned by its Western allies, including the U.S., against launching a ground offensive. Hamas would likely have lost popular support if Gazans had to endure another devastating military invasion.
Hours before the deal was announced, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv near Israel's military headquarters, wounding 27 people and raising fears of a breakdown in the diplomacy. The blast, which left the bus charred and its windows blown out, was the first bombing in Tel Aviv since 2006. The bomb was placed inside the bus by a man who got off, said Yitzhak Aharonovich, Israel's minister of internal security. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.
The deal calls for an immediate halt to "all hostilities," and after a 24-hour period of calm, talks will open on border arrangements. Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt is expected to assume a central role in the talks. Largely limited to foot traffic, Hamas hopes to turn the crossing into a bustling trade zone.
The new negotiations will try to tackle some difficult issues. Israel will be seeking guarantees for a halt in weapons smuggling by Hamas. The Islamists want unrestricted movement and trade in and out of Gaza.
Israel imposed its blockade five years ago, after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas. Although the blockade has gradually been eased, key restrictions remain on exports, the entry of key raw materials, and the movement of people in and out of the area. These restrictions have ground Gaza's economy to a halt, fueling unemployment of more than 30 percent.
The negotiations will be laden with obstacles, and Egyptian mediators will be faced with tough-to-bridge positions by both sides. Hamas is likely to resist Israeli demands to demilitarize.
In his comments Wednesday, Mashaal boasted of the arsenal Hamas had amassed, both through a homegrown weapons industry and support from Iran, Israel's archenemy.
"We thank Iran for its support along with all the other nations that supported us," he said.
Mashaal said Hamas would demand a package that ends Gaza's isolation. "We talked about the crossings, and the freedom of movement and cargo," he said.
By brokering the truce, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi emerged as a pivotal player in the new Middle East, which has been swept by Islamist fervor during the Arab Spring changes of the past two years. As the key sponsor of the deal, serving as a middleman in cases of truce violations, Morsi will continue to play a key role.
His Muslim Brotherhood is the parent movement of Hamas, and the Egyptian leader has sympathized with the Palestinian Islamic group.
However, he has largely kept in place the restrictions on the Gaza-Egypt border that were imposed five years ago by his pro-Western predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, when Israel began sealing Gaza. Only Gazans fitting certain criteria can enter Egypt, and Morsi has resisted Hamas demands to open a cargo crossing.
Morsi has continued Mubarak's policy, in part, because of Egyptian concerns that an open border between Gaza and Egypt would allow Israel to "dump" the territory onto Egypt and undermine Palestinian statehood dreams.
Gaza and the West Bank flank Israel, which prevents virtual all travel between the two territories. If Gaza is open to Egypt, this would deepen the Palestinian territorial division and further undermine Abbas.
In closed meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials, Israel expressed concern about weapons entering Gaza from Libya and elsewhere.
Egyptian officials responded that they are keen on stopping the flow of weapons, which affect security in the Sinai Peninsula and end up in militants' hands there, according to Egyptian intelligence officials present in the meetings. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
The deal offered key accomplishments to both Israel and Hamas. By bringing quiet to Israel's embattled south, Netanyahu is likely to enjoy a boost of popularity just as he prepares to seek re-election in January.
Hamas' ability to stand up to Israel, combined with the international recognition it has gained, solidifies its control of Gaza, prolonging the rule of a militant group pledged to Israel's destruction.
After more than five years of political isolation, Gaza became a magnet for foreign leaders during the past eight days. The prime minister of Egypt, the foreign minister of Turkey and foreign ministers of several Arab countries visited Gaza to show their support for Hamas.
More importantly, both Israel and the U.S. engaged in negotiations with the Islamists, albeit indirectly. Both countries consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.
The biggest loser appears to be Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas, who was forced to watch the events in Gaza from the sidelines. Since losing control of Gaza, Abbas has been unable to end the bitter rift with Hamas, leaving him governing in the West Bank only. Abbas seeks an independent state that includes both territories.
The events of recent days, coupled with a four-year impasse in peace efforts with Israel, will underscore Abbas' image as an ineffective leader.
As the streets of Gaza City snarled with celebrations, chants of "God is great!" echoed from mosque speakers.
"I came out from under the fire. I want my children and I to live in safety. I don't want war," said Abdel-Nasser al-Tom, a resident of northern Gaza who had huddled for shelter in a U.N. school. "I just hope they commit to peace."
Federman reported from Jerusalem. Mohammed Daraghmeh in Cairo and Ariel David in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.
A Palestinian woman shouts anti-Israel slogans on the rubble from her home after the latest Israeli airstrikes in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 16, 2012. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak expanded the call-up of reserve soldiers, a spokesman said, as Israel pushed ahead with a major offensive against militants in the Gaza Strip.(SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli solider atop of an armored personnel carrier close to the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel,Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Israel's prime minister says the army is prepared for a "significant widening" of its operation in the Gaza Strip. Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Thursday that Israel has "made it clear" it won't tolerate continued rocket fire on its civilians. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A picture taken from the southern Israeli Gaza border shows a rockets being launched from the Gaza strip into Israel on November 16, 2012. Israeli warplanes carried out multiple new air strikes on the Palestinian territory, including several hits on Gaza City, the third day of an intensive campaign which the military has said is aimed at stamping out rocket fire on southern Israel. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRYAT MALACHI, ISRAEL - NOVEMBER 16: (ISRAEL OUT) A woman sits in her car as a tank on a flat-bed truck is parked next to her at a gas station on November 16, 2012 in Kiryat Malachi, Israel. According to reports, Israeli troops are massing at the border of the Gaza Strip and Israel has begun drafting 16,000 reserve troops. Palestinian rocket attacks have followed a series aerial strikes on targets in Gaza launched by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) including one which killed a top military commander of Hamas. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
Relatives grieve during the funeral for Itzik Amsalem, 49, one of the three people who died in a rocket attack on November 16, 2012 in Kiryat Malachi, Israel. Three people were killed in Israel November 15, after a building was hit by a rocket fired from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Palestinian rocket attacks followed a series aerial strikes on targets in Gaza launched by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which killed a top military commander of Hamas. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
ISRAEL OUT - Smoke rises after an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Edi Israel)
A Palestinian youth wearing a late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat portrait around his head throws stones as they clash with Israeli security forces in the Jalama checkpoint in the West Bank near Jenin city, on November 16, 2012. Thousands of angry Palestinians rallied across the West Bank, urging Hamas militants to 'bomb Tel Aviv' as Israel pursued a relentless air campaign on the Gaza Strip. (SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier fires a tear gas canister towards Palestinian stone throwers on route 60, mainly used by Israeli settlers, in the West Bank village of Beit Omar, on November 16, 2012 . Thousands of angry Palestinians rallied across the West Bank, urging Hamas militants to 'bomb Tel Aviv' as Israel pursued a relentless air campaign on the Gaza Strip. (HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian youths wearing the traditional chequerred keffiyeh attend a rally held in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on November 16, 2012, against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of people across the Middle East protested on Friday against Israel's aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip, with some chanting 'death to Israel' and others calling for the bombing of Tel Aviv. (MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers rest inside a large concrete pipe used a as shelter for rockets fired by Palestinian militans in the Gaza Strip, on November 16, 2012 at the Israel-Gaza Strip border . Israeli officials said the Jewish state was preparing to launch its first ground offensive in four years into the Gaza Strip and the army started calling up 16,000 reservists.
The mother of 10-month-old Palestinian girl, Hanen Tafesh, killed the day before in an Israeli air strike, is comforted by her husband and relatives as she mourns before her funeral in Gaza City, on November 16, 2012. Israeli warplanes carried out multiple new air strikes on the Palestinian territory, including several hits on Gaza City, the third day of an intensive campaign which the military has said is aimed at stamping out rocket fire on southern Israel. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)
The trail of an Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system, used to intercept and destroy incoming short-range rockets and artillery shells from Gaza, is pictured from the southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva along the Gaza border in response to a rocket launched from the nearby Palestinian territory on November 15, 2012. Israel will take 'whatever action is necessary' to defend its citizens from Palestinian rocket attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as the military pressed a massive operation in Gaza. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her talks in Israel this week not to take any extreme actions in response to the Palestinian move in the United Nations for recognition as a non-member state. Clinton said such steps against the Palestinian Authority could bring about its collapse. The Palestinians are planning to ask the United Nations General Assembly to vote on upgrading its status from non-member entity on the symbolic date of November 29.
The day after the cease-fire with Hamas took effect, Israel is preparing for the next crisis with the Palestinians, which is scheduled for six days from now. November 29th is the anniversary of the United Nations vote on accepting the Partition Plan in 1947, which led to the founding of the Jewish Sate. It is also the United Nations' International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.
Read more here.
From the Jerusalem Post:
Washington is urging Israel not to allow construction in the area known as E-1 between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim as a possible response to the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition next week at the UN, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Building in E-1, which would create contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim to the northeast beyond the Green Line, is something various Israeli governments have long wanted to do, but which US opposition has prevented.
Read more here.
The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren chronicles displays of pride and sacrifice:
Inside a courtyard, there are faded remnants of “Congratulations from the uncles,” from the April wedding of a son of Ahmed al-Jabari, the commander of the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, whose assassination last week was the beginning of the latest round of intense battle between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
On the wall outside, the colorful Arabic script reads “Welcome hajji, Abu Muhammad,” a reference to Mr. Jabari’s return from a pilgrimage to Mecca last month. Nearby, the freshest paint pronounces a message from the troops: “Rest in peace. The mission has been accomplished.”
Read the full story at the New York Times.
An underground tunnel connecting through which I got into Gaza from Egypt. Israel has repeatedly targeted the tunnel network, trying to hinder flow of goods and weapons into the strip. (Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy via Flickr)
16 soldiers spelled out 'loser' with their bodies to critique Netanyahu and show frustration at not going into battle.
The Economist discusses how the ceasefire was achieved and whether it could lead to lasting peace in the region.
Among others coming and going were the UN secretary-general, the American secretary of state and the foreign ministers of Turkey and Germany. But the real bargaining took place behind closed doors at the headquarters of General Muhammad Shehata, Egypt’s intelligence chief. There, in separate rooms, the Egyptians haggled with a legal adviser to the Israeli prime minister, and with representatives from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs Gaza, and a smaller, more radical Palestinian faction, Islamic Jihad.
From the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's army spokeswoman says an Israeli Arab who is a member of Hamas has been arrested for Wednesday's bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
The bombing injured 27 people near Israel's military headquarters and threatened to scuttle efforts to broker a cease-fire to end fighting between Israel and Gaza.
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich reported Thursday on Twitter that authorities had arrested the man who planted the bomb on the bus and identified him as an Arab Israeli from the village of Taybeh. She said he was a member of Hamas.
|@ haaretzcom : BREAKING: #Israel security forces arrest suspects in #TelAviv bus blast http://t.co/91fS0v48|
A Palestinian boy and militants of the Izzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, attend funerals of five Hamas militants in Mugharka village, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. Five Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli air strike yesterday, Palestinian health officials said. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
While the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Gaza on Wednesday brought an end to the rockets and airstrikes, the political fallout is just beginning. The Associated Press offers a breakdown of who won and who lost as a result of the truce agreement:
Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel secured an agreement to stop the persistent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel without launching a ground invasion into Gaza or losing the support of its international allies. Netanyahu's bid for re-election in January could be vastly strengthened by the operation and by the killing of Hamas militant leader Ahmed Jabari on the first day of fighting. Netanyahu got the backing of President Barack Obama during the fighting, a significant achievement after their already shaky relationship grew colder when Netanyahu was perceived to favor Republican nominee Mitt Romney during the recent U.S. election. Israel also secured a commitment from the U.S. to help stop weapons smuggling into Gaza. Caption: <em>Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to the national police headquarters on November 22, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel.</em> (Gali Tibbon-Pool/Getty Images)
The Islamic militant group that rules Gaza gained significant international credibility, with Arab and Turkish diplomats pouring into the Palestinian territory to show support. Though it has been branded a terror group by Israel and the United States, it was treated as an equal partner with Israel during indirect cease-fire talks in Egypt. In those talks, it secured a commitment for the freer movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Hamas also proved its ability to fire rockets as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem despite being battered with airstrikes. As the Arab Spring brings Islamists to power across the region, Hamas' influence is on the rise. Caption: <em>A Hamas militant talks during a press conference in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah
Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas five years ago, might be the biggest loser. He had no seat in the cease-fire negotiations and was largely sidelined during the crisis. Hamas' ability to stand up to Israel and survive could also diminish Palestinians' patience with their president's so far fruitless efforts to push for a negotiated solution to the conflict with Israel. Abbas' Western-backed government only rules in the West Bank, and his dreams of reconciling the rival Palestinian territories seems more elusive than ever. Caption: <em>Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. </em>(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi: The former Muslim Brotherhood leading figure emerged from his first major international crisis with enhanced prestige and proved his government can mediate between the two sworn enemies, something the United States cannot do because it considers Hamas a terrorist organization and doesn't allow contacts between its members and American officials. Egypt's sponsorship of the cease-fire ensures Morsi a central role in the future of the region. Caption: <em>In this Friday, July 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi speaks to reporters during a joint news conference with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki, unseen, at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt.</em> (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The United States
While the Obama administration has sought to refocus its foreign policy on Asia, the Gaza fighting forced it to turn back to a conflict it has sought to move past. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's last-minute shuttle diplomacy might have strengthened a U.S.-Egyptian partnership that has been strained in the 21 months since Egyptians toppled autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak. After a first term characterized by repeated failures in forging Israeli-Palestinian peace, the U.S. role in supporting the cease-fire could signal renewed American engagement in the region. A U.S. commitment to help stop arms smuggling to Gaza may also help repair Obama's strained relationship with Netanyahu. Caption: <em>U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wave as they arrive at Yangon International Airport in Yangon, Myanmar, on Air Force One, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Read the full story on HuffPost World.
HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin moderates a panel of bloggers and journalists and looks at whether members of the media have been targeted during the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Statement From the U.S. State Department:Question: Have the United States and Israel spoken specifically about the importance of safety for journalists covering the ongoing conflict in Gaza?
Answer: U.S. officials discussed a range of issues with their Israeli counterparts with respect to the conflict in Gaza, including our concerns for the safety and security of civilians in both Israel and Gaza, which includes journalists in Gaza. In any armed conflict, journalists must be respected and protected from any form of intentional attack. Appropriate measures should be taken to ensure the safety and security of journalists as much as possible.
— Joshua Hersh
|@ haaretzcom : Israel's FM Avigdor Lieberman: We didn’t negotiate cease-fire with #Hamas, we negotiated with #Egypt http://t.co/91fS0v48 #Gaza|
A Gaza man hugs a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant after a press conference in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. Gazans are celebrating a cease-fire agreement reached with Israel to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years constricting the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
|@ alextomo : #c4news #gaza Nature does it better: flashes of white light and rolling thunder as a storm piles in over Gaza AND Israel|
|@ NadimJBaba : #Gaza City's got a thunderstorm, windows at Jazeera office still to be replaced after blast damage. Many families in same boat tonight|
|@ AymanM : Pouring down rain in #gaza, eating dinner, loud thunder heard, everyone starts clapping & laughing thinking it was an airstrike #onlyingaza|
|@ haaretzcom : Do you think the recently achieved #Gaza cease-fire could lead to a broader agreement with the #Palestinians? http://t.co/Krn55GvI|
Citing a human rights group, the Maan News Agency reports that Israel has transferred to administrative detention approximately 30 Palestinians from the West Bank who were involved in solidarity events for Gaza.
Under the policy of administrative detention, Israel can hold prisoners for renewable terms of six months without pressing charges.
Among the prisoners were leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as university students.
|@ blakehounshell : RT @BarakRavid: Behind the scenes of Israel's decision to accept Gaza truce - new post on Diplomania - http://t.co/QC2afTKL|
Ultra-Orthodox Jews of the Bratslav Hasidic sect, that gathered to show support for the forces, dance as they celebrate atop of a tank in southern Israel, close to the Israel Gaza Strip Border, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
On the heels of his crucial role in peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has consolidated power through a series of constitutional amendments and decrees, the Associated Press reports.
Morsi's amendments also call for the re-trial of members of Hosni Mubarak's regime for the killing of protesters during the Arab Spring.
Read the full story on HuffPost World.
A flak jacket hangs on the cannon of a tank as another is guided to a new position at a staging area near the Israel Gaza Strip Border, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Mohammed Badei, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has come out against Wednesday's peace accord between Israel and Hamas.
"The enemy knows nothing but the language of force," said Mohammed Badei. "Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords."
Badei's comments come in sharp contrast to the peace negotiations by Egypt's President, Mohammed Morsi, who is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Badei also went on to say that "jihad is obligatory" and called on Muslims to "back your brothers in Palestine."
Read the whole story on HuffPost World.
Paul Danahar, a BBC reporter in Gaza, has been following on Twitter the saga of a doctor at a hospital in the Strip who found himself suddenly treating his own six-year-old child, who later died from injuries sustained during the shelling. There are few details so far, but on Thursday Danahar added one more sorrowful note: the doctor, according to the UN, had been working so hard helping patients from the bombing that he hadn't seen his own family for three days, until suddenly the patient dying on the table before him was his boy.
According to Al Akhbar, a photo uploaded on September 29 to the Facebook profile of the head of the IDF's social media unit shows the lieutenant posing with brown mud on his face under the caption: "Obama style."
Sacha Dratwa, a 26-year old "immigrant from Belgium" as he was described in Tablet magazine, is in charge of the IDF's Facebook, Twitter and very controversial Instagram account.
-- Ahmed Shihab-Eldin
In the midst of the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza, a Palestinian Authority ambassador vented his anger and frustration about the Hamas leadership in a phone conversation with an Israeli diplomat, Haaretz has reported.
The exchange, which was reported by the Israeli diplomat in a cable that was later leaked to Haaretz's Barak Ravid, captures the irritation and, ultimately, the impotence of the Fatah leadership in the West Bank, which found itself sidelined from the diplomatic conversation over a cease-fire in Gaza, despite technically being the appointed representatives of the Palestinian people around the world.
"The Hamas offices that were destroyed are not important," the unnamed ambassador apparently reported, expressing his sense of Hamas's indifference to what happens to their people. "The real offices are the mosques, which are connected to a widespread network of tunnels. Everything happens underground. Hamas has no regrets over the destruction in Gaza. On the contrary. Hamas gets a great deal of economic and political benefit from the terrible destruction because of the large donations that will come from the world and the political image of the organization that stands on the front line against Israel.”
The Israeli diplomat also reported the PA official as decrying his boss, PA president Mahmoud Abbas (informally known as Abu Mazen) for his failure to bring the people of Gaza under his wing:
"Abu Mazen never troubled to bring the residents of Gaza close to him," he reportedly said. He does not like Gaza, and if he could get rid of it, he would be happy to do so.... One way or another, Abu Mazen’s time is more or less up. The problem is who will replace him.
Reading over the exchange, Jeffrey Goldberg, a close Israel watcher, noted, "The difference between Israel and Fatah is that Fatah dislikes Hamas more."
Read the whole report here.
|@ BBCBreaking : Israeli soldier injured by mortar fire on Wednesday dies of wounds - sixth Israeli to die in recent conflict - reports http://t.co/6aUYSUvw|
|@ RichardEngel : #Israeli troops begin leaving border sites with #gaza|
This New York Times graphic not only charts the attacks in Israel and Gaza, but also identifies the different rockets used by Hamas and the neighborhoods affected by Israeli fire.
More important for many, though, is the context for how big Gaza is in comparison to New York City.