Friday, August 01, 2014

The ceasefire that wasn't

On my way into work this morning I read about the new 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. But the strange thing about that ceasefire is that it didn't seem to require a total cease of the fire.
"During this time [of the ceasefire], the forces on the ground will remain in place," said the announcement, which means that Israeli troops can continue destroying the labyrinth of tunnels in Gaza that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said are the prime target of the operation.
So it sounded like the ceasefire would only apply to Israel's bombing and shelling of Gaza, and presumably Hamas' rocket fire into Israel. But the "ceasefire" seems to exempt the Israeli ground invasion to demolish the tunnels.

Just a couple of hours later, I read that the ceasefire had been broken by Hamas and that the group had captured an Israeli soldier. What happened exactly?
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said that government forces had been moving to destroy a tunnel, as the terms of the cease-fire allowed for, when several militants came out of the ground.

Colonel Lerner said the militants included at least one suicide attacker. There was an exchange of fire, he said, and initial indications were that a soldier was dragged back into the tunnel. He was unable to offer details about the soldier’s condition.
Was that really a breach of the ceasefire? Lt. Col. Lerner notes that under its terms the IDF was still allowed to attack Gaza's tunnels. Are they they really saying that if a Hamas militant is in one of those tunnels they were not allowed to fight back? Did Hamas actually agree to let their forces be attacked without responding?

I'm not condoning the capture/kidnapping of the soldier. The conclusion people are drawing from all this is "Hamas broke the ceasefire." Maybe they did. From this initial report it looks to me like the incident in which Hamas allegedly violated the ceasefire agreement wasn't part of that agreement. 

UPDATE: Both Hamas and Fatah are claiming that Israel broke the ceasefire by not ceasing its ground operations. Which makes me wonder if the parties ever really had an agreement. If the Israeli side thought they could continue with their ground assault and Hamas thought they had to stop everything, then it doesn't look like there was any real meeting of the minds on the terms.

(via Memeorandum)