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A ceasefire is in place, but it’s not the victory that Netanyahu wanted

May 21, 2021 at 10:51 am

Palestinians take the streets after “mutual and simultaneous” ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2 a.m. Friday (2300GMT Thursday), ending the 11-day conflict, in Gaza City, Gaza on 21 May 2021. [Ashraf Amra – Anadolu Agency]

As I write it is almost midnight on Thursday, and after a two-and-a-half hour meeting of Israel’s security cabinet it has been reported that there is to be a ceasefire in the military offensive against the Gaza Strip, where I live. According to Israeli journalist Yaron Avraham on Channel 12, the Israeli army will stop its shelling of Gaza immediately, but it will be resumed if the Palestinian resistance groups do not stop firing rockets towards the occupation state.

The Egyptian government told the Palestinian factions in Gaza that a ceasefire with Israel will start on Friday at 2am. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office confirmed that the security cabinet had approved this unanimously. The ministers agreed to “accept the Egyptian initiative for a mutual ceasefire without any conditions…”

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan confirmed the reports, and pointed out that, “The Palestinian resistance will be ready to respond to any Israeli violations.” Al Jazeera reported that Cairo had informed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Doha, that the ceasefire will take effect at 2am on Friday.

Earlier, Israeli army officers claimed to have made “unprecedented” gains over the past eleven days of bombardment. “Hamas is deterred and has suffered serious blows,” one officer is reported to have told ministers.

The bombardment began after the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza responded to more than 20 days of Israeli violence against Palestinian worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Israel’s refusal to abandon plans to expel a number of Palestinian families from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The homes were to be handed over to illegal Jewish settlers through a lengthy and false legal process.

When the resistance groups responded to the Israeli violations they set several goals, including an end to settler and police harassment and provocation in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and no expulsion of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah. Israel’s goals in pounding Gaza included the destruction of the resistance infrastructure and the re-imposition of the army’s deterrence factor.

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From day one, the Palestinian resistance surprised Israel with its ability to fire hundreds of rockets of varying ranges, which in turn imposed another kind of lockdown on around 70 per cent of Israel, which had just come out of the Covid lockdown, as air raid sirens sounded and the people ran to the bomb shelters. The Palestinian rockets even paralysed Ben Gurion Airport.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Israeli attacks on Gaza were one failure after another. The first wave hit two gatherings of civilians, killing children in Jabalia and Beit Hanoun. The army used drones to identify military targets, but failed to find any. Undaunted, it continued to target civilians while claiming to be targeting resistance facilities and fighters.

Every morning, following heavy and brutal overnight bombardments of civilians and civilian infrastructure, army spokesman Avichay Adraee briefed the media about the military facilities, rocket launchers, tunnels and fighters that had been targeted. The reality is that Israeli bombs and missiles were hitting residential buildings, government offices and civilian infrastructure, including strategic roads and junctions — which meant, for example, that ambulances couldn’t get to the main Al-Shifa Hospital with casualties — as well as the telecom, water, sewage and electricity networks. Most of all, the bulk of the casualties have been civilians, mainly children and women.

Palestinians carry a model of Dome of the Rock as they gather for a celebration after "mutual and simultaneous" cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2 am Friday (2300GMT Thursday), ending the 11-day conflict, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 May 2021. [Abed Rahim Khatib - Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians carry a model of Dome of the Rock as they gather for a celebration after “mutual and simultaneous” cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2 am Friday (2300GMT Thursday), ending the 11-day conflict, in Rafah, Gaza on 21 May 2021. [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

On what has turned out to be the final day of the offensive, the Israeli army claimed that it had killed 160 Palestinian fighters, including senior officials, even though of the 232 people killed by its bombs, 65 were children, 39 were women and 17 were elderly. The remainder included disabled people and other civilians. Israel’s claim doesn’t add up. It has lied in order to appease the audience at home and cover up its war crimes to salve the conscience of the ineffectual international community.

One claim made throughout the past week is that Israel had damaged the so-called Hamas “Metro”, a network of tunnels used by resistance fighters. A security source told Israeli Army Radio that this was a strategic achievement sold to the cabinet. According to Israeli journalist Itamar Eichner speaking on Kan public broadcaster, this was fake news, as was the cabinet meeting and vote on the ceasefire initiative proposed by Cairo. An investigation conducted by Israeli Channel 11 TV found that the “Metro” was an Israeli invention intended to be marketed as a military achievement to the Israeli and international audience.

While the Israeli cabinet was discussing the ceasefire, Hebrew-language news service Rotter Net pointed out that rockets from Gaza were still falling across Israel. Retired Brigadier General Zvika Vogel commented on the ceasefire saying: “The security situation today is the most despicable since 1973. Netanyahu is selling us fake stories which are not buyable. We have nothing save the white flag which is the symbol of surrender. We are disabled and without operational feasibility. Everything for us is bad.”

Netanyahu and his defence team, which were involved in launching the offensive, are hiding from the media. A spokesman for the Palestinian resistance groups, meanwhile, took to the airwaves to announce the ceasefire and at the same time warn Netanyahu and the Israeli army that any violation of the agreement would bring the rockets back to the skies above Israeli cities.

READ: The agony of Palestinian dispossession 

“This is a strong blow to Israeli deterrence,” said Israeli Knesset Member Gideon Saar about what is said to be a unilateral ceasefire. “Halting the military action without imposing restrictions on the reinforcement of Hamas power and armaments would be a political failure for which we will pay the price.”

Political and crime commentator for Israeli Channel 13 TV, Aviad Glickman, wrote on Twitter: “It seems that the Prime Minister is afraid of briefing the citizens of his country about the latest updates. So that, we have the news from Al Jazeera and Arabic media.”

According to Netanyahu’s political partner Itamar Ben-Gvir MK, “The ceasefire is a spit in the face of the people in the south [of Israel].” He pledged that he will not support Netanyahu’s bid to cobble together another coalition government despite backing him before the offensive.

If Netanyahu really believed that he has won, he would have posed for the media and held a press conference to brag about his victory. But what his army did in Gaza was shameful, as it only killed civilians and destroyed their infrastructure and facilities.

Almog Ben Zikri from Haaretz reported that the Palestinian resistance fired 4,369 rockets at Israel during the 11 days of the offensive against Gaza, including more than 300 fired during the last 12 hours. The Hamas military wing stressed that it is ready for a long battle with the occupation state, and reiterated that its stockpile of weapons is still full of rockets made from basic materials.

The difference, it noted, is that the resilient freedom fighters are supported by international law, which guarantees the right of occupied people to resist the occupation power by any means at their disposal. Israel’s “self-defence” has no such legitimacy. A ceasefire may be in place, but it’s not the victory that Netanyahu wanted.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.