This time, an army operation in Gaza went wrong, resulting in one Israeli officer and seven Palestinians being killed. The Pavlovian response by both sides naturally wasn’t long in coming: rocket fire toward Israel, and in response, extensive Israeli air strikes.
This destructive cycle must be stopped immediately – not by threats to destroy Gaza, and certainly not by pointless remarks like those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference in Paris on Sunday. “No political solution exists for Gaza, just as there isn’t one with ISIS,” he said. Netanyahu knows very well that Hamas isn’t the Islamic State, and the proof is that negotiations are taking place, albeit indirectly, between Hamas and Israel on a long-term cease-fire.
These are but two paragraphs in a Tuesday, Nov. 13, editorial from Haaretz, a left-leaning Israeli newspaper.
“Netanyahu understands quite well that the clashes in Gaza are the result of despair, distress, poverty and the lack of an economic horizon,” the editorial continues.
“Therefore, the solution isn’t military, but political. Gaza residents need jobs, electricity for hospitals, fuel to operate factories, generous investments and an emergency plan for rapid reconstruction. Quite aside from the humanitarian aspect, both Israel’s security interests and quiet for communities near Gaza require the fulfillment of these conditions.”
Hamas Accepts Egyptian-Brokered Cease-Fire
Meanwhile, Hamas and other militant groups said Tuesday they had accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to end two days of intense fighting with Israel that had pushed the sworn enemies to the brink of a new war.
The sudden announcement brought relief to a region that had been paralyzed by hundreds of Palestinian rocket attacks in southern Israel and scores of Israeli airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip. But it did not address the deeper issues that pushed Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers toward their latest violence and left doubts about international efforts to forge a broader truce agreement.
Those efforts had appeared to be making progress in recent days as Israel allowed Qatar to deliver financial aid to the cash-strapped Hamas government, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he wanted to avert an “unnecessary” war in Gaza. Hamas, in turn, had scaled back its mass protests that have led to weekly bloodshed along the Israeli border.
Israeli Commandos Caught in Gaza
But hours after Netanyahu spoke Sunday, an Israeli commando unit on an undercover mission was caught behind enemy lines in Gaza by Hamas militants. Their discovery set off a battle that led to the deaths of seven militants and an Israeli officer, and triggered the heaviest barrage of rocket fire since a 2014 war.
The Israeli military said that Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel in a 24-hour period, while it carried out airstrikes on 160 targets in Gaza. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed, and 26 people were wounded. In Israel, a 48-year-old Palestinian laborer was killed in a rocket strike on an apartment building where he was staying. Nearly 30 people were wounded, three critically.
With air raid sirens wailing throughout southern Israel and the explosions of airstrikes thundering in Gaza, the sides had appeared to be headed to what would have been their fourth war in a decade.
But late Tuesday, Hamas and other military groups issued a joint statement saying they had accepted an Egyptian cease-fire.
Terms of the deal appeared to be modest. Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad militant group, said each side would promise quiet in exchange for quiet.
“It’s a mutual commitment to the cease-fire,” he said. “From our side, we responded positively to the Egyptian endeavor on the condition that the occupation does the same.”
The announcement set off celebrations in Gaza City as Hamas supporters declared victory.
Netanyahu Out of Options, Says Retired Israeli General
Israel Ziv, a retired general who once commanded the Israeli military’s Gaza division, said Netanyahu was running out of options for dealing with Hamas.
“Either we come to a settlement or there’s an all-out campaign. Nothing in the middle is going to make a difference,” he said.
Tuesday’s cease-fire did not appear to address any of the underlying issues, including the blockade and Hamas’ vast arsenal of rockets, and it was unclear whether U.N. and Egyptian efforts toward a broader deal might resume.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)