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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

August 29, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Cease-fire marks halt in Israel’s longest, bloodiest war in Gaza

By BEN SALES JTA news service


Gila Tragerman is comforted by her husband, Doron, while speaking at the funeral of their 4-year-old son, Daniel, in southern Israel on Aug. 24. Daniel, a fan of Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi, was the last Israeli civilian casualty of the Gaza conflict. 
Photo Hadas Parush/Flash90 Gila Tragerman is comforted by her husband, Doron, while speaking at the funeral of their 4-year-old son, Daniel, in southern Israel on Aug. 24. Daniel, a fan of Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi, was the last Israeli civilian casualty of the Gaza conflict. Photo Hadas Parush/Flash90 TEL AVIV – A rocket barrage fell on Israel, a boom sounded over Tel Aviv and then it was over – at least for now.

After 50 days of missiles, airstrikes, ground operations, tunnel incursions, truce talks, cease-fire proposals, death and destruction, Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended truce on Tuesday, Aug. 26.

The cease-fire announced by Egypt stipulates that Israel and Egypt will open all border crossings to allow international humanitarian aid and construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip.

The day after the cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas “begged” for the cease-fire, declaring that the Israeli military achieved its goals while Hamas did not achieve any of its demands. Those demands included promises of an airport, seaport and the release of prisoners in Israeli jails, he said.


Palestinians view a building in Gaza City that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, Aug. 26, a few hours before the cease-fire.. 
Photo by Emad Nassar/Flash90/JTA Palestinians view a building in Gaza City that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike, Aug. 26, a few hours before the cease-fire.. Photo by Emad Nassar/Flash90/JTA After a month, should the quiet hold, Israel and Hamas will restart indirect negotiations in Cairo on easing Israel’s blockade of the coastal strip and disarming the enclave. Several of the demands reportedly will be discussed in a second phase of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire after one month of quiet on the Gaza border.

Netanyahu emphasized that Hamas was struck hard, including the deaths of about 1,000 fighters, and the destruction of tunnels and rocket launchers. He called it the worst blow to Hamas since its founding.


Israeli youths sit on a bluff in southern Israel near the Gaza border watch as Gazans fire rockets into Israel on Aug. 25. An open-ended cease-fire began the next day. 
Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA Israeli youths sit on a bluff in southern Israel near the Gaza border watch as Gazans fire rockets into Israel on Aug. 25. An open-ended cease-fire began the next day. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/JTA The Israeli leader asserted that the goals of the military were met: to hurt Hamas and to bring prolonged quiet to Israel’s southern communities.

“We brought in ground troops for that reason,” Netanyahu said. “When the mission was complete, we withdrew our troops so as not to give Hamas the opportunity to kill or kidnap them.”

Netanyahu said his government will try to take advantage of “the new diplomatic opportunities” created through the Gaza operation.

The agreement is the culmination of Egyptian-led cease-fire efforts that have been ongoing throughout the conflict. Earlier this month, Israel and Hamas had agreed to a string of temporary cease-fires. The lull ended with Hamas rocket fire on Israel last week.


IDF soldiers rush injured Israelis to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba after evacuating them by helicopter on Aug. 26, following a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim near the Gaza border. Two Israeli men died from wounds they sustained in the incident, which took place shortly before the latest Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal went into effect. 
Photo by Flash90 IDF soldiers rush injured Israelis to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba after evacuating them by helicopter on Aug. 26, following a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim near the Gaza border. Two Israeli men died from wounds they sustained in the incident, which took place shortly before the latest Israel-Hamas cease-fire deal went into effect. Photo by Flash90 The fighting is Israel’s third major conflict with Hamas since 2008, following conflicts in 2008-09 and 2012. This one, however, was the longest and costliest between the sides since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

More than 2,000 Palestinians and 72 Israelis died in the latest conflict, which wounded more than 10,000 Gazans and 500 Israelis, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Also, 20 Palestinians died in protests in the West Bank against Israel’s operation, according to a report in the Guardian.


Israeli soldiers attending a ceremony on Aug. 21 at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem honoring Lee Matt, who died in July while fighting in Gaza. 
Photo by Flash90 Israeli soldiers attending a ceremony on Aug. 21 at the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem honoring Lee Matt, who died in July while fighting in Gaza. Photo by Flash90 The fighting created ghost towns across Israel’s South and devastated Gaza, destroying thousands of homes. Israeli forces delivered a punishing blow to Hamas during the conflict, with airstrikes destroying thousands of rockets and ground troops eliminating much of its tunnel infrastructure both under the Israel-Gaza border and across Gaza.

Last week, an Israeli airstrike killed three senior Hamas commanders. The chief of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, may have been killed in a separate attack last week.

Israel’s aggressive military tactics, along with a high Palestinian civilian death toll, drew widespread international criticism. Last month, the United Nations Human Rights Council said it would send a factfinding mission to investigate possible war crimes committed during the fighting. Israel has indicated that it likely would not cooperate with the investigation, alleging anti-Israel bias.

Even the United States, an Israel ally, issued harsh criticism following an Israeli airstrike that hit a United Nations school on Aug. 3, and tightened its controls on weapons shipments to Israel. American assistance to Israel continued during the conflict, though, as the U.S. approved an added $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

Hamas saw many of its attempted attacks on Israel frustrated. Iron Dome intercepted nearly all of the rockets Hamas aimed at city centers, and the Israel Defense Forces stopped Hamas’ infiltrations into Israel close to the border.

Nevertheless, Hamas killed 66 Israeli soldiers in Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza – the highest death toll for Israel since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The conflict also claimed the lives of six civilians including a 4-year-old who was killed in a mortar attack outside his home near the Gaza border on Friday, Aug. 22, just four days before the ceasefire.

Despite being largely ineffective, Hamas rockets proved to have an increasingly long range – mortar fire reached nearly all of Israel for the first time. While residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were able to largely carry on with life under the protection of Iron Dome, they found themselves running for shelter daily at the sound of warning sirens, an experience that had previously been largely confined to southern Israel.

Hamas rocket fire last month on central Israel led a number of international airlines to cancel flights to and from Israel for two days, leaving Israelis feeling isolated. The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority instituted a 24-hour ban on flights to Israel, which some criticized as unwarranted. Hamas celebrated the cancellations as an “air blockade.”

The conflict began on July 8 following a barrage of Hamas rockets on Israel. Israel began its campaign with airstrikes across Gaza, targeting Hamas weapons and infrastructure but also killing hundreds of civilians. Following Hamas attempts to infiltrate Israel by tunnel and sea, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza on July 17 that lasted two weeks. Israeli military officials said 32 tunnels were found and destroyed.

The ground operation ended as Israel and Hamas agreed to the first in a string of temporary cease-fires. During the calm, the sides engaged in Egyptian-mediated negotiations begun early in the conflict on a long-term truce. But the talks ended Aug. 19 without an agreement as Hamas resumed rocket fire.

As in previous conflicts, a vast majority of Israelis supported the operation, with 95 percent of Israeli Jews in favor, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. But the conflict also opened divisions within Israel’s governing coalition, as more hawkish ministers called for the IDF to deal a harsher blow to Hamas and opposed the various cease-fires. Residents of the South, who have withstood rocket fire for more than a decade, also have called for a continued operation.

“Any concession to Hamas is a surrender to terrorism,” Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni said Tuesday, Aug. 26, according to Haaretz. “The residents of the South wanted to see this campaign resolved, but that will probably not happen.”


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