by Dayo Laniyan
Yesterday, the nation of Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire proposed and brokered by Egypt. It will begin early today with Israeli military withdrawing all its ground forces from the Gaza Strip back into defensive positions.
Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner of the Israeli army said troops were “redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions,” making it clear that Israel were prepared to continue fighting at any time if required.
Senior officials from the military still declared that their aims for the conflict, which was to destroy tunnels used by the militants to infiltrate Israeli territory had been achieved.
Egypt’s plan for the truce is so that representatives from Israeli and Palestinian factions to attend talk in Cairo to discuss a longer-lasting agreement. A number of Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad have already met with the head of Egyptian intelligence yesterday for talks to end the violence.
A few hours after, the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanayahu’s security cabinet accepted Egypt’s proposal. A spokesman from Netanayhu’s office said that “Israel has notified Egypt of its acceptance of its proposal for a ceasefire.”
According to Gaza officials, 1, 834 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, the majority being civilians. A quarter of the 1.8 million residents have been displaced, along with 3,000 Palestinians homes which have been damaged or destroyed. On the other side, Israel reports that 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire which has emptied most of its southern villages since the fighting started on July 8th.
However, negotiations are predicted to be very difficult, with both sides on completely opposite ends in terms of demands: Hamas rejects the Israeli nation’s right to exist, and has vowed to destroy it; while Israel denounces Hamas as a terrorist group.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz added to the tension, speaking on Israel’s Army Radio, “There are no agreements. As we have already said, quiet will be answered with quiet.”
Other than the truce, Palestinians also demand the lift of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza and the release of prisoners arrested by Israeli authorities during a June crackdown in the occupied West Bank after three Jewish students were kidnapped and killed. The same demands Israel have denied before.