A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January7, 2009--Day Twelve of War with Hamas, Fighting Continues While Ceasefire Talks Take Place
Today was the twelfth day of the fighting between the IDF and Hamas. The Israeli news has been dominated today by the question of when and whether there will be a ceasefire agreement. French President Sarkozy announced that a ceasefire agreement had been reached. His announcement was premature. He said that Israel and the Palestinian Authority had agreed to the agreement. So far, Israel has only agreed to examine the agreement, and the Palestinian Authority clearly cannot negotiate for Hamas. The agreement that has been put forth includes a promise of Egypt to do better at closing the border. The question of the border crossing is crucial. Egypt has promised to take control of the tunnels before, but is their promise to make changes enough to make a real difference in the situation in Gaza.
There are conflicting opinions on how much time remains before there is a ceasefire. First of all, it is not clear whether Hamas is even willing to agree to a ceasefire. The military wing of Hamas has not been hit hard and still wants to fight the IDF. They are only willing to accept a ceasefire on the same terms they wanted before the war began. In the course of this conflict, Hamas has not been able to prove any real success to the population of Gaza, neither military nor political.
Israel seems willing to accept some form of a ceasefire, although not the one that Sarkozy presented. Minister of Defense Barak is pushing hardest for Israel to reach a ceasefire. There are two explanations for Barak’s position. Until now the attack has been militarily very successful. A total of five soldiers have been killed, four by friendly fire. Hamas’ threat that Gaza will turn into hell for Israeli soldiers has clearly not happened yet. The next step of the offensive will require an entry into more heavily populated areas. The result will no doubt be many casualties. Therefore, if a ceasefire brings an end to the fighting sooner rather then later, Israel will have shown that it can take what ever action it wishes without paying a price.
The other theory relates to the change of administration in the US. Barak is in constant contact with his US counterpart, Secretary of Defense Gates. Gates is the one member of the current administration that will remain in his position in the next administration. He therefore has a better sense of what the Obama administration’s opinion regarding the current conflict is. Barak may be getting the clear message that this has to come to an end.
There was a three-hour ceasefire today in order to allow the civilians in Gaza to receive food and other humanitarian supplies. The ceasefire was both land and air, and Hamas responded with their own ceasefire. Food was distributed and the people of Gaza came out of their homes for the first time. Israeli television Channel 10’s Arab affairs reporter Tzvi Yechezkeli stated that it was his sense from talking to people that there is a great deal of resentment on the Gaza street towards Iran. The feeling is that they are being sacrificed for some Iranian goal that is not at all clear to them. How wide spread that feeling is, is clearly unknown. The temporary ceasefire clearly helps Israel’s image and helps avoid a true humanitarian disaster. Israel is planning to open field hospitals next to Gaza to treat wounded Gazans.
On the ground in Gaza there has been only limited fighting. The Israeli troops have captured the areas that it wished to hold. Hamas has not been engaging Israeli forces in any significant way. There were a total of nine soldiers wounded today, almost all. A total of 25 missiles landed on Israel today, a clear decrease in the numbers.