Is­rael ag­o­nises over endgame as truces turn to dust

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

AS THE con­flict in Gaza en­tered its fourth week and the prospects of a cease­fire looked slim, the Is­raeli se­cu­rity cabi­net was split over whether to ex­pand the op­er­a­tion and strike at the Ha­mas lead­er­ship or to con­tinue a lim­ited ac­tion to erad­i­cate the ter­ror group’s tun­nels.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and De­fence Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon are still in favour of the more lim­ited op­tion and are con­tin­u­ing to seek a cease­fire through Egypt and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

Last week­end, both Ha­mas and Is­rael re­jected a US pro­posal for an im­me­di­ate truce.

Is­rael’s ob­jec­tion was based on the lack of clear as­sur­ances that Ha­mas’s tun­nel­san­drock­etswouldbe­de­stroyed or that the Strip would even­tu­ally be de­mil­i­tarised. It was also con­cerned by the in­volve­ment of Ha­mas’s sup­port­ers, Turkey and Qatar, in the cre­ation of the cease­fire plan. The PA, which was given no role in the US pro­posal, also turned it down.

Fur­ther ef­forts to reach a new cease­fire in Cairo were de­layed on Wed­nes­day due to dis­agree­ment among the Pales­tini­ans as to who would take part in a joint del­e­ga­tion to the talks.

While the Is­raeli govern­ment is of­fi­cially stick­ing to the orig­i­nal pro­posal of the Egyp­tian regime, which called for a seven-day cease­fire dur­ing which talks would be held on grad­u­ally open­ing up the Gaza Strip, in off-record dis­cus­sions, Is­raeli officials were al­ready out­lin­ing a fu­ture agree­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to these officials, Is­rael is in­ter­ested in pur­su­ing a si­mul­ta­ne­ous dual-track plan which would al­low for open­ing Gaza up to com­merce and travel and build­ing new in­fra­struc­ture there, while dis­man­tling the rocket launch­ers and weapons man­u­fac­tur­ing work­shops.

Such an agree­ment would in­clude Is­raeli as­sur­ances not to carry out fur­ther at­tacks on Ha­mas lead­ers and bases. The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity, along with in­ter­na­tional mon­i­tors, would im­ple­ment the agree­ment, over­see the cross­ings to Is­rael and Egypt and grad­u­ally re­store its au­thor­ity in Gaza.

Mean­while, the fight­ing went on — de­spite a uni­lat­eral pro­posal by Is­rael through the UN to hold daily “hu­man­i­tar­ian truces” in Gaza to al­low the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion to re­plen­ish sup­plies, evac­u­ate wounded and bury their dead.

Dozens of ca­su­al­ties were caused when a mar­ket in Shu­jaiyeh and a school in Ja­baliya were hit, most likely by IDF shells.

Three soldiers were killed and at least 12 wounded in an IDF op­er­a­tion to de­stroy the en­trance to a Ha­mas tun­nel in Khan You­nis, when a booby-trapped house they en­tered ex­ploded. As of Wed­nes­day, 56 Is­raeli soldiers had been killed, and three civil­ians. Ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian Min­istry of Health, 1,324 Pales­tini­ans had been killed.

On Tues­day night, the IDF ex­panded its op­er­a­tion, tak­ing con­trol of ad­di­tional ar­eas on the out­skirts of the cities in the Strip. IDF sources said that the ob­jec­tive was still to de­stroy nearly 40 cross-border tun­nels built by Ha­mas.

Houses de­stroyed in Beit Ha­noun, Gaza, and ( below) an IDF sol­dier prays near the Gaza border

PHOTO: FLASH 90

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