Truth about the truce
Hamas has gained nothing — it remains isolated and its military is crippled. But Israel is not celebrating
THERE ARE no winners at the end of the 50 days of warfare which culminated on Tuesday night in a month-long ceasefire.
The truce promised little for Gaza or Israel, just a return to the status quo after the deaths of 71 Israelis — seven of them civilians — and at least 2,000 Palestinians.
With eight previous ceasefires broken by Hamas, the terror group appears to have become frustrated at its failure to achieve any tangible result or carry out a signature strike on an Israeli target.
It seems that both sides are resigned to a temporary calm and the vague promise of more comprehensive negotiations in a month, if the ceasefire holds.
From the start of the conflict, Hamas and other Palestinian organisations in Gaza launched 4,591 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli targets. Around 200 of these fell within the Gaza Strip, causing considerable casualties.
The great majority of Hamas rockets fell in “open areas” without causing casualties or damage. The Iron Dome missile defence system successfully intercepted 735 rockets; 225 projectiles, mainly short-range mortar shells, fell in built-up areas. The IDF attacked 5,262 targets in the Strip during Operation Protective Edge.
On a tactical and strategic level, Hamas suffered a massive blow. Around two-thirds of its mid-range rocket arsenal was either destroyed or used up without causing significant damage within Israel.
Over 30 tunnels were destroyed. Hamas had invested heavily in the underground network, including a large proportion of the building materials meant for civilian housing and infrastructure in Gaza.
In the last week of the operation, at least three senior Hamas military leaders were killed in air strikes. The fate of its chief of staff, Mohammed Deif, remains unclear, and he could also be dead.
At the same time, Hamas succeeded in keeping up a high rate of fire throughout the seven weeks of fighting, including frequent salvoes towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
While these rockets failed to cause any casualties in Israel’s main cities, they forced residents to bomb shelters and, for one two-day period, caused a large number of international airlines to cease operating from Ben Gurion Airport.
The barrages from Gaza also
highlighted Iron Dome’s limitations, and the difficulty in blocking mortar fire at targets close to Gaza’s borders. At least ten soldiers and six civilians were killed by these shells — two of them in the hours before the ceasefire — and life in the kibbutzim surrounding the Strip was brought to a nearstandstill.
For all this, Hamas ultimately was forced to accede to a ceasefire agreement that guaranteed it little more than the assurances it received following the previous round of warfare in 2012 — that the crossings from Israel and Egypt would be opened for supplies to enter.
All the movement’s other demands — for seaport and an airport to be built, for the prisoners arrested two months ago in the West Bank to be released and for the salaries of Hamas employees to be paid — will be discussed when talks resume next week.
This did not stop Hamas leaders from declaring victory. The celebrations amid the ruined streets of Gaza may seem hollow, but so far there seems little appetite for a revolution.
A poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Public Opinion found that 88.9 per cent of Palestinians support rocket attacks on Israel and that 75.4 per cent believe that Israel has been deterred by them.
In the diplomatic arena, however, Hamas has been further isolated. The Egyptdrafted agreement that it has been forced to accept gives no role to the movement’s sole remaining supporters, Qatar and Turkey.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who resisted pressure from right-wing cabinet ministers to expand the operation and completely topple Hamas, has suffered in the polls. Only a month ago, at the height of the operation, over 80 per cent of Israelis were expressing support for his conduct.
A poll carried out on Tuesday by Channel Two found that satisfaction with the PM was down to 38 per cent, while 50 per cent are now expressing dissatisfaction with the way the Gaza operation has been handled.
The lack of a clear achievement for Israel has been underlined by the fact that the ceasefire agreement contains no reference to plans to demilitarise Gaza or change the security arrangements on its frontiers.
These wild fluctuations in Mr Netanyahu’s popularity do not spell an immediate political emergency and are more a reflection of the public’s frustration with how the fighting dragged on for nearly two months.
What is more worrying for him at this stage is the state of near-open rebellion within his cabinet and coalition, with many members criticising him for accepting a ceasefire while Hamas is still standing.
Palestinians walk through a ruined street in Gaza
A Palestinian youth stands on the rubble of Gaza’s Basha Tower, hit in an Israeli airstirke