Waiting to See How a Cease-fire Would Pan Out

Even if a cease-fire is reached, it's unlikely to be imposed immediately. But in the meantime, the fire continues.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Events since Sunday morning merely continue the events of the weekend, with no change of direction. Both Israel and Hamas are still waiting for word from the talks in Cairo. If the Muslim countries – Egypt, Turkey and Qatar – lean hard enough on the top people in Hamas, there is a real chance of extracting an agreement to a cease-fire that will prevent a ground operation. Without that, there’s a reasonable possibility that the leadership here will order the Israel Defense Forces to begin sending troops into Palestinian territory.

The night between Saturday and Sunday was the quietest for the inhabitants of southern Israel since the assassination of top Hamas official Ahmed Jabari last Wednesday afternoon. This might be a result of the military pressure on the Palestinian organizations by means of Israel Air Force attacks: The extent of the damage from aerial attacks in the past 24 hours on the launching cells and the stores of medium-range Katyusha rockets has been relatively large. It might have also been intentional: The Palestinian organizations have an interest in saving ammunition for the next phases of the conflict, especially as apparently they have reached the conclusion that nighttime firing at Negev towns – when the streets are empty and Iron Dome intercepts most of the launches – is not effective.

The firing starts up again, of course, in the morning, including the rocket that was intercepted above Tel Aviv on Sunday. At the same time, the air force attacks are continuing.

But things are determined far from Gaza – in Cairo and perhaps in Jerusalem, where the government was convened this morning. As in previous days, despite the bellicose declarations from some government ministers and MKs in media interviews, it seems that the basic approach of Israel’s highest echelon remains unchanged: The ground action will be expanded only in the absence of another alternative, if a cease-fire is not imposed on Hamas.

In the meantime, the IDF continues to mass troops and equipment on the border of the Gaza Strip in preparation for a possible ground action. The officers in the units deployed there mainly want to know one thing: What will they decide in Jerusalem – are we going in or not going in?

A random sample shows the gap between the standing army officers and the reserve officers. In the regular units they want the operation approved already. The reservists, who have already seen military adventures in their lives, want an arrangement that will avert the incursion.

Even if a cease-fire is obtained, it must be taken into account that it won’t be in the form of a written and binding agreement. The more likely scenario is an oral, indirect agreement, the thrust of which is “quiet in exchange for quiet,” in the first stage for two or three days. During this period, too, we will have to factor a "braking distance" - a period Hamas will need in order to exercise its authority and impose the truce on the smaller factions and on its own people, who still want to avenge the blood of their leader Jabari.

There is also another problem: Jabari’s successor, Marwan Issa, has not yet attained the status of his predecessor in the role. It is doubtful whether he will be able to impose order among the organizations with the same degree of effectiveness.

At a later stage, Israel will want to impose quiet for a longer period of time, mainly in preventing the firing of rockets into communities and towns and preventing attacks on IDF patrols from both sides of the border. In this case, too, we are talking about an abatement of a few months to a year, at most. In the army they understand very well that in Gaza temporariness reigns – there’s no point in talking now about a permanent cease-fire with Hamas and the more extremist factions.

In any case, all of this remains to be seen. Until then, the rockets are continuing to fall on the Negev – and far larger quantities of precision ammunition are landing right now on the Hamas command centers and weapons depots in the Gaza Strip.

An IDF soldier watching as an Iron Dome interceptor missile approaches an incoming rocket near Be’er Sheva.Credit: AFP

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