Israel’s security cabinet will meet at 7 A.M. Tuesday to discuss an Egyptian cease-fire proposal for Gaza, which a senior Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts and will bring to a vote at the meeting.
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According to the official, the Egyptian initiative calls for an unconditional cease-fire and does not address Hamas' demands such as paying the salaries of tens of thousands of Gaza civil servants or releasing prisoners arrested in the West Bank after the kidnapping-murder of three Israeli teens last month.
Egypt has renewed its efforts to mediate an Israel-Hamas cease-fire in Gaza, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry due to fly to Cairo Tuesday to assist in the effort.
The Israel Defense Forces says Hamas is now ready to discuss a truce that would reinstate most of the terms reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, but with gains for Hamas in the form of economic relief from Egypt and other Arab states. While the rocket fire abated slightly Monday, several more days are likely to pass before a deal is finalized.
IDF sources said Hamas was trying to rack up an achievement before agreeing to a cease-fire. On Monday, Israel foiled a new kind of attack from Gaza when the air force downed a small unmanned aerial vehicle off the coast near Ashdod. The drone caused no damage before being shot down by a Patriot anti-missile battery.
The understandings that ended Pillar of Defense, which were detailed in an unsigned documented drafted by Egypt, contained several components. Both sides committed to stop firing, Israel was entitled to enter 100 meters into Gaza to thwart terror attacks, and Israeli economic restrictions on Gaza were eased.
Now, Hamas is demanding that Egypt lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods through the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza. It also wants the Palestinian Authority and Qatar to help it pay long-overdue salaries to tens of thousands of Hamas employees in Gaza.
Egypt, which until Monday was barely involved in the mediation efforts, is likely to agree to these demands, but it is conditioning any easing of movement through Rafah on PA officials returning to serve as liaisons between Egypt and the Hamas government in Gaza.
The IDF believes Hamas’ current demands are more realistic than its earlier ones, as a result of Israel’s intense aerial assault on Gaza.
Hamas is thought to be willing to drop its demand for the release of nearly 60 Hamas members who were rearrested in recent weeks after being freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit. In any case, six of them have been freed for legal reasons, and Israel might gradually release others without admitting that this was part of a cease-fire deal.
Since Operation Protective Edge began last week, nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and about 1,200 wounded. According to the IDF, nearly half the people killed were active members of terrorist organizations. The air force has also destroyed more than 100 houses belonging to Hamas operatives with the rank of company commander or higher, on the grounds that these homes doubled as command and control centers.
The air force bombing campaign continued Monday, striking dozens of targets including rocket launchers and missile stockpiles. On average, Israel has bombed about 250 targets per day.
According to Military Intelligence, terror groups in Gaza had about 9,000 rockets when the operation began. Of these, more than 1,000 have been fired at Israel, while nearly 3,000 have been destroyed in Israeli air strikes. Of the remaining 5,000, most are short-range rockets, but a few hundred are thought to be medium-range.
About half of all known rocket-production facilities in Gaza have been destroyed.