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Gaza - Gazans Clean Up as Truce With Israel Holds

Published on: November 22, 2012 08:33 AM
By: AP
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Palestinians check the extend of damage of a destroyed bridge connecting the northern and central part of the Gaza Strip, near Gaza City, 22 November 2012. EPA/OLIVER WEIKENPalestinians check the extend of damage of a destroyed bridge connecting the northern and central part of the Gaza Strip, near Gaza City, 22 November 2012. EPA/OLIVER WEIKEN

Gaza - Gaza residents cleared rubble and claimed victory on Thursday, just hours after an Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers ended the worst cross-border fighting in four years.

The cease-fire announcement had set off frenzied late night street celebrations in the coastal strip, and raised hopes of a new era in relations between Israel and Hamas. The two sides are now to negotiate a deal that would open the borders of the blockaded Palestinian territory.

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“Today is different, the morning coffee tastes different and I feel we are off to a new start,” said Ashraf Diaa, a 38-year-old engineer from Gaza City.

However, the vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.

Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 airstrikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militant groups showered Israel with hundreds of rockets.

It was the worst fighting since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago.

The eight days of relentless strikes killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, and five Israelis. Israel also destroyed key symbols of Hamas power, such as the prime minister’s office, along with rocket launching sites and Gaza police stations.

Despite the high human cost, Hamas claimed victory Thursday.

“The masses that took to the streets last night to celebrate sent a message to all the world that Gaza can’t be defeated,” said a spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.

While it is far from certain that Hamas will be able to pry open Gaza’s borders in upcoming talks, the latest round of fighting has brought the Islamists unprecedented political recognition in the region. During the past week, Gaza became a magnet for visiting foreign ministers from Turkey and several Arab states - a sharp contrast to Hamas’ isolation in the past.

Israel and the United States, even while formally sticking to a policy of shunning Hamas, also acknowledged the militant group’s central role by engaging in indirect negotiations with the Islamists. Israel and the West consider Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, to be a terrorist organization.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, defended his decision not to launch a ground offensive, in contrast to Israel’s invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.

“You don’t get into military adventures on a whim, and certainly not based on the mood of the public, which can turn the first time an armored personnel carrier rolls over or an explosive device is detonated against forces on the ground,” he told Israel Army Radio.

“The world’s mood also can turn,” he said, referring to warnings by the U.S. and Israel’s other Western allies of the high cost of a ground offensive.

However, with the cease-fire just a few hours old, Israel was not rushing to bring home all of the thousands of reservists it had ordered to the Gaza border in the event of a ground invasion, Barak said.

Barak was defense minister during Israel’s previous major military campaign against Hamas, which drew widespread international criticism and claims of war crimes.

The mood in Israel was mixed, with some grateful that quiet had been restored without a ground operation that could have cost the lives of soldiers.

Others - particular those in southern Israel who have endured 13 years of rocket fire - thought the operation was abandoned too quickly and without guaranteeing their security.


More of today's headlines

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Read Comments (3)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 22, 2012 at 08:48 AM Ari N. Says:

Peace is always better than war, although with Hamas, there is no such thing as peace (Hamas' charter states, that it is forbidden to make peace with Israel).

Hamas might be feeling great with all the attention they got, but they won't recover so fast from this round. Their infrastructure was crushed. They can't afford that israel should "mow the lawn" again any time soon...!

That in itself is a victory!

2

 Nov 22, 2012 at 09:21 AM Upset Says:

Reply to #1  
Ari N. Says:

Peace is always better than war, although with Hamas, there is no such thing as peace (Hamas' charter states, that it is forbidden to make peace with Israel).

Hamas might be feeling great with all the attention they got, but they won't recover so fast from this round. Their infrastructure was crushed. They can't afford that israel should "mow the lawn" again any time soon...!

That in itself is a victory!

King Solomon said in Kohelos "There is a time for war and there is a time for peace." I agree with you that with Hamas it is always a time for war.

3

 Nov 22, 2012 at 03:24 PM invstm1000 Says:

interesting how they claim victory at the same time accuse Israel of a massacre.

4

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