Barak loses Gaza truce gamble, Cairo decides to slam Rafah door shut
Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak held off responding to ten days of missile-mortar salvoes from Gaza in the hope of Cairo successfully negotiating a long-term truce deal with Hamas.
debkafile‘s military sources report that Egypt’s announcement Wednesday, Feb. 4, that as of Thursday, its only border crossing with Gaza at Rafah would be closed down for all traffic,signaled the breakdown of those negotiations. Cairo gave people who entered Gaza through Rafah and wished to leave 24 hours to do so. Egypt also discontinued all humanitarian operations for the Gaza population, including care for the war wounded and sick.
Egypt finally resolved to segregate the Gaza Strip Tuesday night after discovering that Hamas was under orders from Tehran to keep the truce talks dragging on aimlessly together with daily missile and mortar fire against Israel.
Cairo hopes that slamming the Rafah gate shut will bring Hamas to heel, although most doubt this will happen.
This breakdown has also shut the door on Barak’s solo policy of relying Egypt to reap the results of Israel’s three-week operation in Gaza in the form of Hamas surrender to a long-term ceasefire. Most of the Israeli government as well as the opposition were skeptical of this result. To avoid sending the military in to finish the job against Hamas, defense ministry sources tried claimed that the nagging fire from Gaza came from non-Hamas sources. Tuesday, a long-range, heavy Grad rocket from Hamas’ stock hit Ashkelon center and put paid to this claim. Hamas is expected to respond to its cutoff from Egypt by stepping up cross-border attacks against Israel.
Wednesday, Christopher Guinness, spokesman of the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNWRA, complained that Hamas police raided its warehouse in Gaza City and made off with 3,500 blankets and nearly 500 food packages that were to have been distributed to poor Gaza families. UNWRA demanded their immediate return.
Israel regularly opens at least two of the crossings on its side to regular supplies of essential goods and fuel for Gaza unless Palestinian fire escalates and targets those very crossings.