In response to Egyptian mediation, Israel is ready to shrink the security zone inside the Gaza Strip by 200 meters, provided the Palestinian Hamas observes a further 72-hour ceasefire going into effect at midnight Sunday, Aug. 10, debkafile’s intelligence sources report.. And if the truce holds overnight, Israeli negotiators will return to Cairo Monday morning to resume the talks interrupted by Hamas rocket fire Friday.
debkafile further reports that Israel may allow Gaza Strip to have a seaport at some time in the future, in return for the territory’s demilitarization – but not an airport. These concessions, say our sources, are not yet on the table, but part of a potential future deal that depends on Hamas holding to its side of the bargain, including disarmament and a permanent ceasefire.
But, most of all, it depends on the Hamas’ real decision-maker. Egyptian and Israeli intelligence believe that the elusive Muhammed Deif, commander of the Hamas military wing, is the organization’s final arbiter and have reason for presuming that he has decided that the time has come to halt hostilities with Israel.
If they have got this wrong, then the seventh ceasefire in the six-week long conflict will last no longer than the previous six.
These developments come in the wake of the steps reported by debkafile earlier Sunday.
Cairo sent a secret message to Jerusalem Saturday night, Aug. 9, saying that Egypt had been unable to bring Hamas around to any compromise because “you [Israel and the IDF] haven’t hit them hard enough.” This is revealed by debkafile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources. Therefore, there was no point in sending Israel’s envoys back to the Egyptian capital for negotiations on a durable ceasefire, because they would be coming on a fool’s errand.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu cancelled their departure, after understanding the import of the message: The Egyptian ceasefire initiative proposed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi had nowhere to go, until Israel’s armed forces clobbered Hamas’ military wing, Ezz e-Din Al-Qassam, into submission.
After their price for a ceasefire was rejected, Hamas and Islamic Jihad considered dropping out of the negotiating track. But meanwhile, on Friday, Aug. 8, they went back at their old practice of shooting rockets at the Israeli population, while also reserving the option to ramp the barrage up or down as it suited their plans.
By Sunday morning, Aug. 10, the short 72-hour respite for southern Israeli was over and the diplomatic impasse in Cairo had evolved into a diplomatic void.
From the first week of the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s leaders had been groping for a way out of the hostilities. Half a dozen ceasefires were declared – and violated by Hamas, who viewed the effort as a sign of Israeli weakness.
The prime minister and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon had counted on the 72-hour ceasefire, which expired Friday morning, providing Hamas commanders with a chance to come out of their bunker hidey-holes and view the devastation on the Gaza Strip surface. They would then be shocked into throwing in the towel – or so it was hoped.
But instead, Hamas commanders immediately seized on the ruins as an opportunity to parade the Palestinians of Gaza to the world as victims of “Zionist” inhumanity, of which they hands were entirely clean.
By now, Netanyahu and Ya’alon appear to be stumped for a policy.
All their military and political maneuvers, including their decision to limit the IDF ground incursion in the Gaza Strip last month to a depth of no more than one kilometer, failed to wrest the tactical initiative of the war from Hamas or bring harm to its military wing.
Friday, when Hamas resumed its rocket barrage Friday, it was in good shape, unlike the Gazan population, to embark on a war of attrition and keep it going for weeks, if not months.
The inhabitants of the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip were cast into a depressing uncertainty. After living under rocket attacks of varying intensity for 14 years, many decided to finally pull up roots, when promises by the prime minister and army leaders, that the bane was finally over and they could live in peace and safety, went out the window.
IDF generals warned Sunday morning of the dangers to the Gaza communities of a protracted period of indecision. They recalled the situation on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, when the army stood ready, day after day, to rebuff Arab aggressors around its borders, while the late Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dithered and the Chief of Staff, the late Yitzhak Rabin, couldn’t take the suspense.
Today, too, IDF divisions stand at their staging posts, ready and willing – just as soon as they get the order – to drive deep into the Gaza Strip and finally dislodge the fundamentalist Palestinian orchestrators of the senseless violence emanating for so many years from this sliver of territory.
If this order goes out, then, perhaps, Egypt may find Hamas more amenable to negotiating some sort of durable cessation of hostilities and an end to the destruction.