Hamas’ Ceasefire – Smoke and Mirrors

Duped again by a Hamas promise to negotiate a long-term truce, Israel reacted by stepping up its air attacks over the Gaza Strip from Friday, Feb. 13, to hold down a fresh upsurge of Palestinian violence.
After spreading false reports that an 18-month truce and a deal for the release of the captive Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit were “hours away”, Hamas jerked the carpet from under the Cairo talks in spite of Israel’s over-generous concessions. Last week, Israel was persuaded by the Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman to let Hamas leader Mahmud A-Zahar travel from Gaza to Cairo, Damascus and Qatar on the understanding that he would override hardline Khaled Meshaal and sign an extended truce deal.
Instead of signing, Hamas used the time gained to restock its arsenal after the beating it took from Israel’s Gaza operation last month and regroup for a fresh cross-border offensive.
Early, Saturday, Feb. 14, the Israeli Air Force bombed two foundries turning out missiles near Jebalya outside Gaza City, injuring 6 Palestinians, after a week of spasmodic launchings.
Earlier, six tunnels running under the Philadelphi border corridor were destroyed in the middle of smuggling fresh supplies of arms, and a duo was struck on a motorbike near Khan Younis on its way to a terrorist attack in Israel. One was killed, two others injured. They claimed membership of the al Qaeda wing of the Popular Resistance Committees.
Jerusalem reacted in this way after agreeing to Cairo’s request last week to hold its hand against a slow spate of Hamas missiles. The request came from Gen. Suleiman, Egypt’s senior negotiator with Hamas, through the defense ministry official, Amos Gilead. Defense minister Ehud Barak accordingly ordered Israeli air bombardments to be confined harmlessly to abandoned buildings and sand dunes in the hope of convincing Hamas of Israel’s good will.
Israel also acceded to Suleiman request to temper its demand for Hamas to observe a 500-meter cordon sanitaire behind the Gaza-Israeli border, reducing the depth of this sterile belt to 300 m.
Israel also agreed to a 70 percent reopening of the border crossings.
Hamas played for time by raising new demands the while conspiring with al Qaeda’s cell in Gaza to mount a large-scale terrorist attack near Kissufim on the Israeli side of the border. Hamas supplied the explosives and intelligence but planned to deny responsibility so that Israel would have no justification for ditching the phony, indirect negotiating track in Cairo.
The plot was discovered Friday, Feb. 13, and Barak finally ordered the Israeli Air Force to go into action. Now that its machinations are exposed, Hamas is fully expected to revive its missile and rockets attacks on Israel full blast together with sabotage incidents along the border fence.

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