Ten minutes after Israel extended a humanitarian truce in Gaza at 8 p.m. Saturday evening, sirens blasted in the Eshkol region adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Hamas had broken the truce.
An hour and a half later, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri was explaining to Al-Resalah’s website why his movement had decided to start firing once again, after largely abiding by the truce throughout Saturday.
“Any humanitarian ceasefire which does not include the occupation’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip borders, allowing civilians to return to their homes and evacuate the injured, is unacceptable,” he said.
But evacuating the dead and injured was precisely what Hamas had been doing during the 12-hour ceasefire Saturday. According to Hamas’s Interior Ministry website, police forces were deployed across the Gaza Strip to assist residents and tend to their needs. Gaza’s health ministry reported the recovery of 147 bodies across the Gaza Strip.
After Israel’s cabinet said it would extend the truce until midnight Sunday, Hamas rejected that as well.
“No humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and without residents being able to return to their homes and ambulances carrying bodies being able to freely move around in Gaza,” a spokesperson said, according to AFP.
Meanwhile, statements by Hamas officials and the movement’s media indicated that Hamas’s decision to continue fighting was less a function of the truce’s usefulness and more a question of honor and face-saving for the Islamist group.
“Any international initiative regarding the aggression on Gaza must conform to the sacrifices of our people and the excellent abilities of our fighters,” Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar told Al-Resalah.
Hamas does not want to be “tricked” by the humanitarian truce, claimed an article in Hamas’s daily. “Perhaps that explains Hamas’s refusal regarding the four-hour extension,” the article’s author surmises.
“Hamas — and the other factions behind it — want a final agreement assuring an end to the aggression and a removal of the siege. In short, it insists on realizing an ‘honorable agreement’ worthy of the blood shed on Gaza’s soil.”
Shortly after midnight, the Israeli cabinet approved a UN request to extend the humanitarian truce by an additional 24 hours. Palestinian journalist Yasser Zaatreh explained on Twitter the rationale behind Hamas’s rejection of the Israeli move.
“This is an [Israeli] attempt to improve its ugly image,” Zaatreh informed his 326,000 followers. “The international awakening is unnerving the Zionists.”
As Ramadan draws to a close with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr starting Monday, Gaza-based writer Hussam Dajany warned of accepting limited truce proposals.
“Some may move to implement a ceasefire deal during the holiday, or at least on its first day,” Dajany wrote in a Facebook post titled “A humanitarian ceasefire for the holiday: between wishes and warnings.”
“Despite the will of many of our people, especially children, to celebrate the holiday amid the ruins of destroyed homes, this bears terrible dangers for the fighting spirit of the Palestinian combatant who will come out to bring a smile to the lips of his children and family. Israel will use that for security [harm],” he wrote.
“My recommendation: any acceptance of a holiday ceasefire must prohibit spy and attack planes from flying, and include an Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip. I tend to reject a holiday ceasefire unless it is permanent, fulfilling the rights of the Palestinian people,” he concluded.
In an interview with Al-Resalah, Dajany added: “Recurring humanitarian ceasefires without finding fundamental solutions do more harm than good. These ceasefires should not repeat themselves, since they may create a public opinion which is harmful to the resistance [Hamas].”