As heavy fighting continued Wednesday night, newspaper editors looked forward to a humanitarian ceasefire scheduled for Thursday, not only because it will offer five blissfully violence free hours, but because it also promises something new to talk about.
Not that Israeli journalism’s finest stables of talking heads, prognosticators, blowhards and analysts have run out of things to say. The call-up of an additional 8,000 troops to the border with Gaza throws more fuel on the “will they or won’t they invade?” fire. And the killing of four children on a Gaza beach puts a sour exclamation point on what has been a punishing nine days for the Strip.
Israel Hayom notes that the five-hour ceasefire, coming at the request of the UN, will not only allow Gazans to replenish their food stocks, but also let Hamas leaders come out of their spider holes to survey the damage wrought by over a week of airstrikes. The implication is that by seeing their destroyed homes and other damage, it may convince them to sue for peace.
Yedioth Ahronoth reports that along with the humanitarian ceasefire, efforts are still ongoing to find a more permanent halt to hostilities. And those efforts, commentates Shimon Shiffer, shall flow from river Nile.
“Between all the endless chatter coming out of experts sitting in television studios offering their various solutions to the Hamas problem, it is hard to truly know what is happening behind the scene. Yet there is one thing we can all agree on: The announcement of a ceasefire will come from one place only, Cairo,” he writes. “Israel trusts in the ability of Sissi and his men to act as agents. Netanyahu is engaged, not for the first time, in a roundabout negotiation with Hamas. It’s possible he will be asked to agree at the end of the day to a lifting of the naval blockade on Gaza – a demand he probably won’t be able to swallow.”
There are those, though, who apparently believe Egypt should not be the one brokering the deal. Haaretz reports that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in between dodging incoming missiles, told his Norwegian counterpart that Qatar and Turkey, both gunning to be mediators, had scuppered a previously proposed Egyptian ceasefire.
“Hamas was ready to consider the Egyptian proposal favorably but Qatar wanted to screw the Egyptians and told them not to accept it,” Liberman told Borge Brende, according to Haaretz, which adds that all Qatar’s moves are being coordinated with Ankara.
The paper’s Amos Harel writes that Mahmoud Abbas is dealing with both possible diplomatic channels, while the US, surprisingly, prefers, along with Hamas, the Qatar-Turkey option. He also notes that despite Israel wanting to do away with Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure, it’s perfectly happy to leave its political wing as a Gazan strongman.
“Although Hamas has fired over 1,000 rockets at Israel in little over a week, the IDF fears an even worse scenario: a Somalia-like situation in which dozens of gangs or clans would take over various parts of Gaza. Neither the prime minister, the defense minister, nor the IDF chief of staff are calling for crushing the Hamas government in Gaza, meaning its political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, is not a legitimate Israeli target. Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’s military wing, most certainly is,” he writes.
‘Hot and tired’
While intensive diplomacy is ongoing, Israelis are still playing the ground invasion waiting game, with the possibility of a land invasion seeming to gain ground as the cabinet approved the call-up of 8,000 additional reserves soldiers.
Israel Hayom’s Dan Margalit writes, though, that in the meantime, soldiers already being forced to while away their time on the border are not having the funnest summer vacation, even if they are there for a reason.
“The psychology of continued waiting for no reason carries for the soldiers types of depression, anger, and loss of self-assurance. Indeed, from a strategic perspective, the soldiers are carrying out an important task, they are a tool to put pressure on Hamas to back away from terror. … But the soldier burrowing in the hot July sand across from the Gaza border doesn’t understand without a convincing explanation that his passive stance fills an active role in a bid to bring about diplomatic goals, and with minimal risk to his life. It’s hot and he’s sick of it.”
In Yedioth, Yossi Yehoshua wonders what the hold-up is, especially considering that the IDF’s air attacks have been mostly ineffective at doing anything but bringing international condemnation on Israel.
“The army has requested permission to carry out a limited ground operation to take out the threat of tunnels. In the words of officers, there is no way to hit the tunnels from the air or to neutralize them from within Israel, and thus there won’t be another chance to get at them. A thousand Hamas rockets are equal to the damage of one tunnel, and the army claims that these tunnels are intended to carry out large terror attacks and kidnapping that will in the end drag the army unwillingly deeply into the Strip. If the army demands this campaign and the political echelon puts the brakes on it, it’s correct to ask what’s going on between them, and to wonder if despite Netanyahu’s statements, he doesn’t really trust in the land army and is thus keeping ground forces from crossing the fence.”
Haaretz covers the killing of four children on a Gazan beach Wednesday, which the IDF is investigating as a possible tragic case of mistaken identity. The paper interviews British journalist Peter Beaumont, who saw the whole shebang, which occurred near a hotel popular with the foreign press, go down.
Beaumont, who works for the Guardian, says that following an initial blast, “on the retaining wall there were puffs of smoke and we saw four people running along it. They ran all along until they reached the beach and jumped down. They were turning and running towards us and through the smoke you can see they were children.”
Following that blast came a second explosion. Hitting right behind a group running toward the hotel. “You couldn’t mistake them even through the smoke, it was obvious they were children,” he says. “The oldest one who was 13 looked to me as if he was 8. These were dinky raggedy fisherman kids wearing shorts.”