After Hamas threatens late Thursday night to resume fighting, the Hebrew newspapers on Friday wonder whether those warnings will translate into rocket fire once the ceasefire ends at 8 a.m. (it does), and continue to provide more information about the abduction of the body of Lt. Hadar Goldin last Friday.
“A tense morning,” reads the headline in Yedioth Ahronoth. And Haaretz leads with “A late-night attempt in Cairo to prevent the resumption of fighting when the ceasefire ends,” while Israel Hayom’s headline reads: “The ceasefire: Today is the test.”
Yedioth quotes an official split on whether Hamas intends to act on the threats.
“There’s a 50% chance these are threats meant to apply pressure on Israel to be more flexible in the negotiations, and a 50% chance that Hamas really intends to open chapter two of the campaign, against all logic,” it says. The paper also highlights statements from various ministers warning that an escalation would be met with a harsh Israeli response.
Meanwhile, Israel Hayom reports that, shortly after midnight, an Egyptian official informed the paper a truce extension was in the works, and that Israel had agreed to the deal. Sources in Ramallah confirm the report. It writes that the Egyptians issued a strongly worded warning to the Palestinian delegation that if the rocket fire resumes, they will be held accountable. If Hamas opens fire in the morning, it reports, the Palestinian delegation will likely depart fro Cairo.
Haaretz reports that the disparities between the sides are huge, and the scope of the negotiations “is comparable to a final deal or peace talks.”
Both Yedioth and Haaretz report that, with regard to the terror organization’s demands, Israel has dismissed the option of opening a port or airport, and is unwilling to release prisoners.
However, a senior official says Israel is not opposed to the opening of the Rafah crossing, if it is manned by international forces, and adds that the expansion of the fishing zone is not out of the question. Yedioth reports that Israel wants international forces to oversee the transfer of construction material into the coastal enclave — to ensure it does not go toward the building of cross-border tunnels. Haaretz adds that Israel may ease its restrictions on its Kerem Shalom crossing, boost the number of exit permits for Gazans, and allow more imports to enter Gaza.
A poll in Israel Hayom indicates the Israeli public largely does not expect the Cairo negotiations to produce results. Some 68% of respondents say they don’t believe the Egyptian talks will secure a long-term deal, and 89% are of the opinion there will be another Gaza campaign in the future. The survey indicates readers are split on whether Israel won the campaign — 49% think that both sides lost; 45% claim Israel won. Satisfaction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz stands at 63%, 62% and 83% respectively.
Both Yedioth and Haaretz continue to piece together information about an attack near Rafah last Friday, during which three soldiers were killed, and the body of one of them, Lt. Hadar Goldin, was snatched by fighters.
Yedioth highlights Lt. Eitan, the Givati Brigade soldier who ran into the tunnel after noticing Goldin was missing, and who ultimately retrieved evidence that allowed the IDF to pronounce his death.
“I knew what a tunnel meant, and I knew that it was something you must not enter. I remembered all the training on booby-traps and shaft collapses. But in a kidnapping [situation], everything is permitted. You do everything to find the abducted,” he tells the paper. During the tunnel search, he saw bloody footprints, and Goldin’s personal effects, soaked in blood, he adds.
After descending, and requesting two other soldiers to accompany him, the three conducted a search of the tunnel, and in the process, lost contact with the other soldiers. Upon returning a half-hour later, his brigade had thought the three had been kidnapped as well, he says.
Troops descended into the tunnel later that day for a second time, and Lt. Eitan went down with them to find Goldin’s possessions. There, the soldiers also found army uniforms, weapons, and other materials the Hamas fighters had intended to use to carry out attacks.
Haaretz calls the ensuing search and heavy fighting in Rafah “Black Friday,” and says it is “likely to draw international attention in the coming weeks,” due to the heavy civilian death toll.
“This was the most aggressive action of its type ever carried out by the IDF, said military sources. In addition to the use of special forces, an armored column moved quickly about one kilometer into Rafah’s built-up area. The mosque was searched, as was a nearby Hamas command post, to prevent the removal of Goldin. Israeli air support was also called in,” it reports.
“Thus, in this incident, many civilians were killed, because of the heavy fire the IDF laid to thwart the abduction. Under the Hannibal Protocol, there was no time to warn them to leave their homes.”