Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Cease Fire Sitch


Despite the cease fire, missiles are still being fired from Gaza, but not from Hamas this time. Now, al-Aqsa has a whole new beef with Israel. al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a Fatah offshoot, claims that the Israeli military has been behaving very badly in the West Bank and refuses to stop firing from Gaza until the cease fire is extended to the West Bank.

The first attack since the cease fire agreement was reached occurred on Wednesday, when two qassam rockets were fired into the Negev. al-Aqsa claimed responsibility and said it was in response to two people killed by the IDF in the West Bank city of Nablus. IDF officials claim the two men were planning a terrorist attack on Israel and that weapons and ammunition were found in their homes. Arabs claim the two men were students studying at the university in Nablus and were killed unjustifiably. No doubt the truth is somewhere in the middle, but meanwhile, Israel and the various Palestinian factions are playing the blame game.

Hamas is blaming the rocket attacks on Fatah (and al-Aqsa), al-Aqsa is blaming the IDF for West Bank killings, and the IDF is blaming Hamas for not stopping the missile fire. It's one big circle jerk, with innocent civilians not getting to have any of the fun.

The official terms of the cease fire are that Israel would open Gaza crossings, which has been delayed due to the rocket fire. World media, fueled by the UN, has been highly critical of Israel for keeping the Gaza borders closed despite the terms of the cease fire, but Israel's Haaretz News reminds readers that the IDF has not responded to the missiles with airstrikes, as they have in the past. Israel is under increasing pressure from its citizens to stop the missile fire and equal pressure from the rest of the world not to hurt Palestinians anymore.

Meanwhile, discussion of the theoretical cease fire continues. Israelis inch closer to the edge of their seats as the return of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit becomes more and more of a possibility. Haaretz says:
The London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat reported on Thursday that Egypt had given Israel a list of 1,000 prisoners Hamas wants freed in return for Shalit, but Israel objected to 75 percent of them. According to the paper's sources, the deal in the works is set to include the release of 150 Palestinian inmates in the first stage, in return for Shalit being transferred to Egypt, where his family will be able to visit him. On Shalit's return to Israel, 800 additional prisoners will be released in two stages.
800 prisoners for one man...even 10 for one, seems like a lopsided deal, but Yoel Marcus at Haaretz writes:
Since 1948, the number of Israeli prisoners held by the other side has been very small, compared with thousands in our hands over the years. The numerical formula, in other words, will always be lopsided. In a one-for-one exchange, we will still have thousands left over on our side. On top of that, we are talking about a deal between two sides that are unequal in many ways: Israel, a democratic country with organized procedures and a free, open press, versus organizations controlled by lone wolves, a decision-making process that is very different from our own, and a closed, censored media.
So the UN is pressuring Israel, Israel is pressuring Hamas, and Hamas is pressuring the underdog factions. In Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh uses the press to ask al-Aqsa and Islamic Jihad to knock it off:
"We expect everyone to respect the agreement so that the Palestinian people achieve what they look for, an end to this suffering and breaking the siege," he told reporters outside a Gaza mosque after Muslim prayers.
And who is listening to the underdog factions? Nobody.

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