December 3, 2022

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza agreed to a ceasefire late Sunday night, in a move that was expected to end a three-day conflict that killed dozens of Palestinians, including militant leaders, but did little to change the status quo in the country. . Israel and the occupied territories.

The conflict, which began on Friday afternoon when Israel launched air strikes to thwart what it said was an imminent attack from Gaza, has paralyzed parts of southern Israel and destroyed many apartment buildings and militant bases in Gaza.

Forty-four Palestinians, including 15 children, were killed in the fighting, according to Palestinian health officials. Dozens of Israelis were slightly injured while escaping from Palestinian rockets, and a number of them were hit by shrapnel. Radio stations reported that an unexploded rocket landed in a residential area in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.

However, the central dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the 15-year blockade of Gaza, remain, and this weekend’s escalation has left the two sides further away than ever from the possibility of peace negotiations. But the fighting exposed simmering tensions between Islamic Jihad, the militia that led the final battle against Israel, and Hamas, the militia running Gaza, which chose to remain on the fringes of the conflict.

The fighting has badly damaged Islamic Jihad, the second largest militia in Gaza. Two of its main commanders are now dead and many of its bases and weapons factories destroyed – factors that allowed Israel to claim victory in this round of fighting.

A senior Israeli official said in a statement that Israel had completed a “meticulous and effective operation that achieved all of its strategic objectives.”

The ceasefire officially went into effect at 11:30 p.m. local time, and with the exception of one missile fired 20 minutes later, it appeared to be in effect early Monday morning.

Israel refused to reveal more details about the agreement, but Islamic Jihad said it had received assurances from Egyptian officials who brokered the negotiations that Egypt would pressure Israel to release two prominent members of the group, Basem al-Saadi and Khalil Awawda. The detainees are currently in Israeli prisons.

The conflict highlighted the limits and strengths of Israel’s strategy of making small economic concessions to ordinary Gazans – notably 14,000 work permits to help improve the Palestinian economy.

This approach failed to prevent another conflagration around the enclave that has seen at least six major explosions of violence since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. But by helping to persuade Hamas to stay out of this particular conflict, the strategy likely helped. In shortening the length of the fight, which often lasted in the past for weeks rather than days.

Inside Israel, the conflict initially also seemed to help polish the credentials of Yair Lapid, Israel’s interim prime minister, who has long been accused by critics in Israel of lacking the experience necessary to lead the country in times of war.

Before agreeing to the ceasefire, Israeli analysts largely portrayed the incident as a victory and even a warning to Israel’s other enemies in the region – particularly Hezbollah, the Islamist militia in Lebanon – of the fate awaiting them if they also entered. Large-scale fighting with Israel in the near future.

By contrast, with no change in life or prospects in Gaza and the West Bank, Palestinians had little to celebrate and many families remained grieving over the loss of life. Islamic Jihad was also embarrassing before Videos Which appears to show a defect in its missiles and their hitting civilian areas in Gaza.

Objectively speaking, the Israelis will win if the ceasefire continues,” said Ibrahim Dalsha, director of the Horizon Center, a Palestinian political research group. They isolated Islamic Jihad. Other than saying “we fired the rockets,” Islamic Jihad doesn’t really have anything concrete to tell people. And Hamas didn’t participate because it had a lot to lose, which is an achievement for Israel.”

The fighting also highlighted the growing acceptance of Israel by parts of the Arab world. The past Gaza wars have been heavily criticized by other Arab countries. This time, the response was more muted.

Two of the three Arab countries that established official relations with Israel in 2020, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, expressed interest About violence but avoid criticizing Israel. Only the third country, Bahrain, directly convicted Israel strikes.

But analysts said, from a broader perspective, the fighting has achieved little for either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

By launching strikes on Friday that killed prominent militant leaders, Israel curbed what it said was an imminent threat from Islamic Jihad. But the broader stalemate in Gaza will continue as long as Hamas is in power there, because the group remains unwilling to recognize Israel or disband its militia, leaving Israel unwilling to end its blockade, which continues in association with Egypt.

Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli minister and chief negotiator with the Palestinians, said the weekend’s war had stopped a “ticking bomb” but that it “would not bring about a strategic change in Gaza.”

She said Israel had not had a clear strategy for Gaza since its unilateral withdrawal from the Strip in 2005.

“When you don’t know what you want to achieve in the long run, you switch from one fight to the next,” Ms. Livni said.

But in the short term, recent Israeli economic concessions to Gaza appear to have encouraged Hamas, at least for the time being, to adopt a less aggressive approach as it rebuilds after a longer war last year.

About two million people live in Gaza, about half of them are unemployed, and only one in 10 of them has access to clean water, according to UNICEF.

Since the last war, Israel has offered work permits to 14,000 Gazans – a relatively small number, but a record number since Hamas seized power in 2007, and enough to provide a critical financial lifeline for thousands of families in the Strip.

Fearing losing this concession, Mr. Dalalsha said, Hamas has now begun to “act more rationally”. “They haven’t really recovered from last year’s blow, and they are more concerned about the continued easing and easing of restrictions on Gaza.”

Before the fighting began, Mr. Lapid was accused of taking an extremely negative approach to Islamic jihad. The group threatened reprisals from Gaza after the arrest of one of its top leaders in the occupied West Bank. In response, Mr. Lapid closed several roads near Gaza and imposed a curfew on Israeli communities near the border to keep residents out of the militants’ reach.

Lapid already had a reputation as weak on national security, unlike his main rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, who had accumulated a wealth of experience as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

But by launching air strikes on Friday, Mr. Lapid initially improved his position in the political race, analysts said, as long as the campaign ends at little cost in terms of casualties on the Israeli side.

On Sunday, Mr. Lapid scored a PR victory when he was photographed giving Mr. Netanyahu an official security briefing – a symbolic sign of how the balance of power has shifted between the two men.

But Mr. Lapid has also been eager to share responsibility and the stage with his defense minister, Benny Gantz, the former military chief of staff — and that means sharing the credit.

“Lapid has now acquired the image of a prime minister who led a military operation,” said Gail Telshir, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “But it’s clear that the brain, the planning, and the preparation will be more related to Gantz than to Lapid,” Dr. Talshir added.

But in Gaza, the airstrikes simply caused more misery and uncertainty.

Ghassan Abu Ramadan, 65, a retired civil engineer who was wounded during an Israeli raid on Friday, was recovering in hospital on Sunday during ceasefire negotiations.

“We have a complicated life here in Gaza, we don’t know what will happen, what our future will be,” said Mr. Abu Ramadan, lying on a bed in the intensive care unit at Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

“How long will this last?” Mr. Abu Ramadan added.

Raja Abdel Rahim, Fadi Hannouna, Gabi Sobelman, Carol Sutherland and Iyad Abu Haweila contributed to the report.

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