Israel’s security cabinet on Tuesday accepted an Egyptian ceasefire proposal to end the latest hostilities in Gaza hours after Hamas’s armed wing blasted what it called “an initiative of kneeling and submission”.
The morning after Egyptian authorities presented a proposal to de-escalate the latest, deadly round of violence in Gaza, Israel approved the truce deal just minutes before it was to come into effect at 0600 GMT, according to Israeli officials.
They said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet had convened to vote on the deal at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Israeli cabinet ministers voted six to two in favour of accepting the truce.
Two hardliners voted against -- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, both of whom have expressed support for a reinvasion of Gaza.
But in the decision, Israel warned that if there was renewed fire from Gaza militants it would "hit back with force", army radio reported.
The Israeli green light came just hours after Hamas’s armed wing appeared to reject the proposal according to a statement posted on the al Qassam Brigades official website.
The al Qassam Brigades said it had not officially received the text of the agreement but noted that excerpts published in the media showed it was "an initiative of kneeling and submission".
"Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity," the statement on the website added.
Reporting from Gaza City early Tuesday, FRANCE 24’s Gallagher Fenwick said the al Qassam Brigades statement did not necessarily mean the ceasefire proposal was dead upon arrival. “It’s not been completely rejected, as a matter of fact, by either side. This initiative was launched under international pressure by the Egyptian authorities who were meeting until late yesterday evening. As a matter of fact, there’s been a relative lull ever since this initiative was launched.”
But the relative calm was short-lived with the Israeli army confirming that Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rocket salvos into Israel after the Israeli cabinet accepted the truce deal.
Monday’s ceasefire proposal followed a week-old Israeli aerial bombardment of the sealed, densely populated Gaza Strip that has killed nearly 200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to Palestinian health officials. Hamas has sent hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory, which have been largely intercepted by Israel’s effective Iron Dome defence shield.
Rockets launched from Egypt’s Sinai into Israel
But in a new development Tuesday morning, three rockets were launched from Egypt’s Sinai region at the southern Israeli resort of Eliat, wounding four civilians, according to Israeli security officials.
Israeli security officials believed the salvo fired by Islamist militants in Sinai was meant to upstage Cairo's efforts to mediate a truce that would de-escalate the latest upsurge in violence.
“Those projectiles were probably shot by some of the jihadist groups that operate in that lawless territory,” said Fenwick, referring to the Sinai Peninsula. “Remember that throughout this past week, Israel has been dealing with rockets fired from the Palestinian enclave [Gaza] and now from Sinai apparently, but also from southern Lebanon and from Syrian territory. So the Israeli army obviously has been busy on all fronts.”
US welcomes ceasefire plan
Monday’s ceasefire offer by Egypt marked the first sign of a breakthrough in international efforts to end the conflict.
The proposal envisions a three-step plan starting at 9 am local time with a ceasefire to go into effect within 12 hours of “unconditional acceptance” by the two sides. That would be followed by the opening of Gaza’s border crossings and talks in Cairo between the sides within two days, according to news reports.
Gaza’s crossings should be opened for people and goods “once the security situation becomes stable,” according to a copy of the proposal obtained by AP.
The United States welcomed the ceasefire plan. White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the US hopes the plan will lead to calm being restored as soon as possible and that escalation won’t benefit Israelis or Palestinians.
Egypt’s diminished leverage in Gaza
With the death toll mounting, both sides have come under increasing international pressure to halt the fighting.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said there is “no alternative but return to the truce” of November 2012, and added that Egypt contacted all the parties, including the Palestinian leadership, different Palestinian factions, and Israeli authorities in addition to Arab and international parties.
Egypt has refrained until now from involving itself in the conflict, and it remains to be seen how Hamas will interact with the new government in Cairo.
“There is some hope, but you have to keep in mind that Egypt has a lot less leverage than it did two years ago [under the ousted Muslim Brotherhood movement] or even four years ago under [ousted president Hosni] Mubarak” FRANCE 24’s Ashraf Khalil reported from Cairo.
“This current government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood an enemy, and this Muslim Brotherhood is essentially the parent organisation of Hamas,” said Khalil. “So, Egypt is not playing from its usual position of strength and credibility.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-15