Israel and Hamas are attempting a second Egyptian-brokered 72-hour ceasefire. If it holds, it will be the longest halt in hostilities between the two since the start of Operation Protective Edge on July 8.
The ceasefire could signal the end of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 1800 people, between 53% and 70-80% of which are civilians, according ot Israeli and Palestinian and UN sources, respectively. Ha’aretz quoted an anonymous senior Israeli official as saying that “if the cease-fire lasts, there will not be a need for a continued IDF presence within the Gaza Strip.”
This is a big if: the last time the sides attempted a ceasefire, Hamas militants attacked Israeli troops involved in tunnel-clearing operations that had been allowed under the halt in fighting, and attempted to kidnap a soldier who was later declared dead.
The Israeli willingness to accept a ceasefire, after indicating that they weren’t even willing to be involved in negotiating one just days ago, could indicate that they have achieved their main combat aim of destroying Hamas’s cross-border tunnel system. Israel believes its forces have dismantled all of the cross-border passages that it currently knows about.
It could also indicate that Israel is increasingly sensitive to outside criticism for the conflict’s civilian death toll as the operation drags on: the ceasefire came less than 24-hours after one of the harshest-ever American rebukes of Israel for the shelling of a UN school in which 10 people were killed.
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