An Israeli Merkava tank moves along the border with Gaza (background). (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90) An Israeli Merkava tank moves along the border with Gaza (background). (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
protective edge

Israel is prepared for resumed fighting, with the five-day ceasefire set to expire Monday at midnight. Calm without an agreement is also possible, officials say.

With the five-day ceasefire set to expire at midnight on Monday, Israel is preparing for the possibility that Hamas will renew rocket fire.

“If the fire [from Gaza] resumes, Israel will respond with full force,” a senior Israeli official said. “If fire at Israel is not renewed, it is possible we will enter a state of calm without an agreement. Patience is necessary. The operation is not over and it could take more time. The greater the resilience of the public, the more we will be able to achieve.”

Egypt Aiming for Long-Term Truce

Egypt is trying to prevent a collapse of the indirect ceasefire talks being held in Cairo. Egyptian and Palestinian media outlets reported that Egypt has proposed that the sides declare a permanent ceasefire and that talks on a long-term arrangement resume next month. These talks would reportedly deal with all matters on the table, including Hamas’ demand for an airport and seaport in Gaza and Israel’s demand for the return of the remains of fallen soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

Meanwhile, Israel has lifted some the restrictions that were put in place in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. On Sunday, Israel permitted Gaza fishermen to go back to work and fish up to three nautical miles from the Gaza coastline.

At the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We are in the midst of a combined military and diplomatic campaign. From the first day, the Israeli delegation to Cairo has worked under clear instructions: Insist on the security needs of the State of Israel. Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings.

Hamas Claims Hundreds of IDF and Israeli Civilian Deaths

“In the past month, Hamas has taken a severe military blow. We destroyed its network of tunnels that it took years to dig. We intercepted the rockets that it had massed to carry out thousands of deadly strikes against the Israeli homefront. And we foiled the terrorist attacks that it tried to perpetrate against Israeli civilians — by land, sea and air.

“If Hamas thinks that it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement, it is mistaken. If Hamas thinks that continued sporadic firing will cause us to make concessions, it is mistaken. As long as quiet is not restored, Hamas will continue to take very harsh blows. If Hamas thinks that we cannot stand up to it over time, it is mistaken.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri issued a quick response, saying, “Netanyahu is throwing dust in the eyes of the Israeli public, because he is afraid Israelis will be furious when they find out the real results of the campaign. The Palestinian resistance forces caused hundreds of deaths and injuries in the Israeli army.”

Numerous Ministers Urge No Flexibility toward Hamas

Numerous cabinet ministers are calling for Israel to show no flexibility toward Hamas. International Relations, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said Israel must insist on the demilitarization of Gaza. Steinitz said a seaport or airport in Gaza would be nothing more than “duty free for rockets.” Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) called for an end to the talks in Cairo.

“The situation in which we bite our nails while we wait for an answer from a murderous terrorist organization must stop,” Bennett said. “We must immediately stop the negotiations with Hamas and take our own destiny in our hands with a simple formula: humanitarian — yes, terror — no.”

As usual, the various Palestinian groups were not on the same wavelength on Sunday, and divisions were also evident within Hamas itself. Arab media outlets reported that chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat met in Doha over the weekend with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and urged him to accept the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.

The Al-Hayat newspaper reported that the U.S. has agreed to serve as a guarantor that Israel will uphold what has been agreed to in Cairo. The report also said the Egyptian ceasefire proposal has won the support of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad Reject Demilitarization

Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials are saying that the demilitarization of Gaza is not in the cards.

“We will not agree to give up weapons which we use for self-defense,” Islamic Jihad official Khaled al-Batesh said. “It would be preferable to return from Cairo without an agreement than with a humiliating agreement that in effect represents a surrender agreement.”

A Hamas official threatened, “The next campaign against the Zionist enemy will be held inside the Zionist entity, on the lands of Ashkelon.”

Source: Israel Hayom