Gaza Celebrates As Truce Ends Israeli Bombardment

on November 21 2012 1:28 PM
  • Gaza celebration
    Palestinians celebrate what they call a victory over Israel conflict in Gaza City after the cease-fire took effect Wednesday night, Nov. 21, 2012. Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement agreed on Wednesday to an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire to halt an eight-day conflict around the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 140 Palestinians and five Israelis. Reuters/Suhaib Salem
  • Gaza City
    Smoke and explosion are seen after what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Reuters
  • Clinton And Morsi
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi talk at a Wednesday meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo. Reuters
  • Daniels
    Jonny Daniels is a political advisor in the Israeli Knesset. Jonny Daniels
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A cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel has been reached, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, announced Wednesday, and it took effect in the evening. U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said the U.S. would "intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs," including pledging more money for Israel's Iron Dome.

Palestinians danced in the streets of Gaza, chanting, "People of Gaza, you have won," Reuters reported.

The U.N. Security Council later called on both sides to uphold the agreement and commended the efforts of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and others for brokering the truce, Reuters reported.

The council said in a statement it "deplored the loss of civilian lives resulting from this situation and reiterated the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection in according with international humanitarian law."

Clinton also praised Morsi, who was seen as gaining stature as a regional statesman for his role.

"I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence," Clinton, who met him Wednesday, said in Cairo.

"This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace," she said. 

Whether this cease-fire will stick, or if the region will again devolve into the post-2008 Operation Cast Lead state of constant rocket firing, remains to be seen. Jonny Daniels, a senior political consultant in the Israeli Knesset, said he has his doubts. 

"It's not a real cease-fire," he said. "It would just give Hamas time to build another arsenal to attack again.

"The prime minister has to make a strong statement," Daniels said. "He can't just come out with [a] cease-fire. [Israelis] know it's a load of crap; it's not going to be of any use. What we need to see right now is that we got a buffer zone.

"Unfortunately what we'll see is a huge number of rockets hit the ground in the next [few] hours," he continued. "The majority of missiles that hit today were from the Islamic Jihad organization, and Hamas doesn't want to let them have the last say. They want to fire the last rocket."

The cease-fire is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. local time, 2 p.m. in New York.

Meanwhile, at least 21 people were injured in a bus explosion in the heart of Tel Aviv on Wednesday; three were in a critical state. Police dubbed the incident a "terrorist attack." No one was killed, but YNet News in Israel reported rescue forces were searching for a second device rigged to explode.

The Al-Asqa Martyrs Brigade, a Palestinian nationalist militia not part of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attack, YNet News reported later

A Hamas spokesman praised the attack, telling Al-Arabiya, "It is an act of heroism," and told Al-Jazeera, "This is a natural result for the Israeli aggression on our people. If ... Israel continues its aggression, then all options are open."

Micky Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Israeli police, said there was no evidence it was a suicide bombing. 

A reporter for Al-Arabiya in Gaza said that sweet cakes were handed out in Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital to celebrate the attack. 

U.N Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, who just arrived in Israel and is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the West Bank, condemned the attack in the "strongest possible terms" in a statement

Israel continued its shelling of Gaza on Wednesday, with the death toll now standing at 138 Palestinians and five Israelis, al-Jazeera said. The Israeli Defense Force reported they had struck close to 50 tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border. The IDF also said that the Iron Dome defense system intercepted 20 of some 42 rockets that were fired at Israel from Gaza.

On Tuesday, six Palestinians were executed in the street by Hamas' military wing after being accused of collaborating with Israel. [See the video here.]

An attempt by Lebanon to join in the attacks on Israel was foiled on Monday when two Katyusha rockets pointed at Israel and set to launch were discovered and defused a mere 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away from the Israeli border, the Daily Star reported

The Red Cross on Wednesday announced they were working closely with the Palestinian Red Crescent and the Israeli Red Star of David and expressed concern that the "demand will exceed supply" of medical equipment if the conflict escalates.

At the U.N., Palestinian diplomat Riyad Mansour said, "We have to put an end to the options of war and to open the gate for the option of peace, ending the occupation and independence for our state." 

He said President Mahmoud Abbas would visit New York next week as the Palestinians seek an upgrade of its observer status at the United Nations from that of an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing Palestinian statehood.

U.N. diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 29. A senior Western diplomat told Reuters the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes in the 193-nation General Assembly, which would ensure the success of their upgraded status at the United Nations.

Israel and the United States have made clear they would oppose the upgrade, which would give the Palestinians the right to join bodies like the International Criminal Court, where it could file legal complaints against Israel.

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