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Gazan War Nearing End
Battered Hamas ready to accept cease fire
Yehonathan Tommer (tommery06)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-13 10:39 (KST)   
On the 17th day of hostilities, the Israeli Gazan operation appears to be nearing an end amidst stepped up military activity and a flurry of shuttle diplomacy.

Last Friday's UN Security Council Resolution 1680 stressed the "urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire," accelerating mediating efforts by Egypt, the US, France and Syria to get the warring parties to agree to a cease-fire.

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Israeli fighter planes continue to bombard the smuggling tunnels at the Philadelphi route to thwart Iranian efforts to re supply Hamas with long-range rockets shipped to Gaza by sea and land, Israeli sources say.

Israel Poised to Intensify War Effort

Thousands of infantry reservists have completed training for combat in built-up civilian areas. They are now fighting alongside regular Israeli troops backed by aerial and naval support. The tightening siege cordons off Gaza City from Rafah and Khan Younis in the south and from Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiyeh in the north of the Strip. Israeli forces are waiting for a Cabinet decision to enter the third stage of ground battle, probably to root out Hamas fighters and stockpiled weapons from the labyrinth of underground shelters.

Fighting in Gaza City's densely populated refugee camps riddled by narrow alleyways would result in huge Palestinian civilian casualties, adding to the unverified 900 dead and over 4,000 injured Palestinians, sources claim. Half the casualties are women and children.

Truckloads loaded with tons of food, medical supplies and fuel for distribution to the war-stricken population pass through the Kerem Shalom border crossing each day during a three-hour lull. The convoys are frequently targeted by Hamas artillery and snipers. The Israelis say that Hamas deliberately confiscates most of their contents as proof of the humanitarian crisis created by the two-year blockade and the current fighting. The world at large is outraged by the human suffering and is unimpressed.

Meanwhile the Attorney General Emmanuel Mazuz is preparing for a spate of war crimes claims against Israel when the war in Gaza ends.

Disagreements Ahead of February Elections

Israel goes to the polls in less than a month as some politicians toy with the idea of deferring them. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (his party's deposed leader accused of seeking rehabilitation for his failure in the Second Lebanon War) pushes a hardline. Israel, he said at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, was close to realizing its objectives and must press on with its offensive "to change the security situation for its southern residents."

Some have interpreted this obscure objective as a euphemism for regime change and ousting Hamas from power. Israel's intensifying military action tightens the screws on Hamas to agree to Cairo's proposed cease-fire terms.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's popularity has soared. He favors ending the war. Israel will soon complete the task of stopping rocket fire into Israel towns and rural communities, he said. He is known to be reluctant to order Israeli troops into Gazan population centers to avoid being sucked into a Gazan version of an Iraqi-style guerrilla quagmire.

Foreign Minister and elected Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has been accused of mishandling Israel's diplomatic campaign and her personal rating has slipped against Likud Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. She said on Israeli Radio Monday it was time for an immediate cease-fire. The IDF had destroyed most of Hamas' rocket and mortar arsenal and the organization's military capability has been smashed. Hamas leaders, she said, will be deterred from renewing their attacks and risking another massive Israeli reprisal.

Egypt Presses Hamas to a Cease-fire

Hamas Gazan leaders, the Israelis say, have taken cover in a bunker under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Egyptian sources say that Ismayil Haniyeh is willing to accept the Franco-Egyptian proposals for a cease-fire. Basically, they restore the arrangements governing the Rafah border crossing following Israel's disengagement from the Strip in October 2005 (Palestinian Authority responsibility with European supervisors and Israeli monitoring cameras). But Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Meshel insists that Hamas be given control of the Rafah border crossing. He rejects all foreign presence and Israeli involvement and also demands a lifting of the Israeli blockade and a reopening of all Gazan border crossings.

Syrian meddling has angered Egypt which wants to be given credit for bringing Hamas to a cease fire. Cairo has given the divided leadership in Gaza and Damascus a 48-hour ultimatum to accept its terms.

Differences between Egypt and Israel over the mechanism to prevent arms smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip are delaying an agreement on a cease-fire which all parties want concluded before the change of administration in Washington on January 20th.

Egypt has flatly rejected Israel's demand for a multinational inspection force. Deploying it on the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi border, they say would infringe its national sovereignty. Israel, for its part, rejects a United Nations force on the Gazan side, arguing that it would grant Hamas, a terrorist organization, de facto state recognition. It would be as ineffective against Hamas intimidation, the Israelis say, as the UNIFIL force (in place after the Second Lebanon War in 2006) is against Hezbollah provocations in Southern Lebanon.

A sizeable Egyptian combat force deployed with American guarantees along the 200 km Israel-Egyptian-Gazan border trained in counter terrorist operations and equipped with German supplied radar technology to snoop out potential arms smuggling tunnels could resolve the diplomatic impasse.

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Should Israel implement a cease-fire in Gaza?  (2009-01-02 ~ 2009-01-26)
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©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Yehonathan Tommer

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