Gazans clean up as truce with Israel holds
However, the vague language in the agreement and deep hostility between the combatants made it far from certain that the bloodshed would end.
Israel launched the offensive on Nov. 14 to halt renewed rocket fire from Gaza, unleashing some 1,500 airstrikes on Hamas-linked targets, while Hamas and other Gaza militant groups showered Israel with hundreds of rockets.
It was the worst fighting since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago.
The eight days of relentless strikes killed 161 Palestinians, including 71 civilians, and five Israelis. Israel also destroyed key symbols of Hamas power, such as the prime minister’s office, along with rocket launching sites and Gaza police stations.
Despite the high human cost, Hamas claimed victory Thursday.
“The masses that took to the streets last night to celebrate sent a message to all the world that Gaza can’t be defeated,” said a spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
While it is far from certain that Hamas will be able to pry open Gaza’s borders in upcoming talks, the latest round of fighting has brought the Islamists unprecedented political recognition in the region. During the past week, Gaza became a magnet for visiting foreign ministers from Turkey and several Arab states — a sharp contrast to Hamas’ isolation in the past.
Israel and the United States, even while formally sticking to a policy of shunning Hamas, also acknowledged the militant group’s central role by engaging in indirect negotiations with the Islamists. Israel and the West consider Hamas, which seized Gaza by force in 2007, to be a terrorist organization.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, defended his decision not to launch a ground offensive, in contrast to Israel’s invasion of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009.
Israeli reserve soldiers remove detonators from shells in a 155 mm artillery position near Israel Gaza Border on Thursday.(Photo: Ariel Schalit, AP)
“You don’t get into military adventures on a whim, and certainly not based on the mood of the public, which can turn the first time an armored personnel carrier rolls over or an explosive device is detonated against forces on the ground,” he told Israel Army Radio.