Israel closes Gaza crossing but promises Egypt no response to KassamsIsrael closed all of the Gaza crossings into southern Israel on Wednesday morning except for the pedestrian crossing at the Erez checkpoint, but promised Egypt it would not retaliate for the firing of three Kassam rockets by Islamic Jihad at Sderot on Tuesday. It made the commitment despite the fact that Hamas has no intention of making any effort to enforce the 'truce' on its side.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Wednesday's closure violated the cease-fire and another Hamas spokesman, Taher Nunu, called on Egypt, which mediated the truce, to intervene. "We will not accept leaving our people hostages to this policy," said Nunu.Coming from anywhere other than the Arab world, I would find the complaint that closing the crossings violates the 'truce' astounding - it's clear why the crossings had to be closed. But this is the typical Arab style of 'negotiating' - pocket the concessions you have and then insist on the next one. Why anyone would ever expect the terror groups to abide by any agreement they make is simply beyond comprehension.
Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya said Wednesday that while Hamas remained committed to the cease-fire, it would not act as Israel's "police force" in confronting terrorists who breech the truce.
He said Hamas was exerting pressure on Islamic Jihad to stop the rocket fire, but stressed that Hamas would not confront rocket launching squads on the ground.
"Even if there is a violation by some factions, Hamas emphasizes its commitment to the calm and is working to implement the calm," al-Haya said.
"But Hamas is not going to be a police securing the border of the occupation," he added. "No one will enjoy a happy moment seeing Hamas holding a rifle in the face of a resistance fighter."
Meanwhile, Al-Kabas reported that Israel had assured Egypt that it would refrain from responding militarily to Tuesday's Kassam attacks.
The Kuwaiti newspaper quoted "well informed" Egyptian sources as saying that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the guarantee to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during their meeting in Sharm e-Sheikh Tuesday. Olmert reportedly said that Israel would not carry out any "aggression" in the event that one of the Palestinian factions violates the terms of the truce.
In contrast to al-Haya's statement, the paper also said that Hamas had indeed made a commitment to punish factions that break the cease-fire to make sure all Gaza groups implement the truce.
The sources were also quoted as saying that due to Israeli concerns that Iran was influencing Hamas's decisions, Egypt gave Israel guarantees that it, and not Hamas, was responsible for making sure Hamas abides by the truce.
Nevertheless, also according to the sources, Egypt was attempting to raise the number of Palestinians freed in a swap deal for captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit from 450 to 600.
The fact that Israel has apparently agreed to tie its hands behind its back and not respond to terror attacks is also astounding. Surely no one can actually believe that the Egyptians are going to risk their troops to enforce the 'truce' anymore than Hamas would risk theirs. The level of Egyptian inactivity in stopping weapons smuggling to this point ought to make it completely clear that Egypt is not willing to do what must be done.
In Sderot, no one was surprised that the town had come under rocket attack again.
"When the ceasefire agreement with Hamas went into effect last Thursday, many residents expressed their fear that the rocket fire would be resumed shortly. Many of them continued sleeping in the secured rooms and bomb shelters.Reality may have taken a break for a few days, but it has apparently returned to Sderot. When it will return to the rest of us is anybody's guess.
Last week, Ofer Lieberman of Kibbutz Nir Am estimated that the truce would last until Tuesday or Wednesday.
"Even then I thought it wouldn’t last more than a week," he said Tuesday. "Our kibbutz didn’t really manage to get used to the calm, although it is very easy to get used to it. However, we continued our struggle over the past few days, and due to today's rockets we've decided to demonstrate tomorrow and block the Sufa and Karni crossing to the movement of goods and vehicles."
Yossi Zagzag of Sderot said he knew the truce wouldn’t last long. "I didn’t think it would realty be quiet. I took advantage of these days to try and sell my house and find a job outside this town.
"I was always afraid of an IDF operation which would end this calm. And indeed, today's rocket fire proved what we always believed, and even if there are a few more days of peace and quiet it won't help, because this situation will not end without a comprehensive IDF operation."
Yael Shneor was on her way back to her parents' house in Sderot on Tuesday afternoon. When she reached the house she heard the Color Red alert system and spotted people gathering outside her parents' home. Luckily, her mother and two grandchildren who were in the house were no injured, despite the fact that the house hit by Qassam shrapnel is unfortified.
"What happened today wasn’t a big surprise," she said. "You could say that we were all pretty tense. I have an 18-month old child who almost never goes outside, because there was a time when a rocket landed while I was outside and I haven’t left the house with him ever since.
"Yesterday I finally went out with him to the playground, and I planned to that him downtown, but naturally the rockets disrupted our plans. The truth is I had some expectations from this lull, because the security situation caused me to lose 15 kilos and damaged my health."