Gaza celebrates ceasefire

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

THE STREETS of Gaza were packed last week to celebrate the ceasefire that ended the latest confrontation with Israel. Now the Palestinians are sweeping up the rubble and beginning to restore the public services shattered by a week of continuous air and missile attacks. But though the Arab losses were far greater than those of the Israelis the Hamas leadership are claiming victory and have proclaimed 22nd November a public annual holiday.

Over 170 Palestinians were killed and around 1,200 injured in the eight days of fighting, most of whom were civilians. The Israeli army says two of their soldiers died and 20 more were wounded in the fighting while four civilians were killed and 219 wounded by Hamas missile salvos into southern and central Israel.

But it was the Palestinians who won even though the battle isn’t over, a spokesperson for Hamas’ military wing said. Abu Obaida of the Al Qassam Brigades said: “The battle with the Israeli occupation hasn't ended yet, because the occupation is still going on and the Zionist enemy is known for treachery, therefore the al-Qassam Brigades and the resistance will always have their eyes open as long as the land is being pillaged.”

Abu Obaida said the brigades had fired 1,573 rockets — averaging 200 a day — during the war that began with Israel’s targeted killing of their leader in Gaza City on 14th November.

The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt and the Americans during talks in Cairo between the Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi and US foreign minister Hillary Clinton. Apart from the usual American platitudes about moving towards a comprehensive peace, which nobody takes seriously, the Zionists were forced to make some minor concessions to end the fighting.

The Israelis are believed to have agreed to double the fishing limit imposed on Gazan fishing to six miles and to permit Palestinians to return to the 300-metre wide buffer zone that Israel gouged out of the Gaza Strip for “security” reasons when the Zionist army withdrew in 2005.

But Hamas says the major gain was forcing Israel to ceasefire before launching its ground offensive — which the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood that has governed the Strip since 2006 claim was why the Israeli defence minister resigned a few days later.

General Ehud Barak stepped down on Monday. The former premier said he would be leaving politics following the general election in January “to dedicate more time to my family”.

General Barak was an Israeli Labour leader who broke with his party in 2011 to remain in Benjamin Netanyahu’s reactionary coalition government. A leading hawk, Barak was believed to be one of those in favour of an Israeli and American strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Some say that Barak’s departure, together with the reduction of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf and the departure of many senior US military and intelligence commanders, means that the prospect of an imperialist confrontation with Iran is now receding.

Others think that Barak’s resignation was prompted by the overall failure of his campaign to force Hamas to its knees in Gaza. But he has done this before and bounced back. Barak left politics when Labour lost the general election in 2001. He left Israel to work as a senior advisor with the US Electronic Data Systems and with a private equity company focused on security related work.

Within a few years he had become a multimillionaire but he returned to Labour and national Israeli politics in 2005. Whether 70-year old veteran Israeli politician will want to return to the political arena in Tel Aviv for a third time remains to be seen.