Following the news of an imminent ceasefire, I was waiting impatiently for that moment—9 pm local time (1900 GMT)—when ceasefire would be announced. It was still 08: 25, but I kept fastening my eyes on my laptop’s clock anyway, hoping that the remaining time would pass so quickly that the Gaza morgue would close its doors before Israel could commit more crimes. I was tormented as I counted the seconds, and, at the same time, I was listening closely to the Al-Aqsa radio’s broadcaster, who obviously was struggling to catch up with the influx of the news of the continuing airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. “We are only 15 minutes from the zero hour,” the broadcaster declared, excited. Only a few minutes later, the radio’s special tone signalling breaking news sounded for a few seconds; my heart had skipped a beat fearing that Israel could have committed a massacre like that of the Al Dalou family, which lost 10 family member when an Israel F16 missile hit their house. But then the voice of the broadcaster came carrying the news of a new martyr. Israel killed Musab Ayish in an air strike on El Sheikh-Radwan Bridge in Gaza City at 8:10 pm.
These last ten minutes seemed never-ending as bombing continued. And…”It’s 9:00 pm. The truce is officially holding now,” the same broadcaster shouted enthusiastically, thanking God and praising the resistance for “achieving this magnificent victory.”
Now that the ceasefire has been finally agreed upon, I feel so happy and relieved that the Israeli aggression has stopped and calm returns to the people again. Unfortunately I’m not in Gaza at the moment; otherwise, I would have joined the thousands of jubilant Palestinians who took to the streets to celebrate what they say is a victory over Israel. I talked to a few of them, and they were thankful that they are still alive.
The new equation established by the Palestinian resistance on the ground during the eight-day onslaught against Israel had been the real victory. Israel simply thought it would finish what it called its “bank of targets,” and in return, it would sustain minor human casualties if compared to the heavy price the people of Gaza paid in “Operation Cast Lead” four years ago. But all of a sudden, Hamas unexpectedly created compelling circumstances when it daringly fired a long-range rocket which landed in Tel Aviv. Israel must have been flabbergasted by this incident, and therefore it continued to bomb the Strip insanely, and, at the same time, to deploy thousands of reservists on the periphery of the Gaza Strip for a possible ground incursion.
As the Israeli aggression flared, Hamas and the other Palestinian armed groups continued to shock Israel with more and more surprises—such as the filmed operation of shooting down an F16 and a gunboat and the continuation of launching longer range rocket towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When it began to seriously seek diplomatic solutions, Netanyahu’s government must have realized that it could neither stop the Palestinian rockets from flying into Israel nor carry out a ground invasion. Otherwise, under no circumstances would Israel have agreed to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas.
I have carefully read the text of the agreement. And I have some comments: on the one hand, the first item stipulating that Israel should stop all hostilities does not totally guarantee security for the Palestinians of Gaza. It has left out some issues essential for ending the suffering of the Palestinians. For under this dispensation, Gazans would be still living under the constant presence of Israeli F16 fighter jets and drones over Gaza. The unremitting whine of the drone overhead is absolute psychological torture for Palestinians, knowing that a surveillance machine is watching you, and that it precisely could kill you at any moment.
When I was in Gaza, sometimes I would plug my ears to be able to sleep. Last night, I received a Facebook message from a friend telling me the drones were still present and that he was almost driven crazy by their sounds. He was wondering if the Hamas government should consider that as a breach of the agreement and report it to the Egyptian government. Also what about the F-16’s earsplitting sonic bomb? Will Israel continue to launch them to terrorize the Gazan population, especially children and babies?
Now Israel is supposed to stop attacking from the sea. In other words, Israeli navy forces should stop randomly firing towards Gaza’s shore and at the houses in Gaza. This is good. But what about attacking the Palestinian fishermen, who constantly come under Israeli fire even when they are within the maritime limit imposed by Israel?
Just as important is the issue of the so called “buffer zone” extending along the entire northern and eastern border with Israel, which devours about 2 kilometers of the land. The question is: will farmers be able to access their land without getting shot at?
On the other hand, the second term of the agreement concerning the end of “all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks, and attacks along the border” fully and unconditionally guarantees Israel’s security. Did Israel have any other threat other than the rocket fire from Gaza? Now that it has gone, Israelis do not have to worry about rocket attacks any more. It seems that what Netanyahu had failed to achieve by force was secured by the ceasefire agreement.
As for the third point in the document, it does not seem necessarily binding on Israel to stop all forms of restrictions against the Palestinians at the borders. The section relevant to this is only made up of a few phrases lacking the subject which is supposed to be Israel. I think it should have been written in the same strict meaningful structure as the condition binding the Palestinians was. Furthermore, there is only a broad mention of “residents’ free movement” and unspecific reference to “crossings”. Will the people of Gaza, especially those who are ill and in need of urgent medical treatment and the students who have visa interviews in Jerusalem for instance, be let in through the Erez crossing without being completely prevented or delayed for such long, endless hours? In short, will the long years of humiliation and suffering finally come to an end?
The mechanism of implementation and whether Israel will abide by the terms of the agreement are what will provide clear answers to all the above-mentioned questions. They probably constitute the biggest challenge which will be lying ahead for the Palestinians. The fact that Israel can never be trusted, and that no specific techniques of implementation have been suggested, have had me holding my breath since last night.