Israel halts attacks but rockets persist

January 18, 2009

A fragile cease-fire called by Israel went into effect at 2 a.m. Sunday local time after three weeks of fighting. However militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza fired salvos of rockets into southern Israel on Sunday, defying Israel and threatening to reignite three weeks of violence that Palestinian medics say has killed more than 1,000 people and turned Gaza’s streets into battlegrounds. Hamas rulers have said they would not respect any truce until Israel pulls out of Gaza, and in another incident after the truce took hold, militants fired small arms at an infantry patrol, which directed artillery and aircraft to strike back, the military said.

Israel says it will increase the flow of food and medicine into Gaza if the ceasefire holds but rules out ending the siege until its captured soldier Gilad Shalit is freed. The military said no one was injured by more than a dozen rockets that struck southern Israel even as a slew of foreign leaders traveled to Egypt to try to cement the newly declared cease-fire. Later, security officials in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun reported an Israeli airstrike wounded a woman and her child.

While Hamas remains defiant, Israel believes this operation has re-established its fearsome deterrent capability, which was eroded by Hizbullah’s successes in the 2006 Lebanon war. But the sheer scale of the civilian death toll, allegations of war crimes by the UN, mass demonstrations and calls for boycotts of Israel underline global as well as Arab outrage at the human cost of this war. Hamas was criticized for it’s recklessness in sparking Israel’s aggession, but the slaughter will fuel hatred and radicalisation and will likely motivate a new generation of “martyrs” and suicide bombers. Just another step backwards for lasting peace in the middle east.


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