After 50 days of intense hostilities, Israel and the Palestinians reached a framework agreement resembling the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense – the sides will reconvene in a month to start deliberations on central issues like demilitarization and the establishment of ports.
Until the next round of talks, Israel has agreed to open to border crossings into the Strip and allow the transfer of humanitarian equipment and construction materials to rehabilitate Gaza – all under heavy Israeli supervision.
Israel also agreed to extend the permitted fishing zone around Gaza beyond the current three miles. It must be noted that the border crossings had been open intermittently both before and during the latest round of hostilities.
Destroyed industrial structure in Rafah (Photo: Reuters)
The central demands presented by Hamas – transfer of civil salaries, release of security detainees, and construction of seaport and airport – will be discussed in Cairo in a month with the rest of the group's demands.
The Prime Minister's Office claimed that the ministers had been informed of the developments and that there was no legal reason to bring the cabinet to a vote. However, four ministers – Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman, Gilad Erdan, and Yitzhak Aharonovich – opposed the ceasefire, leaving the cabinet short of a majority if a vote were to be called.
A senior Israeli defense source said that "Israel got what it wanted." According to the source, "Hamas was beaten into accepting the Egyptian initiative though it opposed the plan from the start. In recent days there was tremendous pressure within Hamas to reach a ceasefire, as a result of the heavy price paid by the Gaza Strip and organization itself."
Palestinian officials were the first to leak the news of a breakthrough in the negotiations. Separate statements from Hamas and the Palestinian Authority announced that agreements on a long-term ceasefire were reached in Cairo.
Hundreds of Palestinians celebrated the 7 pm start of the truce in Gaza, cheering Hamas' "victory" over Israel.
Jerusalem sources noted that Hamas received "the worst blow in its history." Israeli sources further noted that the IDF struck 5,200 terror targets in Gaza. The army also said that some 1,000 terrorists were killed during the operation.
Political sources in Jerusalem stressed that Operation Protective Edge bolstered Israel's international legitimacy, "because of the fact that we assented to 11 ceasefires."
The source added that "there is nothing impressive about the celebrations in the Strip, even if there is only one Palestinian remaining he would manage to declare victory. Sources within the Strip estimate it will take 10 years to rehabilitate. Hamas was dealt a critical blow. But still, we live in the Middle East and cannot indulge in illusions."
Over the 50 days of fighting, 69 Israelis were killed as were more than 2,000 Palestinians. The UN estimates that at least 100,000 Gazans were internally displaced following the operation.
Roi Kais contributed to this report.