Ceasefire. Sort of.
Last night Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza. Claiming that Israel had reached all of its goals in the operation, PM Olmert declared that the IDF would cease attacks on Gaza but not withdraw its troops. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the army is ready to resume attacks if it became clear that Hamas “did not get the message.”
In response Hamas launched fired rockets at Israel, saying it was not bound by the unilateral ceasefire and that Israeli occupation of Gaza is unacceptable.
Although many Hamas terrorist installations have been destroyed, the Palestinians in Gaza clearly still have the ability to terrorize the citizens in the south of Israel. So that is one objective not accomplished. And, although the Israeli government never said it out loud, the rescue of Gilad Shalit must also have been an objective, and that was not accomplished either. So how is it that the Israeli government has announced they are finished?
One possibility which comes to mind is that Israel hopes that Hamas will break the ceasefire and force Israel to attack again. This would seriously undermine Hamas claims to humanitarian suffering at the hands of Israel and the unfairness of the attack. Another possibility is that the army has run out of targets to hit in Gaza and would like to get its troops out safely. Israel may plan to leave some military presence in Gaza indefinitely, under the assumption that this is the only way to achieve security for the southern border of Israel.
In all the uncertainty, one thing is clear: There is a ceasefire. Sort of.