This is it, the day we were all expecting, whether enthusiastically or not, has arrived. After 29 days of operation, a cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt, has been signed and was implemented since eight o’clock this morning. Unlike the six previous cease-fire agreements unilaterally accepted by Israel, this one has not been broken by the Hamas. Some will end this sentence here, some will ad: …yet.
The numbers are heartbreaking. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have died, most of them were between the ages of 18 and 25 years old; 3 civilians died and 639 were wounded from the 3,356 rockets that were fired by the Hamas on israeli territory. On the Palestinian side, we count 1,867 dead, among which an estimate of 900 were active members of the Hamas terrorist organization. Throughout the operation, the IDF identified and destroyed 32 tunnels, which were dug by the Hamas along the years and were leading into Israeli territory, some ending straight at the center of Kibbutzim and Moshavim nearby the border. We count 1,500 trucks carrying food and medecine crossing the border from Israel into the Gaza Strip, aiming at relieving the Gazans, and a field hospital set up by the IDF in the Gaza Strip as well, which solely treated Palestinians during the operation.
While we, in Israel, welcome our soldiers released from duty with great relief, we also mourn those we lost. The Gazans mourn as well, and now face the destruction that unavoidably follows a military operation in the most densly populated area on the planet.
The question that arises now is: what comes next?
On Israel’s side, yes, we are relieved that the rain of rockets has come to an end and that our soldiers are coming home. Yet, there is true concern about the future and quite some sadness when we consider the prospects for the coming years, and even the coming months.
Humanitarian and financial aid will keep getting into Gaza as they should, provided by the UN and other international actors. Materials to rebuild the homes that were destroyed during the operation will be provided. We are happy and relieved that aid will keep coming for the civilians living in Gaza, and following Israel’s behavior until now, some of this aid will come from Israel itself as well. Yet, here is our concern: the Hamas, although quite weakened by the operation, is still the leading authority in the Gaza Strip. It still controls the activities in the Strip, and decides of the fate of its civilians. Will all the aid provided finally be used for civilian purposes, as it was supposed to be used in the first place? Or will it be used for building more tunnels and producing more ammunition, as it has been used until now? How can we know, how can we monitor it? And most importantly, what can we do to ensure that our security, and mostly the security of the citizens living in the south of Israel, will be not only restored but strengthened?
These questions arise and concern grows. Leaving Gaza is a relief for our families and our troops. But the corresponding decrease of monitoring over the activities of the Hamas in the Strip does contradict this relief, and brings about more questions than answers at this point.
On the Palestinian side, relief comes at the thought that the operation has stopped and israeli military activity in the Strip has come to an end. But truely, after such exposition of the use by the Hamas of all the aid that was provided for building tunnels and producing ammunition, can the Gazans have any hope that their homes will be rebuilt? Can they count on UNRWA to ensure this process, while the organization found itself discovering rockets stocked in its own schools three times throughout the operation? Can they count on UNRWA for trusting the right people and protecting the civilians from terrorism, when the organization decided to return the mentioned rockets to “the governing authority of Gaza” (aka. Hamas)? Can they hope for a life free from terrorist rule, which Hamas has been forcing upon them until now?
It seems that this operation comes to an end, bringing immediate relief but not many answers. The very point of entering the Gaza Strip was double: to destroy the tunnels built by the Hamas and directly threatening the lives and safety of israeli civilians (according to the IDF’s estimations, this goal has been achieved), and to weaken the Hamas in order to ensure that the PLO will finally be in a situation where it can successfully reach a peace agreement with Israel. On this second goal, we know the Hamas has been hurt in its core by the operation, but the group is still there and can therefore keep ensuring for peace to not be reached any time soon.
As an Israeli citizen, who has full trust in our government (which does not prevent a strong ability to criticize it) to ensure my protection and the one of my fellow citizens, and also hopes for peace to be eventually reached with my Palestinian neighbors, I fear that the situation we have lived through now is only a third round of what will be a long line of rounds of a fight with the Hamas.
How can this change? It will change on the day the world leaders decide to actively and unequivocally attack the issue of growing terrorism around the globe, start working together with their allies, and put an end to the suffering of people, today in the Middle East, tomorrow in Europe and in the Americas. Israel’s fight is targetted against a terrorist organization that prevents two people, Palestinians and Israelis alike, from living quiet, peaceful lives. As we observe the rise of similar groups such as Isis most recently, but also Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram, this is the moment for the Western World to make the right decisions and tackle the biggest threat to our civilization. When this day comes, not only Israel, but also Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank, along with all civilians from across the world will start enjoying the hope of a better future. Until then, at the risk of sounding pessimistic, we will only see more wars, more injustice, less freedom and less hope.
In order to finish this article on a lighter note, here is one more number: 1 song. A song that was meant to bring fear and tension among Israelis, and turned out to be a summer hit! A song that Hamas members took the time to record, in Hebrew, calling for performing terrorist attacks against Israel and “kill all the Zionists”. Following the Israeli optimistic style, many young people sing the song with irony, and quite an impressive variety of remakes were made. Enjoy the videos, and keep an eye on what will come next, for all our sake.