U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr (photo) announced a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas during a November 21 news conference in Cairo.
The cease-fire is expected to begin at 9 p.m. local time. This cessation of violence is likely highly tenuous. Israel will only agree to a truce if it has guarantees from Egypt -- overseen by the United States -- that the Palestinian arsenal of Fajr-5 long-range rockets will be neutralized and that measures will be taken to prevent future weapons transfers to Gaza. It remains to be seen what details surface on this core Israeli demand, especially given its incompatibility with Hamas' demand for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted.
There is also the outstanding issue of Iran, which Israel has pointed to as the center of gravity in the conflict. The Fajr-5 rockets are Iranian-made, and Iran facilitated the movement of those weapons into Gaza. Iran may have an interest in prolonging the conflict and could try to use militant levers in Gaza to derail the truce. Israel must also contend with the broader dilemma of future Iranian attempts to smuggle advanced weaponry into Gaza. This is where Egyptian cooperation with Israel on border security becomes crucial.
If the cease-fire holds, Hamas is within reach of a major symbolic victory. It will have avoided devastation of the group in Gaza and can claim a capability to strike the Israeli heartland.
US President Barack Obama praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday for agreeing to support an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, the White House said.
The White House statement said that Obama welcomed Netanyahu's willingness to cooperate with Egypt's bid to arrange a truce in a conflict in which Palestinian militants have fired rockets into Israel and Israeli jets, ships and artillery have struck targets in Gaza.
“The president said that the United States would use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza”.
He also said that he was “committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs,” the statement added, referring to an Israeli anti-missile shield that has intercepted some incoming Palestinian rockets.
Meanwhile, Israeli Forces seized 55 suspected Palestinian militants in the West Bank today. The detainees were from various armed Palestinian factions and included “senior operatives,” Reuters reported the Israeli Army saying in a statement.
Ssource: Stratfor; AFP; Reuters