Follow Us:

Detente in Gaza

Over the three days of the conflict, there was a dramatic change in strategy on either side of the “line of control”, so to speak.

Editorial | New Delhi |

It has been a happy prologue to the holy month of Ramadan and the volatile Middle East can only hope that Monday’s cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants will hold. The truce has suspended the deadliest fighting since a war in 2014.

In terms of governance, this has been the first major challenge that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has countenanced in his renewed term in office.

While neither side has announced an end to the three-day battle that killed 23 people in Gaza and four in Israel, both Israel and Hamas, which controls the strip, have signalled an end to hostilities.

Nor for that matter is it clear whether the cessation of hostilities has been occasioned by the impending Id, to be celebrated across the Islamic bloc exactly a month from now.

As in previous rounds of tit-for-tat fighting, the ceasefire has been a UN-backed effort mediated by Egypt. The embattled country, where Field Marshall Sisi’s rule was recently reinforced, has played the honest broker after the latest conflagration seriously ratcheted up the ferocity of attacks from both sides.

Sure, there has been a measure of forward movement over the past 24 hours. Israel’s military has lifted restrictions on residents living in the south near the enclave, reopening roads and schools. Hamas’ radio station in Gaza, Al-Aqsa, has reported a ceasefire.

Apart from the renewed conflagration, notable also has been a change in the nature of the conflict. Israel, which has in the past destroyed buildings, began to direct strikes against militants and even carried out a targeted assassination of a Hamas commander, Ahmed Khudari.

It has, in a word, targeted people. Its bombing campaign also destroyed the Gaza office of the Turkish state-run news agency, an attack Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as an act of “terrorism”.

In parallel, factions in Gaza also altered the praxis of warfare, firing multiple barrages of rockets at once.

Over the three days of the conflict, there was a dramatic change in strategy on either side of the “line of control”, so to speak.

Israel and Hamas have failed to conclude an enduring deal to end regular clashes. Indeed, Mr Netanyahu was criticised on Monday by a member of his own party, the Likud, for failing to deal with the crisis.

Given the circumstances, a ceasefire cannot readily inspire hope and confidence. The intervening period between these attacks on Israel and its people is getting shorter and the terror groups in Gaza are becoming stronger in the interim.

The campaign has not been prevented, just delayed. As much is clear from Mr Netanyahu’s statement ~ “The campaign is not over and it demands patience and sagacity. We are prepared to continue.”

Both sides have at best achieved a detente. An entente cordiale in the Middle East is still a long way away, arguably an anathema to both sides.