JERUSALEM – Israel and Hamas exchanged fire on Tuesday, throwing into disarray an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire meant to end eight days of fighting. Israel initially accepted the proposal while Hamas rejected it. Under the Egyptian plan, proposed late Monday, a 12-hour period of de-escalation was to begin at midmorning Tuesday. Hamas lobbed more than 50 rockets at Israel in the six hours after the suggested period began Tuesday, before Israel resumed its offensive. The offer, though, is still on the table and Israel says it will halt its fire if Hamas accepts it.
A look at what each side wants in a deal and is likely to get:
END TO HOSTILITIES
The Egyptian proposal calls for an end to hostilities on both sides, saying Israel will halt its attacks and not conduct a ground offensive, and Palestinian militants will stop firing rockets. In the eight-day conflict, Israel has struck more than 1,600 targets in Gaza, killing nearly 200 people, many of them civilians. Hamas and other Palestinian militants have fired more than 1,100 rockets at Israeli towns and cities, causing damage and some injuries but no deaths. Once both sides agree to halt hostilities, they would negotiate the terms of a longer-term truce.
Hamas, strangled by a cash crunch and blockaded by both Egypt and Israel, places utmost importance on getting its crossings open to permit the flow of goods and people. According to a copy of the cease-fire agreement, the crossings would open "once the security situation becomes stable on the ground." Hamas wants detailed assurances that Gaza's borders will be opened, particularly the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, the territory's main gate to the world. Egypt has sharply restricted travel in and out of Gaza over the past year, following last year's ouster of the Hamas-allied Muslim Brotherhood from power by the Egyptian military. Hamas is wary of Egyptian assurances to ease the blockade. Such promises were also part of a truce that ended more than a week of fighting in 2012, but were not fully implemented.
Israel rounded up hundreds of Hamas operatives in its broad sweep of the West Bank last month during a search for three missing Israeli teens, whose bodies were found more than two weeks after they disappeared. Dozens of those operatives had been released in a prisoner exchange in 2011 for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Israel says they violated the terms of their release, but Hamas has suggested it wants them freed as part of the cease-fire deal. The Egyptian offer does not discuss this demand and Israel is not likely to accept it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel accepted the cease-fire agreement in order to "give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, from missiles, rockets and tunnels." Hamas has expanded its arsenal of rockets, which can now reach deeper into Israel than ever before, striking not only at Israel's cultural and economic heartland Tel Aviv, but also as far north as the outskirts of Haifa, more than 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Gaza. While the rockets have caused no deaths in the latest bout of fighting, they have disrupted life for millions of Israelis and long traumatized those closest to the Gaza Strip. Egypt's offer does not discuss demilitarization and Hamas is unlikely to accept any limit on its weapons capabilities, one of its only deterrents against Israel.
PERIOD OF QUIET
If nothing else, Israel and the Palestinians can expect a certain period of quiet following this round of hostilities. The last mini-war in 2012 brought months of calm, with only occasional salvos from either side. Israel hopes by deterring Hamas the next pause will last much longer. Hamas used the previous calm to replenish its stock of rockets, and will likely need time to regroup after the latest fighting.