An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas unraveled Tuesday afternoon, as the military wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rejected the truce. They described it as a “cruel joke and a surrender.”
Both groups continued to fire rockets across Israel, ranging from Ashkelon in the Southern District to the Galilee in the Northern District. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation on Tuesday afternoon that if the rocket fire did not stop by Tuesday evening, he would order “an even harsher” military response.
Netanyahu’s security cabinet voted 6-2 (Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett were the lone holdouts) in favor of the cease-fire on Tuesday morning, earning praise from the leaders of Israel’s opposition parties, including Labor and Meretz. Even longtime Netanyahu critic Dan Shilon, the highly respected Israeli TV talk-show host, offered praise. Shilon interrupted his “Ma’agal” (The Circle) program on Monday evening, telling his large prime-time audience, “I have to take a moment to say something that I never thought I would say because I have been extremely critical of him over the years and he knows it. Prime Minister Netanyahu, kol hakavod, you are doing a responsible and admirable job.”
But senior ranking members within Netanyahu’s own Knesset coalition criticized the deal as a “strategic mistake that will cost Israel dearly.”
As the eighth day of the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge began with Tuesday morning raids over Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz was awaiting word from Netanyahu about whether to scale back aerial, naval and ground operations or increase the bombardment of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the coming days. Twenty thousand reserve combat soldiers and tank units also remain on standby near the border with Gaza.
The IDF has also had to deal with the emergence of three new fronts. Missiles have been fired at Eilat from jihadists operating in Egypt’s Northern Sinai region, while Palestinian- and Hizbullah-affiliated terror groups have fired mortars and missiles at northern Israeli towns from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights and from Southern Lebanon. IDF artillery and aerial units have fired back, and have issued warnings through UN operatives to both Hizbullah and the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad that Israel would attack positions across Southern Lebanon and Syria if the rocket fire continues. The Egyptian army is in the midst of chasing and destroying various jihadist groups, some aligned with Hamas, across the Sinai Peninsula.
The disdain for Hamas by the Egyptian government and its military is due to Hamas’s ties to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. This contempt was manifested on Egyptian TV during the past few days, as some of the country’s most respected anchormen publicly ridiculed Hamas leaders, calling them “irresponsible dogs who sit in plush hotels in Qatar and who’ve made the people of Gaza suffer for no apparent reason.” These journalists also defended the Israeli air raids, a move several Israeli TV commentators called “unprecedented in the Arab world.”
It is being reported that the phenomenal success of the upgraded Iron Dome anti-missile system, which has shot down nearly 90 percent of the rockets fired at Israeli cities and towns, could spur Netanyahu to order a series of intensive aerial bombardments and lightning ground operations over the next few days with the goal of delivering a knockout punch to Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket assaults. Israel Hayom reported that Hamas and Islamic Jihad began this war with 9,000 rockets in its arsenals. The paper claimed that more than 3,000 have been destroyed by IDF naval and air forces, while 1,000 have been fired at Israeli cities and towns.
Israeli intelligence officials told Channel 10 News that Israel is trying to destroy underground warehouses, where long-range missiles are being produced and stored. Several air raids to destroy those warehouses were called off at the last moment when pilots discovered that women and children were near the targets. The videos of those aborted missions have gone viral in an attempt to combat anti-Israel reporting by European and British media.
Should Hamas and Islamic Jihad fully reject Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s cease-fire terms, it is expected that Secretary of State John Kerry, who was due to arrive in Cairo to assist the Egyptian effort, will return to the U.S. It is anticipated that the Egyptian leader would then turn a blind eye to a possible Israeli operation to bring Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the point of surrender.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad commanders are reportedly becoming increasingly frustrated, having failed to kill Israeli civilians or bring the fighting with the Jewish state to a standstill through wide-scale missile attacks. Hamas naval commandos attempting to attack Kibbutz Zikim (near Ashkelon) last week were wiped out on the beach by IDF forces, while a U.S.-built Patriot missile downed a Hamas attack drone on Monday.
Meanwhile, Israel’s summer tourism is on the verge of ruin. Hotels in southern and central Israel are dealing with a wave of cancellations, while Israel’s pristine beaches, usually full at this time of year with English- and French-speaking tourists, are empty. This has forced the usually bustling beachside restaurants and pubs to close early.
According to Israel’s Channel 10 News, financial losses throughout Israel’s tourism sector could run as high as $250 million.
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