Israel and the Palestinian Authority began a “ceasefire” Sunday morning that was highly unusual in several ways:
• The Hamas terror organization promised immediately that it would use the respite to continue weapons smuggling and rocket manufacture in Gaza;
• The Israeli army command, which was kept in the dark about the negotiations, is angry at the agreement which it feels will fail—an agreement handled personally by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas;
• Minutes after the “ceasefire” went into effect Sunday morning, ten Qassam rockets hit towns in Israel, destroying a home in Sderot which the family had evacuated earlier.
“We will show restraint,” declared Prime Minister Olmert in an appearance before Mif’al Ha-Payis, the government-run gambling concession, apparently unaware of the irony.
“This is going to turn into another Lebanon,” several Israeli officers told Israeli Channel Two, and other media outlets here reported widespread consternation at Prime Minister Olmert’s decision.
“Didn’t we learn anything from six years of leaving Hizballah alone in Lebanon?” asked another staff command officer quoted by Channel 10 television.
As if to buttress the fears of the Israeli Army (IDF), a spokesman for Hamas racketeers declared that the ceasefire was to Hamas’s advantage.
“We expect a total stop to Israeli aggression against Palestinian citizens,” declared Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri, in an Arabic language interview with this reporter and IMRA news service.
The Hamas spokesman reiterated several times that the ceasefire did not include the cessation of Qassam rocket construction and the massive smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.
More than 1,000 rockets—with a range of six to 13 kilometers—have struck Israeli towns and kibbutz farms in the last year, murdering several Israelis in the last month and wounding scores of others.
Israel’s counter-terror authorities say that more than 33 tons of explosives have been smuggled into Gaza from Egyptian-controlled Sinai in the last year since Israel evacuated Gaza, evicting almost 9,000 of its own citizens from advanced agricultural settlements there.
The perceived failure of the Gaza withdrawal to produce peace, as well as the perceived strategic failure in recent combat in Lebanon, has left the Olmert Government looking desperately for ways to combat its own popularity.
For the last two months most of the public polls show less than 20-percent approval for Olmert and his defense minister Amir Peretz, while huge majorities favor the resignation of both men, along with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz.
Olmert, Peretz and Halutz have each tried to delay investigations of the Lebanon fighting, hoping that public disapproval will fade.
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