November 21, 2012

Cease-fire begins between Israel and Hamas

The agreement brokered by Egypt gives both Israel and Hamas enough gains to declare a victory.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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Palestinians celebrate the cease fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Israel and the Hamas militant group agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during joint statements together with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, not seen, at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Israel and the Hamas militant group agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Additional Photos Below

In closed meetings with Egyptian intelligence officials, Israel expressed concern about weapons entering Gaza from Libya and elsewhere.

Egyptian officials responded that they are keen on stopping the flow of weapons, which affect security in the Sinai Peninsula and end up in militants' hands there, according to Egyptian intelligence officials present in the meetings. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The deal offered key accomplishments to both Israel and Hamas. By bringing quiet to Israel's embattled south, Netanyahu is likely to enjoy a boost of popularity just as he prepares to seek re-election in January.

Hamas' ability to stand up to Israel, combined with the international recognition it has gained, solidifies its control of Gaza, prolonging the rule of a militant group pledged to Israel's destruction.

After more than five years of political isolation, Gaza became a magnet for foreign leaders during the past eight days. The prime minister of Egypt, the foreign minister of Turkey and foreign ministers of several Arab countries visited Gaza to show their support for Hamas.

More importantly, both Israel and the U.S. engaged in negotiations with the Islamists, albeit indirectly. Both countries consider Hamas to be a terrorist group.

The biggest loser appears to be Abbas, the main political rival of Hamas, who was forced to watch the events in Gaza from the sidelines. Since losing control of Gaza, Abbas has been unable to end the bitter rift with Hamas, leaving him governing in the West Bank only. Abbas seeks an independent state that includes both territories.

The events of recent days, coupled with a four-year impasse in peace efforts with Israel, will underscore Abbas' image as an ineffective leader.

As the streets of Gaza City snarled with celebrations, chants of "God is great!" echoed from mosque speakers.

"I came out from under the fire. I want my children and I to live in safety. I don't want war," said Abdel-Nasser al-Tom, a resident of northern Gaza who had huddled for shelter in a U.N. school. "I just hope they commit to peace."

 

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Additional Photos

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Palestinians celebrate the announcement of a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Israel and the Hamas militant group agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

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In this image made from Egyptian State Television, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, right, give a joint news conference announcing a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Egypt has announced a cease-fire agreement to end a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr said the truce would take effect at 9 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT.) He made the announcement alongside visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. (AP Photo/Egyptian State Television)

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This image taken from AP video shows smoke rising from a building moments after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, early Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. Israel and the Hamas militant group edged closer to a cease-fire Tuesday to end a weeklong Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, but after a day of furious diplomatic efforts involving the U.S. secretary of state, U.N. chief and Egypt's president, a deal remained elusive and fighting raged on both sides of the border. (AP Photo/AP Video)



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