Israel announced the redeployment of its troops to defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip after reportedly accomplishing its mission of destroying all 32 Hamas militants’ cross-border tunnels. Israeli Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner says that the withdrawal was effective immediately and was completed by 8 a.m. Tuesday.
The ceasefire ends four weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on July 8. This development comes after Israel and Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal brokered in Egypt late Monday. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued an announcement for a “permanent ceasefire” to restore stability.
Egypt has yet to release details of the latest pact agreement but Israel says that it is the same truce that was rejected by Hamas three weeks ago. Israel hadn’t sent a delegation to Cairo for the talks, however it will consider meeting with the militants if they abide by the ceasefire.
Lt. Col. Lerner said that the Israeli army won’t have to remain in Gaza if peace is maintained through the truce. “The need for forces on the ground is now lower,” says Lt.Col. Lerner following the destruction of the 32 tunnels.
What Hamas wants: Hamas is seeking a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade in the territory that the Palestinians call “the siege”. The blockade has created problems to the economy. It also wants prisoners to be released from Israel and international assistance in the reconstruction of Gaza.
What Israel wants: The demilitarization of Gaza and for Hamas to give up its significant arsenal.
Despite the truce, shelling on both sides continued until the last moments of the ceasefire as air raid sirens sounded across Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with Hamas militants fired a barrage of rockets at southern and central Israel. At least 20 Palestinians were killed, including three children – an 8-year-old girl in the Shati refugee camp, a 12-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister in the border town of Rafah.
The standing death toll
Gaza officials say that 1,868 Palestinians – mainly civilians, were killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza on July 8. Another 485,000 have fled their homes. On the Israeli side, there were 64 soldiers who died in combat and three civilians.