Cease-fire Holds for Israel and Gaza, But Both Prepared to Act if Provoked
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HARI SREENIVASAN: It was a day of calm in the Middle East, after eight days of punishing Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire. Each side claimed the cease-fire was a victory, but neither was certain the truce would last.
We begin with a report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News in Gaza.
ALEX THOMSON: Party on, a show of joy, relief and unity, the flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah. All factions are friends today, at least in public. The Kalashnikovs are celebratory for now, but Hamas was pledging to break the cease-fire even on day one if the blockade of Gaza isn’t lifted.
AHMED YOUSEF, senior Hamas adviser: If the Palestinians will stay under occupation in the West Bank and here under Israeli, Gaza under siege, I don’t think there is going to be a long cease-fire. In one day or in a few days, a few weeks, a few months, they’re going to break this cease-fire, yes.
ALEX THOMSON: By occupation, he means this, areas, just one militarized crossing from Gaza to Israel. And Israel decides what crosses, goods, people. It is a complete commercial stranglehold on a place desperate to be a country.
Policemen able to show themselves on the streets without being targets for the first time in nine days, fighters, too, and so many people in Gaza claim their ability to fire rockets into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem has changed everything.
We went north this morning, as did so many Gazans, to areas they fled in recent days. Up here in North Gaza, close to the frontier with Israel, people are used to the airstrikes that come in, the craters that pockmark the countryside and that destroy their buildings. Let’s face it. It’s happened now every few years.
So when you come here, you will find a sense of relief and immediate happiness, of course, but people are pretty skeptical about whether the peace will last.
MAN (through translator): God willing, I hope it holds, but I’m 50/50. They have been breaking their promises since the prophet’s day.
ALEX THOMSON: Mobility scooter meets Hamas flag. Ahmed Attah lost both legs in the last Israeli invasion. So, will a cease-fire become a peace?
“It could,” he said, “but first we need to give thanks to President Morsi of Egypt.”
Across Gaza, he’s something of a new hero, and they’re even impressed in Israel, the Egyptian president right now the best hope for peacekeeping here.
MUKHAIMER ABU SAADA, political analyst: Egypt was able to regain its regional role as a regional player, mediating between the Palestinian and Israelis and convincing both of them to reach a cease-fire agreement.
ALEX THOMSON: In the city, the flags, the rallies, talking up victory, in the countryside, the Hamas song is, “We’re going to bomb Tel Aviv.”
But away from politics, what about people, lives disrupted by all this? Yesterday, we filmed Awad and his mom, Sabbah, taking shelter in a school in GazaCity, frightened, disorientated, a severely disabled boy caught up in all this. Today, diplomacy had delivered. Sabbah was at home with the family in Al-Atatra.
WOMAN (through translator): It’s good that we’re OK. I’m very happy. I can’t believe it. I’m shivering.
ALEX THOMSON: That face, Sabbah said, means he’s feeling happy and safe, and with an arms round from brother Mahmoud and no sound of an explosion.