Karen Abu Zayd, commissioner of the UN Relief and Works Agency, told reporters yesterday that on Friday, the Palestinians in Gaza believed they had an agreement with Israel for a 48-hour humanitarian halt to the low-level exchanges of fire that had started to go both ways across the Gaza-Israel border since the previous six-month-long tahdi’eh expired on December 19.
According to her, the weekend lull started on Friday morning and could have been expected to last till Sunday morning.
On Friday there was almost no fighting across the border, and Israel did indeed take the opportunity to allow some very urgently needed food supplies into the Strip.
It was at 11:30 on Saturday morning that the IDF launched its massive aerial assault on the Strip.
“We were all at work and very much surprised by this,” Abu Zayd said.
Certainly, on Friday we in the United States got lots of news and pictures from Israel about the convoys of urgently needed food aid that finally, that day, started to be allowed to cross into Gaza, so there is some prima facie evidence for the idea there was a humanitarian lull of some type and some duration. Also, Israeli FM TZipi Livni had been in Cairo Thursday, talking with the Egyptian government officials who have been the main intermediaries in all the indirect Hamas-Israel negotiations of recent years (some of which have had some success.)
My advice for the Hamas leaders: Next time you think you have an agreement with the Israeli government on a truce or lull, get all its terms written down clearly, signed by an authorized rep of the Israeli government and counter-signed by your intermediaries/witnesses before you make the judgment you have reached an effective agreement.
And yes, what of the Egyptian FM’s role in all this? Was he complicit with Livni, or was he, too, duped by her?
AP (as carried by Haaretz) reported the following from AbuZayd’s press conference, as well:
- Abu Zayd mentioned the lull when she was asked whether the population of Gaza was aware that this was all commenced by the Hamas government unilaterally ending the cease-fire and firing rockets.
“I don’t think they think the truce was violated first by Hamas,” she said.
“I think they saw that Hamas had observed the truce quite strictly for almost six months, certainly for four of the six months, and that they got nothing in turn – because there was to be kind of a deal,” Abu Zayd said.
“If there were no rockets, the crossings would be opened,” she said. “The crossings were not opened at all.”
I have no reason whatsoever to doubt the veracity of Abu Zayd’s evaluation of the attitudes of the Gaza Palestinians. If the Israeli government is hoping to use the ferocity of its attacks against Gaza to somehow turn the population of Gaza against Hamas– similarly to how they tried to turn the Lebanese against Hizbullah in 2006– then it seems that they know nothing at all about the psychology of human communities that come under intense threat from outside.
They learned nothing from 2006. Or from their own lengthy history and experience.
Tragic, for everyone involved. First and foremost for Gazans, who have suffered so many unpspeakable tragedies over the past three years and the past three days. But tragic also for so many Israelis who, blinded and rendered actively illogical by their own sense of fear, continue to cheer on their government’s acts of barbarity and to be quite blind to the effects these acts have on the attitudes of just about everyone else around the world.