The announcement that Israel and Hamas have sealed a six month ceasefire has been greeted with resigned scepticism on the streets of the Gaza Strip. The truce would end a year of fighting that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis.
However, many Gazans refuse to believe much will change: “Jerusalem is now Jewish, they have taken the West Bank and devastated Gaza and here we are desperately seeking a ceasefire to open the border crossings. We do not need the crossings,” said one Gazan. Another said: “ All Palestinians want this truce, but we are used to the ways of Israel. In past agreements Israel just takes what it wants and leaves the Palestinians to take all the pressure and stress.”
The Israeli town of Sderot lies just one kilometer over the border with the Gaza Strip and its population of 20,000 are under constant threat from Qassam rockets fired by members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One Sderot resident said: “ Just in case you forget, we are hit by Qassams every day. Those that want a ceasefire should not launch rockets everyday.”
Israel has said it will ease the economic sanctions which paralyse Gaza if the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, seized two years ago, is released, and the rocket firing stops.
Israeli spokesman Mark Regev: “It is our sincere hope that from tomorrow our civilian population in the south will no longer be the victim of these continued barrages of rocket and mortar shells from terrorists in the Gaza Strip and we will have a new period of peace and quiet.”
Ordinary Gazans want the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt reopened as it is their only link to the world which does not pass through Israel.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya spoke about the ceasefire: “The Palestinian demands are clear – lift the blockade, open the crossing and end the aggression, and we believe these demands have been met. We trust that what we agreed upon will last and the Palestinian people will see the fruits of their endurance.”
As Israel and Hamas announced the ceasefire, another key conflict took a first tentative step towards resolution as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sent a Fatah delegation to Gaza for the first time since Hamas seized control of the Strip last summer.