As Obama comes to power in the US a fragile ceasefire is holding in the Middle East. With Washington being Israel’s main backer the arrival of a new American administration is always a big event.
Obama tried to avoid commenting on the conflict while Bush remained in office. But people across the region will expect him to show his hand soon. One soldier belonging to a tank unit said with that with all its military might “if America can’t sort things out here no one can.” Israel said it expected to complete its withdrawal today after declaring a ceasefire in Gaza. Hamas all called a truce, claiming victory. Analysts say the troop withdrawal was timed to coincide with the inauguration to avoid any tensions with the new president. But Israeli forces will not be returning to base. They are poised to strike again at the first sign of hostile action, including an attempt by Hamas to re-arm. In Gaza itself reconstruction is underway with pledges of aid from around the world. The World Health Organisation has warned of a looming health crisis because of a lack of immunisation and other vital medical supplies.