Notes on the cease-fire

Worries that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was weak and wobbly increased on Friday when a large group of some 300 Palestinian men reportedly entered the no-go zone inside the perimeter fence east of Khan Younis.

One Palestinian was killed and 23 injured by Israeli troops.  Anwar Abdul Hadi Qudaih, 20, reportedly was hit in the head with a live bullet.

According to Maan News Agency, “A relative of the dead man, who was at the scene, told Reuters that Qudaih had been trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence”.   That was Friday.  Maan also reported that some 200 Palestinians had approached the perimeter fence the day before, Thursday.

Anwar Qdeih

A photo said to be of Anwar Qudaih or Qdaih, standing on the Israeli-built fence, posted with the Al-Jazeera story published here.

Al-Jazeera reported that “Most of those approaching the fence were young men, the Associated Press news agency reported, but the crowds also included farmers hoping they could check on their farm lands in the buffer zone…Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said the farmers may have been confused about the current terms of access to the 300-metre wide buffer zone as Wednesday’s truce stipulates easing of travel restrictions.  They may have thought that they can now travel there, she said…”

Israel declared the  no-go zone in recent years, and from time to time increased it.   The “rules” could change at any time, and were never completely clear, except when the Israeli Army shot at people, some were wounded or killed.  Haaretz’s Aluf Benn wrote after the cease-fire that “The current confrontation broke out after Hamas tried to create a counter-perimeter on the Israeli side”…

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR] in Gaza reported after their own investigation that:
“At approximately 15:30 on Thursday, 22 November 2012, dozens of Palestinian civilians, mostly young men and boys, headed towards the border area in al-Farrahin area in Abassan village, east of Khan Yunis, and raised flags on the border fence. Some of them also threw stones at Israeli forces positioned at the border, and a number of them attempted to go through the border. Israeli forces fired live and rubber-coated metal bullets at them, wounding 6 in the lower limbs.
At approximately 07:30 on Friday, 23 November 2012, hundreds of Palestinian headed to the border area in the east of al-Qarara, Abassan and Khuzaa villages, east of Khan Yunis and raised flags on the border fence. A few of them crossed the border, but they went back soon. Israeli forces fired at these civilians. As a result, Anwar Abdul Hadi Musallam Qudaih, 20, was killed by a bullet to the head, and 14 others were wounded.
Palestinian civilians headed to the border area following the truce deal, which stipulated for ‘abstention from restricting the movement of, or targeting the population in border area’.  The truce deal between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, which was brokered by Egypt , entered into force at 21:00 on Wednesday, 21 November 2012″.
The PCHR, in its statement, 1) Renews its calls for the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene to protect Palestinian civilians and to stop grave breaches of the Convention perpetrated against them by Israeli forces; [and] 2) Calls for establishing an international fact-finding mission to investigate crimes committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the course of the latest offensive on the Gaza Strip”.

Aluf Benn wrote, in his 22 November analysis of the cease-fire, that “Israel [now] expects Hamas to fulfill a role in Gaza analogous to Hezbollah’s in Lebanon – protecting the border, stopping the firing and enforcing quiet on other armed organizations.     This agreement is not based on love, mutual recognition or joint ideology, but on joint interests backed by a balance of fear – the IDF’s air firepower and threat of a ground invasion, versus the ability of Hezbollah and Hamas to launch rockets at Israel’s home front.  Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared on Wednesday:  ‘Hamas is responsible for enforcing the cease-fire’ … According to the text released by the Egyptians, Israel has agreed to stop military activities and assassinations in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas has agreed to stop rocket fire into Israel and attacks along the border.  This means Israel will withdraw from the 300-meter-wide ‘safety belt’ on the Hamas side of the border, in which the IDF acted against explosives and tunnels and fired at Palestinians who came near the border fence.  The current confrontation broke out after Hamas tried to create a counter-perimeter on the Israeli side, by shooting an anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep and wounding four soldiers. Hamas has succeeded, at least for now and at a heavy price, to rid its territory of the IDF patrols”.   Aluf Benn’s analysis is posted here.

The first reaction Friday came from Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri , who accused Israel of violating the Egypt-mediated truce and said: “We will contact the Egyptian mediator to discuss the incident”.

What happened next was interesting: Hamas deployed near the border, Maan News Agency reported here: “A Reuters photographer and other witnesses said Hamas officials, coming closer to the Israeli border fence than ever before, escorted Palestinians away from the site. A security source confirmed the move: ‘Yes, there are instructions to implement the agreement and at the same time protect the people. The instruction is not to allow people to approach the border fence’.”

UPDATE: It seems that there is a lot of confusion. Reuters reported that on Sunday, “Palestinian farmers tended land along the testy frontier with the Jewish state without incident, signalling Israel was easing restrictions of the past 3 years barring Palestinians from coming within 300 metres of a border fence, The change took place a day after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man at a Gaza border fence, saying protesters there threw stones and tried to breach the barrier [n.b. See our next post, above]. Palestinians denounced the shooting as a violation of the ceasefire and Egypt intervened to restore calm. On Saturday, a Reuters photographer saw farmers in the Khan Younis area working close to the Israeli frontier fence. Hamas security officials were on patrol and Israeli soldiers looked on without interfering, but for a brief verbal exchange between one soldier and a Hamas guard, witnesses said. Israel had no comment on whether it had eased conditions for either the fishermen or farmers”.

Reuters also reported  that “A statement from the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Egypt had notified them that ‘Israel has allowed Palestinian fishermen to fish in Gaza’s waters at a distance of 6 miles (10 km), up from 3 miles’… Israel had formally barred Gaza fishermen from heading more than 3 miles out into the Mediterranean Sea for about 3 years, its gunboats often enforcing the rule, a measure Israel said was intended to prevent weapons smuggling. Murad Al-Issi, a member of a fishermen’s group, told Reuters his colleagues had already ventured out to the 6-mile limit on Saturday, undisturbed by Israel. ‘The Israeli army naval boat which used to fire and torch Palestinian boats that sailed beyond a 3-mile distance watched without doing anything to prevent them’, Issi said”. This is reported here.

However, the Oslo Accords delineated a 20 nautical mile limit from the Gaza coast as a Palestinian “fishing and economic activities zone”.

In addition, Reuters reported, Palestinian farmers tended land along the testy frontier with the Jewish state without incident, signalling Israel was easing restrictions of the past 3 years barring Palestinians from coming within 300 metres of a border fence, The change took place a day after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian man at a Gaza border fence, saying protesters there threw stones and tried to breach the barrier. Palestinians denounced the shooting as a violation of the ceasefire and Egypt intervened to restore calm. On Saturday, a Reuters photographer saw farmers in the Khan Younis area working close to the Israeli frontier fence. Hamas security officials were on patrol and Israeli soldiers looked on without interfering, but for a brief verbal exchange between one soldier and a Hamas guard, witnesses said. Israel had no comment on whether it had eased conditions for either the fishermen or farmers”.

But, The New York Times is reporting here that “Hamas prime minister announced progress regarding restrictions on the movements of fishermen and farmers in the border area, which the Israeli prime minister’s office denied”…

Here’s what the UN’s Access Coordination Twitter feed @ACUalert says: “Access portions of Israel-Hamas cease fire agreement remain vague”

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