Fragile Israel-Gaza cease-fire holds as both sides claim success

FAN Editor

Jerusalem — A cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas was holding on Friday morning after taking effect overnight. The truce brought a much-needed reprieve after 11 days of devastating airstrikes on the Gaza Strip by Israel’s military, and the reciprocal, ceaseless barrage of rocket fire unleashed by Hamas and its allies.

The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire was still keeping the peace Friday afternoon in the Middle East, almost 12 hours after it took effect. But CBS News correspondent Imtiaz Tyab said it was a tense peace as the two sides both claimed to have achieved their objectives during the violence — and both warned that they were poised to go back on the attack if they felt betrayed.

On the streets of Gaza and other Palestinian enclaves, there was jubilation as Hamas and its supporters claimed victory. But after more than 240 Palestinians were killed and parts of the tiny Gaza Strip were reduced to piles of twisted steel and crumbled concrete, the victory was a hollow one.

Israel and Hamas cease fire across the Gaza Strip
Palestinians celebrate in the streets following a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, May 21, 2021. MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

Overnight in east Jerusalem, one of the places where the 11 days of violence kicked off, fireworks lit up the night sky.

But on Friday, there was a sense that the long-festering issues still hadn’t been solved.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz lauded his country’s bombing campaign, claiming it had made “achievements unprecedented in their scale, precision and strategic significance for the struggle with terrorist organizations in Gaza.”

The exact terms of the cease-fire haven’t been made public, but Hamas claimed it had received assurances that Israeli security forces would not enter the revered al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem again, and that the looming eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in east Jerusalem by Israeli settlers wouldn’t happen.

Gantz called the claims “completely false,” and he warned that Israel’s military remained “prepared to protect Israeli civilians, and our security forces and the IDF are on the ground, across the different fronts, positioned for offense and defense. The reality on the ground will determine how we move forward.”

Embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed “exceptional success,” and said Israel’s military had “exacted a heavy price from Hamas. But with 12 Israelis killed by the militant group’s rockets and Hamas still undeniably standing, his claims, too, were difficult to quantify.

Biden commends Middle East cease-fire 06:47

Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, warned as it agreed to the cease-fire deal in the early hours of Friday morning that still had the capacity to “fire rockets on Israel, from north to south.”

Netanyahu said any further rocket launches from Gaza would be met with “a new level of force.”

As the Israeli and Hamas threats hung over the truce, one Israeli political analyst questioned any claims of victory.

“I don’t see anyone here who is winning those conflicts. It is a repeating [of] the same conflict after conflict,” Tal Schneider told CBS News. “I think all sides are losing.”

World leaders hailed the cease-fire, but the last major conflict between Israel and Gaza, in 2014, saw nine truce agreements crumble under renewed violence before the fighting eventually ended.

The concern on Friday was that this peace deal could prove just as fragile.

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