The cease-fire in Gaza holds: Hamas and Israel sing victory
by Joshua Lapide
The truce demands an end to violence and attacks by both sides and the re-opening of the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt and Israel. Joyful celebrations in Gaza. Israel happy about the guarantees of peace for the southern populations. Mohamed Morsi applauded for his diplomatic contribution. The importance of the 500 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza for smuggling weapons and goods.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - A cease-fire agreement signed yesterday evening between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip seems to hold. The agreement, sponsored by Egypt, also has the backing of the UN Security Council, which called on both parties to be faithful to the signing and praised Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi his for diplomatic involvement.

The agreement calls for Israel to end all hostilities by land, sea and air, the end of any attempt to makes raids and to execute individuals: for Hamas and all the Palestinian factions, it stipulates the end of all hostilities from the Gaza Strip including the rocket attacks and the violence along the border.

The agreement also demands that within 24 hours of the signing, all the border crossings of the Gaza Strip towards Egypt should be begin to be opened, and consideration should begin about the reopening of the crossings towards Israel, to allow people and goods to move freely.

In Gaza, the agreement was hailed as a victory, with festive celebrations throughout the night. The Hamas spokesman, Ihab Hussein, claimed victory, achieved with "patience and the blood of our people." With the reopening of the crossings in Israel - which will allow Palestinians to work in Israel, "we will live", he added, "in calm and peace."

Israel also proclaims victory. Mark Regev, spokesman for the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, said that "from our point of view this is a victory... And if we come out of this now with a sustained period of quiet and the people of southern Israel can have normal lives, from our point of view it was worth it and that's a plus."

Observers note that operation "Pillar of Defense" has enjoyed great support from the public in Israel and this will help Netanyahu in the upcoming January 22 elections.

The real winner seems to be Mohamed Morsi, who managed to stop the escalation of the crisis, which would have brought chaos in Egypt, polarizing the Egyptians in their hostility against Israel. Morsi managed to save diplomatic relations with his neighbor, while showing loyal support to Hamas.

Coming out a loser, or weakened, is Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, who being responsible for the occupied territories, was able to influence the situation in Gaza - in the hands of Hamas since 2007 - only with a few interviews with diplomats from the U.S., Egypt and the Arab League.

But Hossam Zomlot, head of Fatah, said that in the week of conflict the unity of the Palestinians has been strengthened and that "our political ability to push for reconciliation is unprecedented."

Zomlot pointed out that the attacks on Gaza have strengthened Abbas's decision to submit the request to the UN to demand an elevation in Palestine's status. At the end of the month, the General Assembly of the United Nations is scheduled to vote on the request to make Palestine a non-member observer. If victorious, Palestine could have access to international courts and challenge Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Another "victorious" element is the Iron Dome missile defense system deployed by Israel, which according to the army had a 74% success rate. In operation "Pillar of Defense," the Israeli army claims to have hit 1,500 "terrorist sites", including 19 command centers, hundreds of underground missile ramps, 140 tunnels used for smuggling, 26 weapons factories.

For the first time, Hamas militants have used medium-range missiles of Iranian manufacture, the Fajr 5, reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The truce imposes an embargo on arms trafficking which from Iran, China and Russia, through Syria and Lebanon, or Eritrea and Sudan, arrives in Egypt and then to Gaza through 500 tunnels. According to many scholars, the smuggling of weapons and goods through these tunnels employs at least 70,000 Palestinians in Gaza. Therefore, it is unlikely that even with the truce, the business will stop.

The eight-day war led to the death of 158 Palestinians and five Israelis.