BY LEA SPEYER, BREAKING ISRAEL NEWS—
Update 3:20 p.m. Israel time: The cease-fire has been terminated after relentless rocket attacks on Israel by terrorists in Gaza. Red Alert sirens sounded across the state as more than 50 rockets have been shot into Israel since 9 a.m. this morning. The Israeli Air Force has resumed operations in the Gaza Strip and has struck several terror targets in the area on the command of the Israeli prime minister.
Israel’s Security Cabinet agreed to an Egyptian brokered cease-fire with Hamas Tuesday morning. The cease-fire began at 9:00 a.m. in Israel.
“The cabinet has decided to accept the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire starting 9am today,” Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Twitter.
The decision to agree to the cease-fire came as a surprise to many governmental leaders and political analysts. Hamas previously announced that it would never agree to any cease-fire with Israel, viewing it as surrender. Indeed, Hamas’s armed wing announced shortly after the cabinet’s decision that it would not adhere to the cease-fire.
On Monday night, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the terror organization would never agree to any agreement that does not “meet the demands of the Palestinian people.”
“Today we are facing an important stage in the conflict with the Israeli occupation. Years of a blockade did not prevent our resistance from taking all possible measures to protect the Palestinian people,” he stated.
“The Zionist enemy forced the war on us and planned it. Today we are fulfilling our duty to protect out people and our honor,” Haniyeh declared.
Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told AP following the cabinet’s decision that “this proposal is not acceptable.”
About one hour after Israel announced it had agreed to the cease-fire, Red Alert sirens sounded in Israel’s south as a rocket was fired towards the coastal city of Ashkelon. Rockets continue to be fired upon numerous cities throughout Israel, including areas in the center and north.
At noon on Tuesday, following the cease-fire announcement, Netanyahu issued his first public statement on the matter. The prime minister made clear that Israel is willing to pursue a peaceful end to the violence. However, if Hamas continues to fire upon Israel, Israel will expand its operations in Gaza exponentially.
“Israel has accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, a goal that was and remains putting an end to rocket fire from Gaza on our cities, providing the citizens of Israel with the peace and quiet to which they are entitled. I know that you know that no country would sit idly by while its civilian population is subjected to terrorist rocket fire. Israel is no exception,” Netanyahu stated. “If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal, and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case now, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation to protect our people. For this we have kept full support from the responsible members of the international community.”
In Israel, several ministers have slammed the cease-fire, viewing it as giving in to Hamas.
“We were willing to pay a heavy price to complete the most significant achievements yet against Hamas,” Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon stated. “There is no cosmetic facelift to a mistake like this.”
“A cease-fire is a slap in the face for the Israeli people,” he added.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz stated before the vote that he is “against a cease-fire.”
“Under the circumstances, we can do a lot better. We have not removed the threat of rocket fire completely, and we have no eliminated the Hamas elite,” Katz stated. “If we were successful, the world would give us a standing ovation.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said the cease-fire was “good for Hamas and bad for Israel…A cease-fire at the present time shows the government’s weakness.”
“A cease-fire will now create a bigger campaign against the south of the country and more rocket attacks in another year,” Bennett stated.
“The Israeli government has a commitment to the security of Israeli citizens, and the cease-fire vehemently violates that commitment,” he said. “We would have the obligation and the ability to destroy Hamas infrastructure and in turn bring Gaza decades backwards, and a cease-fire at the current time is not only a slap in the face of Israeli citizens but will only be a short break before the rocket fire resumes.”
Israel is expected to send a representative to Cairo in the next 48 hours to discuss the details of the agreement. According to Egyptian media, which published terms of the proposal, Israel has agreed to stop all land, air and seas operations against Gaza.
Terror groups operating in the Strip are expected to stop all hostilities against Israel and its citizens, including land, sea, air and underground attacks. Israel is expected to reopen border crossing to allow people and goods to move freely in and out of Gaza. The agreement does not stipulate which border crossings are to be reopened.
The cease-fire must be implemented within 12 hours and is based on the 2012 cease-fire agreement following Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has struck over 1,500 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and killed more than 100 terrorists operating in the region. Hamas has fired approximately 1,081 rockets on Israel. 845 of those rockets landed in open territory in Israel and 191 were intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System.