Rocket-hit home of Chaya Pachuk, 84, of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. Photo: Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency.
Despite a 72-hour Egyptian cease-fire that was set to end Friday morning and Hamas threatening to resume hostilities against Israel as of 08:00 am, many of Israel’s southern residents were looking to go home and get on with their lives.
Israeli negotiators were due in Cairo to try to hammer out another extension with Palestinian and Egyptian interlocutors, and, hopefully, keep their forces arrayed east and north of Gaza at their current deployment.
Twelve hours before the cease-fire ended, the news wasn’t positive.
“The war has not ended and our fighters are still in the battlefield and their fingers are still on the trigger,” Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said at a rally held in Gaza on Thursday, attended by some 2,000 people, according to Israeli Channel 2 News.
“Our rockets are also still directed toward Tel Aviv and Lod and beyond them. The tunnels are still alive and exist deep inside the Zionist entity,” al-Masri said.
Israel, for its part, was “closely monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire on the ground, and we are holding position in the event it is violated. The army is in the field, with reinforcements, to meet any scenario,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference Wednesday night.
“The IDF is ready, the air force is ready, and any rockets will be responded to with heavy fire by us. The military and diplomatic ‘wings’ of Hamas are one and the same,” Finance Minister Yair Lapid told reporters.
“Anyone who is at the top level of a terror group is taking his life into his hands,” Lapid said, referring to possible targeted assassinations of Hamas’ leadership, should rocket and terror infiltrations resume.
Going even farther, Israel intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz cautioned that if the rockets again start flying, Israel might even consider retaking the entire strip, in remarks to the BBC.
Meanwhile, however, Israeli hospitals went off their emergency triage mode; Home Front Command officials announced that thousands of southern residents who had left the area, fleeing rocket strikes, were free to return, and unlimited public gatherings could resume.
Steps for the the restoration of “the new normal,” however, were taken with trepidation, and wary Israelis — especially residents who moved to relatives and friends for the interim, expressed concern that the fragile quiet could again shatter into explosions and grief.
At Pub Sderot, a scant five kilometers away from northern Gaza, the owner lamented a dried up potted tree sitting at the end of the bar, which was closed for the duration of hostilities.
“The tree was a sign of prosperity, and we didn’t water it for a month,” Uri told Army radio, of the 29 days of intense fighting within Gaza, and the over 3,000 rockets and mortar shells — many of which targeted Sderot — that slammed into locations across nearly all of Israel.
“If the tree grows back, it’ll be a sign of our renewed prosperity,” Uri said.
“Folks are really thirsty to get out of the house and …read more
Source: The Algemeiner