Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza have agreed to a ceasefire on May 13, bringing a temporary halt to the recent escalation of violence and worst episode of cross-border fire since a 10-day war in 2021. The ceasefire was brokered by Egypt and took effect from 10 pm that day, aims to end the intense exchange of fire that has resulted in casualties on both sides. The ceasefire includes an end to targeting civilians and house demolition in the region. Islamic Jihad confirmed that they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel does the same. However, shortly before the ceasefire was due to take hold, Israel reported a heavy burst of Palestinian rocket fire towards southern and central Israel, while Israel said it was attacking targets inside Gaza. Israel’s determination of the success of the ceasefire will depend on whether there is further rocket fire from Gaza. As the guns fall silent, the question arises: What comes next for Gaza and Israel?
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The conflict resulted in 33 Palestinian deaths, including 13 civilians, and two Israeli deaths from rocket fire. Israel’s air raids killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders, which led to the retaliation of more than 1,000 rockets being fired from Gaza. The Israeli military responded by attacking Islamic Jihad targets, although homes of people uninvolved in fighting were also struck.
Egypt has brokered the ceasefire again, and it has called on all sides to adhere to the agreement. This is not the first time that Egypt has brokered a ceasefire between the two sides, and it remains to be seen whether this ceasefire will hold. The ceasefire brings a sense of relief to Gaza’s over two million people and hundreds of thousands of Israelis who were largely confined to bomb shelters. The ceasefire, however, does not address the underlying issues that have fuelled numerous rounds of fighting between Israel and Palestinian rebel groups in the Gaza Strip over the years.
Fragile Peace: Will the ceasefire sustain?
While the ceasefire brings a respite from the immediate hostilities, the durability of the peace remains uncertain. Similar truces have been brokered in the past, only to be shattered by renewed violence. The effectiveness of this ceasefire will largely depend on the commitment of both parties to uphold the agreement and prevent further escalations. Furthermore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s history of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian rhetoric has raised concerns about the long-term prospects for peace in the region. Critics argue that his policies and actions have perpetuated a cycle of violence and hindered meaningful progress towards a resolution. Netanyahu’s religious nationalist government’s refusal to consider a Palestinian state in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war has further strained relations and impeded the peace process.
Netanyahu’s party has increasingly embraced a far-right mentality, raising further concerns about the treatment of Palestinians under his leadership. The Israeli government’s policies have been criticised for their discriminatory nature, disproportionately impacting the lives of Palestinians. Critics argue that Netanyahu’s government has implemented laws and regulations that infringe upon the rights of Palestinians, including restrictions on freedom of movement, land confiscation, and home demolitions.
The expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories has also been a point of contention, as it undermines the prospects for a viable Palestinian state and further entrenches the occupation.
The oppressive measures imposed by Netanyahu’s government have had far-reaching consequences for Palestinians living in the occupied territories. The construction of the separation barrier, checkpoints, and restrictions on access to essential services have severely limited the daily lives of Palestinians, hindering economic development and exacerbating social and political tensions. Human rights organisations have documented cases of systemic discrimination, arbitrary arrests, and excessive use of force by Israeli security forces, leading to a climate of fear and mistrust.
Netanyahu’s government has faced increasing international criticism for its treatment of Palestinians. The expansion of settlements and the disregard for international law have been denounced by the international community, including the United Nations and various human rights organisations. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for an end to settlement construction and has raised concerns about the human rights situation in the occupied territories.
The international condemnation of Netanyahu’s policies reflects a broader concern about the impact of his leadership on the prospects for a just and lasting peace.
Netanyahu’s government has faced increasing international criticism for its treatment of Palestinians. The expansion of settlements and the disregard for international law have been denounced by the international community, including the United Nations and various human rights organisations. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for an end to settlement construction and has raised concerns about the human rights situation in the occupied territories. The international condemnation of Netanyahu’s policies reflects a broader concern about the impact of his leadership on the prospects for a just and lasting peace.
What happens next?
The ceasefire between Gaza and Israel has halted the immediate hostilities, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. The agreement does not address the underlying issues that have fuelled numerous rounds of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip over the years. The root causes of the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the expansion of Israeli settlements, and the ongoing blockade of Gaza, remain unresolved. These issues have been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades and have contributed to a cycle of violence and deep-seated animosity between the two sides.
One of the main concerns is the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza. The 11-day conflict has left a trail of destruction, with hundreds of Palestinian civilians killed, thousands injured, and vital infrastructure severely damaged or destroyed. The people of Gaza now face the daunting task of rebuilding their lives amidst an already dire economic and humanitarian crisis. The blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt has severely restricted the movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, exacerbating the hardship faced by its residents.
International efforts to find a lasting solution have often been stymied by political complexities and deep divisions. Previous attempts, such as the Oslo Accords and the various peace initiatives, have failed to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable resolution.
The lack of trust between the parties involved, coupled with the divergent interests and positions, and has further complicated the peace process. Moreover, the recent political developments in Israel, including the rise of far-right ideologies and the formation of alliances with ultranationalist parties, have added another layer of complexity to the situation.
Netanyahu’s government, with its nationalist and conservative policies, has faced criticism for exacerbating divisions and deepening the rift between Israelis and Palestinians. The recent surge in tensions and violence is a testament to the volatile nature of the region and the challenges that lie ahead.
The international community plays a crucial role in supporting the peace process and finding a sustainable solution. Efforts from key stakeholders, such as the United States, the United Nations, and regional powers, are vital in facilitating dialogue, promoting trust-building measures, and addressing the core grievances of both sides. Diplomatic initiatives aimed at bridging the divide and fostering a climate of understanding and cooperation are necessary to break the cycle of violence and pave the way for a just and lasting peace.
To conclude, the ceasefire has brought a sense of relief to Gaza’s over two million people and hundreds of thousands of Israelis who were largely confined to bomb shelters. However, the agreement does not address the underlying issues that have fuelled numerous rounds of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip over the years. The ceasefire may be short-lived as tensions could quickly resume next week when Israel holds a contentious march through a main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City. It remains to be seen whether the ceasefire will hold or whether hostilities will resume.