Had you blinked, you’d have missed it. At 7am on Tuesday Israeli guns fell silent, until mid-afternoon, when they went back into action.
An Egyptian ceasefire, taken up by the IDF, was rebuffed by Hamas, who used the lull to fire off 50 rockets. Even in the Middle East, a six-hour ceasefire is about as short a cessation as we’ve seen, certainly in recent times, and demonstrated – if demonstration were needed – that Israel’s enemy is not ready for peace.
That the Israeli cabinet agreed to lower the barrel was telling, as was the Hamas response. It hadn’t been consulted, it said, so it would keep trying to kill Israelis. That, it seems, constitutes sufficient reason.
It should come as no surprise: look at the tactics we’re seeing. Phone-calls and leaflets tell civilians to get out, as does the first bomb (Israelis call it a “knock on the roof”) which rarely kills and acts as a warning.
By the time the big stuff’s dropped, everyone should be out, except they’re not, because the Hamas guys force them back in, knowing that civilian deaths are a PR victory.
Meanwhile, there are military plans to mobilise ground troops. This, we’re told, would be no full-scale, room-to-room invasion (although rule nothing out) but rather something more surgical.
They’d take control of the major transport arteries criss-crossing the Strip and use these positions to launch precision attacks against targets (both locations and personnel) that would otherwise be difficult to hit from the air.
It’s a high-risk strategy. Hamas will be lying in wait. But if that’s what’s needed, so be it. Israel didn’t ask for this conflict, but it’s not going to back down now. If it needs to go in, it will.
Whatever happens, unless the political leaders on both sides use any lull that last longer than six hours to broker something more permanent, we’ll be back in the same position, saying the same thing, before you know it.