The ceasefire that took effect in the Gaza Strip on January 18 seems to be holding better than expected but the possibility of renewed conflict is strong. For one thing, the political reality in this slice of territory has not changed fundamentally despite the murderous 21-day long Israeli offensive. Hamas, which clearly has not lost too many fighters, rules the Gaza Strip just as firmly as it did before the attacks began. In fact, the Islamist organisation cocked a snook at the Israeli troops by firing a few rockets as they began to withdraw. There is also little evidence that the people of Gaza have turned against their ruling power after they were subjected to such intense suffering. Israel is now trying to salvage some political gains from a military action that was senseless, brutal, and internationally condemned as a crime against humanity. It claims that by reaffirming its ‘deterrent’ power, it has made a psychological impact on the people of Gaza who will henceforth hold back the Islamists from taking provocative steps. Such claims strain credulity. Hamas is a disciplined, well-knit organisation that has demonstrated its ability to rally the masses to its side. Everything suggests that the hatred Gazans feel towards Israel is stronger than any blame they might assign to the Islamists.
More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, several thousand injured, and over 25,000 buildings destroyed or damaged by the Israeli ground and air assaults. Yet, as expected, Tel Aviv’s patrons have protected it from any United Nations Security Council action or being held culpable under international law for its campaign of terror against the civilians of Gaza. The focus of international action has shifted fast to the process of preventing such incidents in future. The United States has put forward plans for creating a mechanism that would prevent Hamas from bringing rockets into the Gaza Strip. Apart from the technical means to locate tunnels used to bring in such material from the Sinai Peninsula, an international monitoring force might be put in place. The pious hope is that Israel will have the ‘incentive’ to withdraw completely and keep its border with the Gaza Strip open once these arrangements are made; and the lifting of the economic blockade will deprive Hamas of the justification for launching rocket attacks. Such an outcome is certainly no rendering of justice. Nor can it quell the outrage over the Israeli actions felt across much of the world. But a people whose lives have been devastated but who remain unvanquished in spirit will welcome the end to the hostilities.