The cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas last week was very welcome development, and the people in the Gaza strip celebrating the long-term peace accord was more than expected.
Egypt’s tireless role in brokering the peace negotiations between Israel and Hamas, and the United Nation’s persistence that there should be a cessation of hostilities are laudable. Their efforts paid off in the end.
On Wednesday last week, the Palestinians said the truce was “permanent,” while a senior Israeli official described it as “unconditional and unlimited in time.”
Washington gave its full backing to the Egyptian-mediated deal, with US Secretary of State John Kerry calling on both sides “to fully and completely comply with its terms.”
“We strongly support today’s ceasefire agreement,” he said early on
Wednesday last week, while UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced hope that the ceasefire in Gaza would set the stage for talks on a final Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Britain also welcomed the truce, hailing Egyptian efforts to end the violence.
But is real lasting peace achievable in the Gaza strip, or will armed conflict between Israel and Hamas break out anew?
The fighting with Hamas has been an on again off again phenomenon. This year it began way before July 8 in the weeks when Hamas– which controls Gaza not entirely to the delight of the true representative of the Palestinian people, the Palestine Authority– accelerated its rocket fire on Israel.
On July 8 Israel began Operation Protective Edge in a bid to stamp out Hamas’ cross-border rocket fire. The Israeli operation claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 70 Israelis. This is because Hamas’ rockets often fell short of their targets and Israel has a powerful rocket defense system that the blows up Hamas rockets in mid-air most of the time.
United Nations figures show nearly 70 percent of the Palestinian victims were civilians, while 64 of the Israelis killed were soldiers.
The high percentage of civilian casualties in the Gaza strip is because
Hamas was using its own people as shields. It has its rocket placements in hospital sites and residential areas.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said there would be a “continuation of indirect negotiations between the two sides on other matters within one month of the ceasefire taking effect,” and the world is hoping that there would be no renewed fighting.
May God thwart the Hamas war-mongers forever.
Peace not in sight in eastern Ukraine
But in the eastern part of Ukraine, it looks like peace has become an alien term, with Russia even stepping up its role to aid rebels in the region that it has made restive.
It is even harder now to fathom what it is in the mind of Russia President Vladimir Putin, because he praised last week the gains made by the pro-Russian rebels against the Ukrainian military. And weeks after the downing of Malaysian Flight No. MH17 over the conflict-ridden Ukrainian region, Putin has shown no remorse over the incident despite proof that it was a Russian-supplied missile system fired by the rebels that downed the civilian aircraft.
With the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) confirming there are 1,000 Russian troops inside Ukraine fighting alongside the rebels, the prospect for peace has become more dim than ever.
Putin has claimed that the Russian soldiers inside Ukraine are Russian military who are on vacation and have decided to “volunteer” to fight alongside the rebels. While this claim is outrageous, we hope that the bigger Russian battalions do not “voluntarily” cross into Ukraine.
So when will Putin or Moscow be willing to talk peace with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko? We hope it is not after tens thousands of lives have been wasted, when economic sanctions have caused rioting for food and supplies in Russia, and when the West and Russia are on the brink of war, a remote but always a scary possibility.