The ceasefire which began overnight in the Gaza Strip has now held for a solid day, ages compared to previous such efforts, and the Israeli government’s delegation has finally arrived in Cairo to begin indirect negotiations on a settlement of the war.
Exactly what is being sought at this point is unclear on the Israeli side, as they now claim to have destroyed every tunnel in Gaza. The Palestinian delegation is expected to press primarily for an end to the Israeli blockade of the strip.
Israeli officials had previously been loathe to consider any negotiation for fear that giving concessions might be perceived domestically as “losing” the war, though growing Western pressure to end the enormous civilian casualties they are causing in attacking Gaza may finally be shifting them toward the talks.
The negotiations will not be direct, but rather the Israeli delegation and the Palestinian delegation (which includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but is led by Fatah) will relay messages back and forth through the Egyptian junta, which is acting as an intermediary.
Meanwhile, the death toll of the war stands at 1,938 Gazans killed, 84% of them civilians and 460 of them (23.7%) children under the age of 18. The Israeli toll is 67, with 64 of them soldiers.
That’s only the direct toll, however, and with what little infrastructure they had destroyed, the lack of clean water and electricity is sure to add to the real toll in the months and years to come.
The Red Cross says rebuilding from the war, assuming it ends now, will take years, and other officials have estimated the cost at upwards of $6 billion. The only power plant in Gaza was badly damaged, and will be out for at least a year, while water pumping systems are struggling, and rationing is likely to be a long-term reality for locals.
That’s assuming the rebuilding is allowed to happen at all. After the 2009 invasion Israel kept its blockade in place, and much of the wreckage remained unrepaired even into this war. Getting raw materials like cement for rebuilding is difficult, if not impossible, and most such goods have traditionally had to come in through tunnels, which at this point are destroyed.