The June ceasefire between Hamas and the Israeli government will be six months old on December 19, and will expire if there is no deal between the two sides to extend it.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshal declared that “there will be no renewal of the calm after it expires.” Meanwhile, local Israeli officials condemned the fact that the ceasefire was ever agreed to at all, while Foreign Minister and would-be future Prime Minister Tzipi Livni spoke of military strikes against the Gaza Strip.
At the same time, the possibility of extending the ceasefire past the deadline wasn’t entirely closed, with Hamas figure Mahmoud Zahar saying the group had yet to make a final decision on the matter. The Israeli Defense Ministry also suggested that it was willing to continue with the truce, “but not like it is today.”
Of course, the relative merits of the ceasefire have been questionable at best in the past month. Since an Israeli raid in early November led to a month of retaliatory strikes by both sides, a pact meant to end strikes into and out of the strip and facilitate Gazans access to humanitarian aid has failed on both counts. Rockets and air strikes continue, though perhaps with less frequency than they did before the ceasefire. And the Israeli government has been so intent on keeping aid out of the Gaza Strip that its residents are eating wild grass to survive.
Still, the alternative is unlikely to be any more pleasant. Besides likely ratcheting up their own attacks, without the ceasefire Hamas is unlikely to make any effort to keep rival factions from firing missiles at nearby Israeli cities. And the outgoing Israeli government seems to be salivating at the prospect of launching a full scale invasion of the strip.