Unceremonious End to Six Month Gaza Ceasefire

The Ceasefire Neither Side Seemed to Want Gives Way to a War That Will Benefit No One

The Hamas government declared an end to the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip today, saying “the calm, which was reached with Egyptian sponsorship on June 19 and expires on December 19, is finished because the enemy did not abide by its obligations.”

Of course it had been a month and a half since the ceasefire really meant anything. An Israeli military raid on November 5 sparked a series of strikes and retaliatory strikes which continues to this day, and a lockdown on humanitarian supplies to the strip which has had disastrous consequences for its 1.5 million residents.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak looked back almost whimsically on the ceasefire, defending it in spite of spending most of the six month period assuring his constituents that it wouldn’t last.

Indeed, both sides spent almost the entire six months condemning the other for not abiding by the terms of the ceasefire, while dodging condemnations from even more hawkish rivals and planning for the day when it would finally be at an end. Well that day is today, now what?

Nothing good. Gaza civilians were frustrated by Israel keeping humanitarian supplies out of the Strip, one of the key tenets of the truce from their perspective, while Israelis were perpetually outraged by the rocket fire, though it did limited damage. But without the ceasefire Israel certainly isn’t going to make humanitarian shipments any easier, and Hamas is likely to abandon its already shoddy efforts to keep rivals from firing rockets, while launching plenty of their own. The Israeli military couldn’t stop them before, will they be any more successful now?

The ceasefire may not have been perfect, and neither government showed particularly good faith in applying it, but the alternative is far worse. Under the ceasefire Israel was at least under international pressure to allow food  and medicine into the Strip, and even if that wasn’t particularly successful it might have eventually succeeded in at least getting Egypt to open its border to such shipments. Egypt is unlikely to open its border to a warzone.

And Israeli politicians may hope to reap the benefits of ending the unpopular ceasefire, but this close to the election an admission of failure is more likely to damage those that approved of the deal in the first place, while still giving plenty of time to underscore the military’s inability to do anything about the growing rocket fire that’s likely to result. The population of Gaza-adjacent towns may have publicly deplored the ceasefire, but the fact remains that rocket fire was dramatically down for much of it, and will likely return to new heights without it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.