Though both sides continued fighting right up until the official start of the Gaza ceasefire, which took effect at 7:00 PM Eastern, calm has prevailed in the first few hours, neither side his reportedly attacked the other, and there is hope, however fleeting, that the fighting in the Gaza Strip may finally be over.
The Israeli government has touted its three week war which killed 1,100, the vast majority of which were civilians, as a great success, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claiming all of the military’s goals had been met (though its only stated goal was stopping the rocket attacks, which continued right up until the Israeli attacks stopped).
But Israel doesn’t seem in any hurry to leave the Gaza Strip, one of Hamas’ primary requirements for a lasting truce. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the troops would remain, and would prepare to resume and even expand the attacks on the tiny Mediterranean enclave. Hamas spokesmen have publicly said they would continue to fight until Israel withdraws, but sources suggest they will probably comply with the ceasefire, at least in the near term. So far there are no reports of either side violating the truce.
And while this is likely a relief to Gaza’s 1.5 million civilians (and the first relief they’ve had in over three weeks of war), some in Israel are not happy. Top officials in the Likud Party, which polls suggest will become the ruling party in next month’s elections, said the party will officially condemn the decision by the Kadima-led coalition government to suspend the attacks. Hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman likewise condemned the ceasefire, and indeed ceasefires in general, which he called “deathtraps,” and lashed out at the government for “preventing the IDF from finishing the job.”