The situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip is fast-changing, and so too is the Israeli government’s stated intentions with respect to its continued military presence. While just yesterday top officials said it was too soon to discuss a timetable, forces are now withdrawing en masse, and officials say they have a very concrete deadline.
President-elect Barack Obama will be officially sworn in as president of the United States at noon eastern tomorrow (Tuesday), and anonymous Israeli officials say the plan is to have the military out of the Gaza Strip by then. The idea seems to be to spare the new president from having to deal with a military occupation backed by the United States and involving large amounts of US-supplied weapons.
Hamas had demanded that Israel have their forces out within a week of their ceasefire, and this timeline would give Israel several days to spare. Both sides appear to be more or less abiding by the ceasefire, though Israel continues to insist that Hamas is planning on violating it. The momentum seems to be, despite all expectations to the contrary, that the ceasefire will hold for the time being.