Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hamas Torpedoes Egyptian Ceasefire Attempt

Apparently the Egyptian efforts to craft a ceasefire have run into a few roadblocks.

In talks with Egypt's Head of Intelligence General Omar Suleiman Hamas leaders refused to commit to a number of points Egypt, the EU and Condi Rice were counting on.

First off, they said they would not commit to a long term because they wanted to "preserve the right to respond to Israeli violations and aggression."

Second and more importantly, they refused an Egyptian demand that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza be turned over to Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah.Suleiman reportedly told the Hamas delegation that Egypt would not reopen the Rafah border crossing unless Abbas's forces were allowed to control the terminal.

The third point Suleiman wanted the Hamas delegation to agree to was international peacekeeping troops in some areas of the Gaza Strip. They turned him down flat. Osama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, said the idea of international peacekeepers was "aimed at protecting Israel" while Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam stated they would consider such troops a hostile and occupying force and would therefore launch attacks against them.

This entire structure of Fatah controlling the Rafah crossing and international monitors is pretty much what Condi, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt cobbled together as security 'guarantees' back when Israel left Gaza.

Hamas took over the terminal when they kicked Fatah out in the summer of 2007, and the international monitors fled into Israel shortly afterwards.

Hamas' position is pretty simple; they want all the border crossings opened with them in control, and the Israeli military operations to stop...after which they'll stop firing rockets into Israel.At least for now.

There's a key here as to why Hamas decided to attack Israel and unleash the rockets just now.

Hamas has owned Gaza now for a year and a half. And while their lil' reichlet is nowhere near as broke and impoverished as they would have you believe, the prosperity is limited to those at the top of the Hamas food chain and those connected with them, which doesn't sit so well with the peons. Not only that, but the blockade - a joint enterprise of both Egypt and Israel, I might add - has deprived them of the kind of legitimacy they crave, and diminished their stature, an important thing in an honor/shame culture. There's been some murmuring.

With a PA presidential election coming up, Hamas saw an opportunity to accomplish two things.First, by taking the lead in the jihad against the Jews as opposed to Abbas and Fatah, Hamas hoped rally the troops, to gain votes, oust Abbas and take over the Palestinian Authority completely.

They've certainly been successful in the first part of this as support for Hamas in the West Bank, already high, has increased markedly. The Palestinian occupied areas of the West bank have been relatively quiet during this war, but only because Abbas has used those US trained security forces to stifle any demonstrations and violence...not out of any regard for Israel, but simply to keep their own authority unchallenged. As for the second part, Abbas' presidential term ends tomorrow, and it remains to be seen how a subsequent election will go, if it takes place.

Hamas' other goal was to gain legitimacy and force Egypt to recognize them by opening the borders. That hasn't been accomplished yet.

Ahmed Yussef, an adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said a ceasefire agreement might be possible "within 48 hours", and again emphasized that Hamas would stop firing rockets at Israel as soon as the IDF stopped its military operations, the border crossings were reopened and the blockade of the Gaza Strip ended.

In the meantime, Israel has been pounding Hamas positions on the Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and Gaza, and is in the process of wiping out the two Hamas brigades dug in there. When the IDF occupies Philadelphi, the whole idea of Hamas controlling border crossings could be moot.

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