The last days of the Gaza truce

The truce between Hamas and Israel in Gaza is nearing its end, and may have, for all practical purposes, already expired. While the ceasefire will officially terminate on December 19th, over 90 Qassam rockets and 70 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel during the past month. The approach of Dec. 19 ...

590984_081217_gaza5.jpg
590984_081217_gaza5.jpg

The truce between Hamas and Israel in Gaza is nearing its end, and may have, for all practical purposes, already expired. While the ceasefire will officially terminate on December 19th, over 90 Qassam rockets and 70 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel during the past month.

The approach of Dec. 19 has created an interesting split within the Hamas leadership. Speaking from Damascus, the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, announced definitively that the truce would expire on the 19th. He was quickly contradicted by Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, who declared that Hamas had not taken its final position.

And it's not only the Palestinians who are embroiled in a leadership struggle. Lagging behind in the polls to the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has recently been more aggressive in condemning Hamas. She told a group of high school students on Monday that Israel "cannot tolerate an extreme Islamic state on its southern border," and had previously remarked that she was "ashamed" about the state of the Gaza truce.

The truce between Hamas and Israel in Gaza is nearing its end, and may have, for all practical purposes, already expired. While the ceasefire will officially terminate on December 19th, over 90 Qassam rockets and 70 mortar shells have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel during the past month.

The approach of Dec. 19 has created an interesting split within the Hamas leadership. Speaking from Damascus, the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, announced definitively that the truce would expire on the 19th. He was quickly contradicted by Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, who declared that Hamas had not taken its final position.

And it’s not only the Palestinians who are embroiled in a leadership struggle. Lagging behind in the polls to the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu, Kadima Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has recently been more aggressive in condemning Hamas. She told a group of high school students on Monday that Israel “cannot tolerate an extreme Islamic state on its southern border,” and had previously remarked that she was “ashamed” about the state of the Gaza truce.

Further complicating matters, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has also called for open-ended protests in Beirut to protest the “siege” of Gaza. With Lebanese Parliamentary elections scheduled for May, Nasrallah no doubt believes that he can rail against the situation in Gaza to cement his pro-Palestinian bona fides while not actually launching an attack on Israel, which could provoke an even more destructive conflict than the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war.

Gaza seems destined to serve as a political football as all of these different actors vie for power. Until the conclusion of the elections in the Middle East next year, Gaza will likely be forced to muddle through — neither at peace nor in a state of open war.

Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

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