Israel-Gaza truce ends worst fighting since 2009 war. Did Iran have a role? (+video)
The Gaza fighting marked the rise of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian proxy that analysts say could be used to try to divert Israel's focus away from Iran's nuclear program.
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"We have set our conditions before agreeing to a truce and the occupation has accepted them," said Khader Habib of Islamic Jihad. "Egypt has assured us that Israel will stop targeted assassinations and we will respect the cease-fire as long as Israel respects it."Skip to next paragraph
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Islamic Jihad said it was preparing a rally in Gaza City later Tuesday to celebrate a "victory.''
A Hamas official said the truce went into effect at 1 a.m. but Israeli jet fighters and drones were still flying overhead today, while Grad rockets were still being fired from Gaza.
Not since the 2009 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas has the fighting been so bad as it was in this most recent round. That conflict left Hamas badly beaten, the Gaza Strip in shambles with more than 1,000 Palestinians dead, and many residents frustrated with Hamas.
Ever since, Gaza’s militant Islamist rulers have become more cautious in joining the fray for fear of triggering another round of fighting.
It’s another sign of how Hamas has evolved over two decades. Back in the 1990s and into the second Palestinian intifada that began in 2000, it was Hamas’s military aggression that embarrassed Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who had committed to peace talks with Israel.
'Life here is worse than in Somalia'
But Hamas's shift in policy has left it open to criticism by Islamic Jihad and to some Palestinians who support military retaliation against Israel.
"I hope that we all would be united in this fight against Israel so we can show this arrogant enemy that we can give him lessons to learn in the future," Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shihab said at a press conference yesterday. "We are strong enough to keep fighting the Israelis, and the near future will prove this."
Though both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist groups by Israel and the US, Islamic Jihad is purely a military outfit. Because it is not a player in Palestinian politics, it doesn’t operate under the constraints of approval ratings and possible elections, as Hamas does.
“Islamic Jihad in this round was the star of the events,” says Yoni Figel, a counterterrorism expert at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, who added that the group is an uncontroversial target for Israeli leaders. “Everybody knows that Islamic Jihad are the bad guys – they don’t represent anyone in Palestinian civil society, will never be partners for peace.”
Hamas, on the other hand, has to worry about people like Bahjat Hamad, a father of nine whose house was damaged this weekend in an Israeli raid in Gaza City suburb of Jabaliya.
"Why should this happen to me? Why should I feel unsafe all the time?" asks Mr. Hamad, whose house was hit while he and his family were asleep. "This is the second time my house is bombed in three years. I don't want this to go on, I want to live like a king or a minister. Life here is worse than life in Somalia or Darfur."
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