Ceasefire Begun in Gaza
May 21, 2021 (EIRNS)—By all accounts, the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire between Israel and Gaza which took effect at 2:00 a.m., May 21 local time (23:00 UTC, May 20) is holding, though fingers remain poised on triggers if something goes wrong. Times of Israel reported that the tenuous nature of the ceasefire was “highlighted with violence and threats continuing until minutes before the deadline. Both sides have declared victory and are warning at the same time of retaliation for any violation. Hamas’s military wing warned it would carry out widespread attacks—on Haifa in Israel’s north to the Ramon area in the south—if Israel did not abide by the pact. At the same time, Hamas foreign relations chief Osama Hamdan said that Hamas had received assurances regarding Israeli policy toward Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem. Defense Minister Benny Gantz denied Hamas’s claims of assurances on Jerusalem as ‘completely false.’ ”
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday afternoon, May 20, that the security cabinet had “unanimously accepted the recommendation of all security officials, the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, the head of the Mossad and the head of the National Security Council, to accept the Egyptian initiative for a bilateral ceasefire without any conditions, which will take effect later.”
The toll of casualties is reported to be 12 dead and over 335 wounded on the Israeli side and 232 dead—65 of them children—and over 1,700 wounded in Gaza.
The ceasefire, as always, doesn’t solve anything and could be followed by another war in a few months or a few years’ time if a real solution is not taken up. Riyad al Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister said as much at the UN General Assembly meeting May 20. He told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting that the world must now tackle the difficult issues of Jerusalem’s future and achieving an independent Palestinian state, reported the Associated Press. He said that while a ceasefire is good, it doesn’t address “the core issue” that started the violence. He identified the core issue as the “desecration” by Israeli soldiers and settlers of the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Israeli policy of evicting Palestinians from their homes in the city’s different neighborhoods including Sheikh Jarrah, actions which triggered the Hamas rocket barrage from Gaza. Al-Maliki accused Israel of intending to erase the multicultural, multi-religious character of the city of Jerusalem saying: “We are opposed to that, we reject that, and we’ll keep working to prevent that from happening.”
Al Maliki said Israel’s normalization of relations with some Arab countries including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, doesn’t waive the questions of the future of Jerusalem and a Palestinian state. “To the contrary, we see today that the issue of Palestine and the Palestinian question, the issue of Jerusalem and the occupation of Jerusalem, is the most important issue for all Muslims and Arabs and the world alike,” Al-Malki said. “We want to see the Palestinian people free and also living in their own independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.