It has been a relatively quiet day so far in Israel, with the sound of thunder replacing the sounds of airplanes and rockets. A rain storm is expected in parts of Israel and that certainly beats a missile storm. A cease fire, sponsored primarily by Egypt, was put into place last night at approximately 9 p.m.. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions continued to fire rockets at Israel for about another 2 hours after that time, but Israel did not respond to these provocations and the cease fire took hold.
It was a particularly bitter day of fighting for both sides yesterday. A terrorist bombed a passenger bus in central Tel-Aviv, injuring a large number of people, and many rockets were fired at Israeli cities and towns in the south. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force responded by stepping up its campaign and bombing numerous targets in the Gaza Strip.
Many Israelis, particularly in the south, opposed the cease fire and were urging Prime Minister Netanyahu to make the decision to launch a full scale ground invasion of Gaza in an effort to make it less likely that Hamas would launch another barrage of rockets at Israel any time soon. However, Netanyahu faced enormous world pressure from numerous quarters, including, most significantly, the U.S. and chose not to proceed with the ground assault. There were also many in Israel who viewed a cease fire as a possible opportunity to work on some sort of longer lasting arrangement with Hamas and the Palestinians.
Although many Palestinians in Gaza are reportedly celebrating - and Hamas has declared November 22 to be a "national holiday," it is really hard to believe that this was a victory of any sort for Palestinians. More than 100 Palestinians were killed, hundreds more were injured, and Gaza suffered major damage as a result of Israeli attacks. Although Hamas succeeded in hitting Israeli targets and causing damage, it sustained very major damage to its military infrastructure and weapons caches and other types of damage as well.
This was also not a victory for Israel. Although Operation Pillar of Cloud caused significant damage to Gaza's military capabilities and its leadership, Israel also suffered from several missile attacks that hit its cities and killed and injured its residents.
YNet News has reported the following statistics:
More than 1500 rockets and missiles were fired at Israel by Hamas and its cohorts;
875 exploded in open areas in Israel;
421 were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, which only intercepts projectiles that are likely to cause damage;
152 rockets and misssiles landed in the Palestinian territories;
More than 500 people were treated in Israeli hospitals for war-related innjuries over the 8 day operation.
Al-Jazeera reports that an estimated 162 Palestinians in Gaza were killed during Operation Pillar of Cloud but it is unclear how many of these people were civilians. It is also unclear whether this number is even accurate. Various sources report that the IDF attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza over the course of the 8 day operation.
Haaretz printed an excellent post-mortem article, written by Chemi Shalev called Gaza Requiem which provides a fairly balanced picture of things, in my view.
It is unclear how long this "truce" will last. It could be days, weeks or even months. Hopefully both sides, and other international players interested in a peaceful resolution, will make a push to broaden the cease fire and make efforts to reach a wider and longer lasting peace deal. Failing to do so will simply usher in another round of violence and the fighting in the region will continue. While many pessimists insist that this is bound to be the case, we can only hope that the pessimists can eventually be proven wrong.
On a personal note, I was at a wedding in central Israel last night. Invited guests included more than 100 military personnel, many of whom were close friends of the groom. With the current military situation, the groom had been advised that very view of his friends would be able to attend. As the cease fire was announced, just in time, a large number of these invited guests were able to come straight from their posts to the wedding - dressed in full military gear and fully armed. But it was a bit of joyous timing for the bride and groom who were able to celebrate with many of their friends and were also able to enjoy their wedding with the knowledge that a truce had been reached.