A troubled truce in the Middle East
Fingers crossed and breaths held, countless people around the world hope the latest cease fire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will hold in this seemingly endless conflict in the Middle East.
But expectations are restrained, to say the least.
As a columnist on this page today notes, Hamas tends to view any cease fire in its long-running battle with Israel as a temporary respite during which it can refurbish its arms for the next attacks.
Additionally, highlighting the dangers that still exist in this volatile part of the world, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday issued a decree giving himself sweeping new powers not subject to any court oversight.
This, less than a day after Morsi won accolades from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others for helping to broker the cease fire between Israel and Hamas, the militant Palestinian group.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s constitutional assembly is nearing collapse, and protesters have been once again battling police in the streets of Cairo.
In Israel on Thursday, many of the troops amassed at the Gaza border began to pull back, but there was still a great deal of tension and doubt.
The bombing of a bus in Israel Wednesday just hours before the cease-fire was announced, and the firing of at least a dozen rockets from Gaza into southern Israel after the truce was supposed to be in effect, prompted caution and skepticism.
In Gaza, meanwhile, the cease-fire was viewed as a victory for the Palestinians and Hamas. There were celebrations throughout the night Wednesday and into Thursday. In fact, Hamas declared Thursday a public holiday in recognition of what was described as “a great victory.”
Still, if the terms of the agreement are upheld, both sides will get much of what they sought during the weeklong battle of rockets and artillery fire.
The Palestinians are to halt rocket attacks and other violence staged in Gaza and aimed at various cities in Israel.
And Israel is to ease up on the Gaza blockade it implemented several years ago. But, in doing so, Israel wants to prevent more weapons from moving into Gaza, primarily from Hamas’ supporters in Iran, that would allow the Palestinians to build up an even greater armory for later attacks.
All of this is taking place against the backdrop of near chaos in Syria, ongoing Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and continuing civil war in Libya.
The Middle East remains the most dangerous region on Earth. We can only hope that the truce brokered earlier this week, in part through diplomatic efforts of Clinton, will hold and can quell the violence and reduce the danger.