Following 50 days of war and devastation– with more than 2,000 dead, 10,000 injured, 100,000 homeless and incalculable devastation in Gaza – the August 26th cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza was truly welcome.
The cease-fire provides an opportunity for broader efforts to improve the lives of the Palestinian population of Gaza who have suffered tremendous losses of life and property, while also allowing Israelis to live without constant fear of rocket and tunnel attacks.
We urge the parties to carry out the commitments they have made, so that the cease-fire proves durable and Israelis and Palestinians can finally emerge from the darkness that has engulfed them for nearly two months.
We welcome the steps agreed to, including the widening of a fishing zone for Gazans from three to eight miles and the intention to post Palestinian Authority forces on the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt.
We also welcome Israel’s agreement to allow additional humanitarian supplies into Gaza and urge it to find ways to substantially ease its blockade of the territory while still ensuring its Security. For many years, the blockade helped create an underground economy based on smuggling tunnels through which weapons, as well as basic necessities, found their way into the Strip. Controlled by Hamas, the tunnel economy financially benefited Hamas and increased its strong hold on the Gaza Strip.
We also urge the parties to hold further negotiations on more substantive issues as agreed under the cease-fire, including the possible construction of an airport and sea port in Gaza and the demilitarization of Hamas. Such developments would constitute a major step forward to building a new and better future for Gaza while also protecting Israelis.
The cease-fire also offers an opportunity for the parties to urgently address the root causes of the violence including those at the very heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notably the occupation. Without doing so, we are likely to see Hamas come back stronger and with better weapons, as was the case following operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense. This would again lead to further bloodshed and loss of life on both sides.