JERUSALEM, Oct. 29 – The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is expected to last until after Israel’s upcoming early general election in mid-February, local news service Ynet reported Wednesday. The report said that discussions held in recent days among defense and security officials have concluded that the Palestinian movement is keen on seeing the truce continue into the spring.
The Jewish state has already agreed in principle to an Egyptian plan to extend the ceasefire beyond the initial six-month timeframe, which expires in December, said the report, adding that the Gaza-ruling group is also expected to accept the deal.
The Egypt-brokered Gaza truce between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the coastal strip have significantly reduced the previously frequent rocket attacks on southern Israel since it went into effect in mid-June.
However, the report quoted Hamas officials as saying that while the truce is in the Palestinians’ interests, the militant group has “no intentions of giving Israel an eternal ceasefire free of charge unless the siege is lifted from Gaza.”
On the other hand, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnaiwas cited as saying that Israel must also prepare for an altogether different scenario. “The big fear is a major terror attack as a result of Hamas turning a blind eye (towards other armed groups in Gaza), and we would be forced to retaliate,” he said.
Vilnai laid stress on two crucial dates: December 18, when the first phase officially expires, and January 9, when the Palestinian National Authority would hold elections to replace President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed that should Gaza militants renew their attacks against Israel, his army would make a serious response.
With a relatively calm Gaza situation, Israeli political leaders will be able to focus on the snap election that has been tentatively scheduled on Feb. 10, after which Israel will end the months-long transitional period and have a normal government.