Gaza borders to open after ceasefire deal

Under terms of Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Gaza border crossings to Israel and Egypt will open

 A Palestinian family celebrate as they return home in Al-Shejaeiya neighbourhood following a ceasefire in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

A Palestinian family celebrate as they return home in Al-Shejaeiya neighbourhood following a ceasefire in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 06:18

On the 50th day of fighting, an open-ended ceasefire went into effect last night, paving the way for Egyptian-mediated talks in Cairo in a month’s time aimed at securing a long-term cessation of violence and ending the economic blockade on Gaza.

Under the terms of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, the Gaza border crossings to Israel and Egypt will be opened and the fishing zone off the Gaza coast gradually extended.

There are no commitments from Israel and Egypt to open an airport and seaport in Gaza as part of a wider agreement to end the economic siege on the coastal enclave. These issues will be discussed next month in Cairo, if the ceasefire holds, but further progress may depend on progress on demilitarising the Gaza Strip, a demand Hamas has rejected out of hand.

‘Liberating Jerusalem’

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zurhi said the agreement marked a victory for his organisation. “The value of this campaign is not in the opening of this crossing or that crossing, but in paving the way for the next stage – liberating Jerusalem,” he said.

Members of Israel’s security cabinet were informed of the ceasefire agreement but no vote took place because the forum had already agreed to the outline of the deal weeks ago.

Security cabinet member Naftali Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said he opposed the ceasefire because it did not grant Israel the right to intervene militarily if Hamas resumed the construction of cross-border tunnels or manufactured new rockets.

Both sides stepped up attacks ahead of the 7pm deadline set for the start of the ceasefire. Israel bombed a number of Gaza City high-rise residential buildings. An Israeli was killed and two seriously wounded in a mortar shell explosion in a kibbutz close to the border.

More than 2,200 Gazans have been killed in the fighting, mostly civilians, along with 69 Israelis – 64 of them soldiers.

It is still premature to judge the political fallout from the war, but public support for Binyamin Netanyahu in Israel has fallen dramatically in recent weeks.

According to the latest public opinion survey, only 38 per cent of Israelis are satisfied with his performance. After the entry of ground forces into the Gaza Strip, he was backed by 82 per cent of Israelis.