National Security

Hamas Rejects Egypt-Backed, Israeli-Accepted Ceasefire

Ceasefire was to have gone into effect this morning

Gaza City / AP

JERUSALEMHamas has rejected a ceasefire negotiated by the Egyptian government and agreed to by Israel that was to have gone into effect at 9 A.M. this morning.

Dozens of rockets from the Gaza Strip were launched into Israel after 9 A.M. in defiance of the Egyptian government, which had proposed the cease-fire. Israel refrained from responding for four-and-a-half hours, apparently to give time to Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to reassess. Planes have now resumed attacks on rocket launch sites.

There were signs of deep splits within Hamas, with one of the leaders of the organization’s political wing, Mousa Abu Marzook, saying in Cairo that the cease-fire proposal was still being discussed among Hamas leaders. However, the proposal was rejected out of hand in Gaza itself.

"Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity," read a statement by the armed wing of Hamas. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that Egypt had not consulted with Hamas before issuing its call and that Hamas will not undertake a ceasefire until its demands are met.

Hamas’ demands include a lifting of restrictions on the movement of people and goods through the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the rejection of the cease-fire by Hamas gives Israel "all the international legitimacy to expand military operations to achieve the quiet we seek." He added that Israel had accepted the cease-fire "in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the Strip through diplomatic means."

Israel has 40,000 soldiers deployed along the Gaza border, including tank units. It is not yet clear if the troops will be ordered in or whether Israel will continue to leave its attacks to the air force.

Under the Egyptian proposal, the two sides were to convene in Cairo within 48 hours of the initiation of the ceasefire "in order to conclude talks for the consolidation of the cease-fire and resume confidence-building measures between the two sides."

Each delegation would be in a separate suite, with Egyptian officials shuttling between them. In a gesture to Hamas, the proposal said, "Passage through border crossings shall be facilitated once the security situation becomes more stable on the ground." The organization’s leaders in Gaza were dismissive of the Egyptian proposal, depicting it as a document that met Israel’s major demand—the end of hostilities—while ignoring other Hamas demands.