Gaza Ceasefire Set for Thursday Morning at 6

Security Cabinet approves "cooling off" period with Hamas terrorists in Gaza. IDF officers warn that Hamas will use it to re-arm and re-group.

Hana Levi Julian and Hillel Fendel ,

Hamas flag flies in Gaza
Hamas flag flies in Gaza
Israel News Photo: (file photo)

The Security Cabinet has officially approved the tahadiyeh "cooling off" period with Hamas terrorists in Gaza.  Government spokesman Mark Regev announced that it would take effect on Thursday morning at 6 AM.

"We are hoping for a new reality in which the residents of the south will no longer be rocketed," Regev said.  This, in the face of military warnings that such a calm is not expected to last long, and that Hamas will use the lull to gear up for the next round of hostilities.

The head of the Defense Ministry's political-military bureau, Major-General (res.) Amos Gilad, who was sent as an envoy to Egypt to secure the proposed ceasefire, noted that the IDF has not yet completed its preparations for a large-scale operation in Gaza, and therefore the only option to free kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit is to "give the Egyptians a chance."  He said the real test will come in the execution of the plan.

Asked about the likelihood that Hamas terrorists will continue their arms buildup using tunnels under the Egyptian border, Gilad said, "We have no negotiations with the Hamas; we talk with the Egyptians."

Likud Knesset Member Limor Livnat said Wednesday morning that the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas gives official recognition to the terrorist party and grants it international standing.

Warnings Abound
A senior IDF officer warned that the period of "calm" is expected to strengthen all the terrorist groups present in Gaza, and that the army is continuing its plans for the possibility of a large-scale operation in the region.  The officer was quoted on Voice of Israel as saying that the terror groups will grow stronger in direct proportion to the length of time the tahadiyeh continues.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi informed the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the army "is giving [the ceasefire agreement and Hamas] the benefit of the doubt, but preparing for action" in Gaza.

Former Gaza Formation Commander Gen. Shmuel Zakkai, on the other hand, told Army Radio, "As someone who has fought in Gaza, I know how important a ceasefire is.  Every day that thousands of children and parents in Sderot and the Negev don't have to fear rockets, is an important accomplishment."  Asked about warnings that Hamas will only gain from this agreement, Zakkai said, "I am a sworn Zionist, and I don't care about Hamas - only about what is good for us."

Kassam Fire Continues
Meanwhile, the terrorists are taking advantage of their last pre-ceasefire day, having fired 7-8 Kassams and mortar shells at Israel by early afternoon.  Two Kassam rockets were fired shortly before 11 AM at the Eshkol region, causing damage to a moshav hothouse.  Three other Kassams later hit Zikim, south of Ashkelon, and the Shaar HaNegev region, and in the early afternoon, another volley landed near Sderot, causing light damage. In the morning hours, terrorists fired at a group of Israeli farmers in a field; the IDF then closed the Nachal Oz fuel crossing.