TIME conflict

“Murder in Munich”: A Terrorist Threat Ignored

19720918 cover
The September 18, 1972, cover of TIME TIME

September 5, 1972: Terrorists kidnap and kill Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics

Police psychologist Georg Sieber imagined 26 ways the 1972 Summer Olympics could go terribly wrong. Commissioned by organizers to predict worst-case scenarios for the Munich games, Sieber came up with a range of possibilities, from explosions to plane crashes, for which security teams should be prepared.

Situation Number 21 was eerily prescient, as TIME would describe many years later. Sieber envisioned that “a dozen armed Palestinians would scale the perimeter fence of the [Olympic] Village. They would invade the building that housed the Israeli delegation, kill a hostage or two (“To enforce discipline,” Sieber says today), then demand the release of prisoners held in Israeli jails and a plane to fly to some Arab capital.” The West German organizers balked, asking Sieber to downsize his projections from cataclysmic to merely disorderly — from worst-case to simply bad-case scenarios. Situations such as Number 21 could only be prevented by scrapping the Olympics entirely, they argued. Instead of beefing up security, they scaled back their expectations of threat.

So they were unprepared when, early this morning in 1972, an attack unfolded almost exactly according to Sieber’s hypothetical specifications. Eight men affiliated with the Palestinian terrorist group Black September broke into the Israeli apartment before dawn and took 11 athletes and coaches hostage.

Thanks to lax security — exposed decades later when a classified report was made public in 2005 — it was a relatively easy task for the terrorists. They were seen scaling the fence, but, wearing tracksuits, were taken for athletes and ignored. Getting into the Israelis’ housing was even easier: Among other departures from Sieber’s recommendations, the team had been assigned rooms on the ground floor. Once inside, the terrorists killed two hostages almost immediately and demanded the release of 234 prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the rest. While the world watched, West German officials launched into poorly planned, ineffectual action. First, they dismissed Sieber, telling him his services were no longer needed. Then they botched a rescue mission that culminated in the deaths of all the remaining hostages, a German officer and five of the eight commandos. The three who survived were captured but later released in exchange for a hijacked Lufthansa plane.

Sept. 18, 1972,
A diagram of the events in Munich, from the Sept. 18, 1972, issue of TIME

The tragedy was also devastating to the Germans, who had hoped that being gracious Olympic hosts would distract from the memory of Nazi propaganda at their last games, the Berlin Olympics in 1936. They had given the 1972 Olympics the official motto Die Heiteren Spiele, which translates variously as the happy games, the cheerful games or the carefree games. That phrase presented a stark contrast to reality — and a grim reminder that merely hoping for the best will not prevent the worst.

Read TIME’s Sept. 18, 1972, cover story about the attack: Horror and Death at the Olympics

TIME Education

See the First Day of School for Students Around the World

Sharpen your pencils, TIME looks at the first day of school from the U.S. to Ukraine

TIME Israel

Israel Claims Almost 1,000 Acres of West Bank for New Settlement

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sebastian Scheiner—AP

Decision reportedly taken after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers

Israel declared a large section of the West Bank as “state lands” on Sunday, in a move that caused outrage among Palestinian authorities.

The Los Angeles Times, citing local media sources, reported that the Israeli government took over 990 acres in the Palestinian territory south of Bethlehem.

This declaration is the largest since 1980, according to antisettlement group Peace Now, which said it would have a significant impact on the region.

Peace Now’s Yariv Oppenheimer wrote in a Facebook post that the appropriation of land was a “stab in the back” to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Oppenheimer added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “destroying any diplomatic horizon.”

Abbas’ office warned that the Israeli attempt to encroach upon Palestinian land would further escalate the conflict between the two sides, and called for the declaration to be withdrawn.

The Israeli government reportedly wants to keep the part of the West Bank it calls the Etzion Bloc in any future agreements with the Palestinians, and Peace Now reports that the lands have been earmarked for the expansion of the settlement of Gevaot there.

Settlement leaders sought to justify the annexation of the land, which was reportedly decided by the government after the June abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. Yigal Dilmoni, of the umbrella settlement group called the Yesha Council, said it was “an appropriate Zionist response to terror attacks against Israel.”

Hanan Ashrawi, of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, responded that Israel is moving toward a “de facto one-state solution,” and aims to “wipe out any Palestinian presence on the land.”

[LAT]

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Aug. 22 – Aug.29

From Michael Brown’s funeral and a cease fire in Gaza, to swarms of locusts in Madagascar and the US Open Tennis Championships, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Syria

U.N. Says 43 Peacekeepers Detained by Armed Group in Golan Heights

Irish members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) sit on their armoured vehicles in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they wait to cross into the Syrian-controlled territory, on August 28, 2014.
Irish members of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) sit on their armoured vehicles in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights as they wait to cross into the Syrian-controlled territory, on August 28, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

Rebel groups, including an al-Qaeda affiliate, are clashing with the Syrian military at the border between Israel and Syria.

The United Nations said Thursday that 43 UN peacekeepers are being detained by “an armed group” at the border between Syria and Israel where Islamist militants are clashing with the Syrian military. Another 81 UN peacekeepers in the area of separation were trapped at their positions, the UN said.

Rebel forces, including the al-Qaeda affiliate known as the Nusra Front, have reportedly advanced on Syrian forces and seized the Quneitra border crossing near where the UN peacekeepers were detained.

Some 1,200 peacekeepers with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force monitor the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights, comprising servicemen from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

“The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the Force throughout its area of operation,” the UN said in a statement.

UN peacekeepers have been apprehended in Syria in the past and released, including last year when a group of Filipino UN peacekeepers were released.

TIME Israel

Israelis and Palestinians Ask if the Latest Fight Was Worth It

Palestinian men walk in a street of Gaza City's Shejaiya neighborhood in early morning dense fog among the ruins of their neighbourhood on Aug. 27, 2014.
Palestinian men walk among the ruins of Gaza City's Shejaiya neighborhood on Aug. 27, 2014 Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images

A bloody war is followed by a public-relations fight

Israeli and Palestinian leaders set out Wednesday to sell their constituents on what was achieved during the latest fighting between the two sides, a day into a cease-fire that ended 50 days of war.

Senior officials on both sides of the conflict declared victory, albeit in very different ways, and laid out the war’s purported achievements. But some found themselves questioning what was really accomplished — and at what price.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced severe criticism from both ends of the political spectrum — from left-wingers who think the war could have been avoided had he not squandered a recent round of peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and from right-wingers who say he didn’t go far enough in the latest Gaza war. Netanyahu resisted hawkish calls to have the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attempt an overthrow of Hamas and a reoccupation of the Gaza, and he shelved his insistence on the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which he had been promoting last month as a solution to the conflict.

Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s own Foreign Minister and among the most prominent critics in his cabinet, slammed the cease-fire deal.

“We object to the cease-fire which offers Hamas the ability to continue to grow strong and fight future battles with Israel whenever it feels like,” Lieberman wrote on Facebook.

Unlike other key national decisions, Netanyahu did not bring the cease-fire deal to his cabinet for a discussion or a vote. After coming under fire for not addressing the nation Tuesday evening when the cease-fire deal was signed, Netanyahu held a news conference Wednesday alongside his Defense Minister and the IDF Chief of Staff, aimed at touting what he said was a mission accomplished, one that will provide “a lasting quiet” for Israel.

“Hamas did not get one of its demands to end Operation Protective Edge,” Netanyahu said, using the name of the Israeli military operation. “It demanded a seaport, it didn’t get it. It demanded an airport, it didn’t get it. It wanted mediation from Qatar and Turkey, it didn’t get it.”

He listed other Palestinian demands — the release of prisoners, the opening of Hamas offices in the West Bank that Israel closed, money — and boasted that Israel refused all of these. Rather, he said, what Israel essentially agreed to was the rehabilitation of Gaza by allowing humanitarian goods to enter.

A thousand Hamas terrorists were killed, many of them commanders,” he said. “Thousands of rocket arsenals, launch sites and weapons caches were destroyed along with hundreds of command centers.”

Those figures highlight the disparity in Palestinian and Israeli casualties and even how each side measures them: while Palestinians say that at least 70% of the approximately 2,100 Palestinians killed were civilians, Israel says about 50% were Hamas fighters. Seventy Israelis were killed, 64 of them soldiers.

While Israelis debated the war’s outcome and whether it was worth it — more than half say there was no winner, according to a new poll — the mood was more jubilant and less analytical in Gaza City. Palestinians went out to shop, to the bank, to the beach, and in many cases, to see if their homes were still standing. “People are happy that they survived more than anything else,” said Gazan journalist Abeer Ayyoub. “I’m just glad to be alive and that my house wasn’t demolished.”

Hamas rallied its supporters Wednesday afternoon, and many top officials not seen during the past seven weeks of war emerged to speak. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the blood spilled in the war was “the fuel of this victory.” Wearing a black-and-white kaffiyeh-patterned scarf over his business suit, he counted Hamas’ gains. “This battle is a war that lacks a precedent in the history of conflict with the enemy,” he said, adding that the group was preparing for the “ultimate battle” for Palestinian liberation.

“The war began with fire on Haifa and ended with fire on Haifa,” Haniyeh said, referring to the longer-range rockets Hamas used to target one of the main cities along Israel’s northern coast.

Mkhaimar Abusada, a political analyst at al-Azhar University in Gaza, said many Palestinians view Hamas as victorious simply because of its resilience and its survival.

“If you look at the numbers, we had about 30 times the number of Palestinians killed as in Israel … From this point of view, we didn’t win,” Abusada tells TIME. “But the Palestinians look at it from a different perspective. With limited capability, the Palestinian resistance was able to withstand the Israeli aggression and continue to fight to the last minute. Let’s face it, Israel didn’t reach its goals, because Israel could not stop the launching of missiles, and I’m not really sure they succeeded in deterring the Palestinians.”

TIME Archaeology

What Bronze Age Wine Snobs Drank

Remains of a Bonze Age happy hour
Remains of a Bonze Age happy hour Andrew Koh

There were some fine vintages 3,000 years ago, and a new study reveals how ancient mixologists made them finer still

It’s hardly news that the ancients drank wine — the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians all imbibed, as did pretty much any other civilization in which alcohol wasn’t prohibited for religious reasons. “We have written records,” says Brandeis University archaeologist Andrew Koh. “We’ve found jars marked ‘wine.’ We’ve found wine residues. It’s pictured everywhere.”

That being the case, you might think a cache of 40 wine jars unearthed from a room in the Bronze Age Canaanite palace at Tel Kabri, which stood more than 3,600 years ago in what’s now modern Israel, would be no big deal.

But you’d be wrong. “In the past,” says Koh, lead author of a paper describing the discovery in the latest issue of the journal PLOS One, “we wouldn’t have been able to say much more than ‘this is a bunch of containers that held wine.’”

Thanks to an unprecedentedly sophisticated analysis of the deposits inside those containers, however, Koh, who has a joint appointment in Brandeis’ Classical Studies and Chemistry Departments, along with two colleagues, can conclude much more, specifically that the wine was flavored with — deep breath, now — honey, storax resin, terebinth resin, cedar oil, cyperus, juniper and possibly mint, myrtle and cinnamon as well.

Not only that: on one side of the room, the wine was mostly unflavored; in the middle, it contained about half that long list of ingredients; and in a small adjoining room it contained them all. In fact, Koh and his colleagues think this wasn’t really a storage facility at all. It was a sort of kitchen, where wine was brought in from the surrounding area — the jars were made from local clay — and a brewmaster of some sort subtly flavored them before they were served in the banquet hall next door.

“We’ve known about the existence of these complex wines for a long time,” says Koh, “and we’ve even got recipes. But to find examples of the actual wines, that’s what makes the science so compelling.”

The additives aside, the wine itself was the same from jar to jar. That, plus the fact that wine was generally not saved from one season to the next, led Koh and his co-authors to conclude that it was all from a single year’s vintage. And that particular vintage clearly never made it into the banquet hall — almost certainly because an earthquake collapsed the walls, breaking the jars and spilling what was inside.

Although this palace stood — and perhaps fell — on what is now Israeli soil, it wasn’t an Israelite palace. Biblical chronology suggests that the Jews were slaves in Egypt at the time. During the Exodus, when Moses led his people to the Promised Land of milk and honey, it was people like these winemakers they ended up conquering.

The excavations at Tel Kabri aren’t over. Koh and his team will return next year, and, he says, “We’re confident we’ll find other rooms, maybe with jars of olive oil. We might also find statues, jewelry, the kind of stuff the public likes.”

That’s not what the archaeologists care about, however. “We’re more interested,” Koh says, “in knowing how people lived.”

TIME faith

The AIPAC Wars are Underway Again

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the cheering audience as he arrives to speak to the AIPAC meeting at the Washington Convention Center on March 4, 2014, in Washington. Carolyn Kaster—AP

The latest attack on AIPAC is seriously flawed

AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—is a lobby created by American Jews and devoted to improving relations between the United States and Israel. Every 5 or 6 years a book or major article is published, containing an “exposé” on how AIPAC operates. The latest version, a 12,000-word article written by Connie Bruck and entitled “Friends of Israel,” appears in the September 1 edition of “The New Yorker.”

The problem with this most recent effort, like the ones that precede it, is that it tells us very little we don’t already know. The workings of AIPAC are not a secret. The organization was founded 50 years ago with a small office in Washington, D.C., but now has a hundred thousand members and a grassroots presence in every state and congressional district. It does not endorse candidates or raise funds for campaigns, but many in the Jewish community will donate or not depending on whether a politician backs AIPAC positions.

AIPAC is committed to the proposition that Israel is a vital ally of the United States, and it supports military aid and political backing for the Jewish state. It operates by initiating email campaigns, offering trips to Israel for politicians and community leaders, developing constituency groups that will contact their Senators and Congressmen, and providing educational programs. In short, it does what all lobbies do, and while it lacks the clout of the banking or oil lobby, it is enormously effective for the simple reason that the American people are supportive of Israel. In addition, AIPAC is very good at its job.

If this sounds admirable, it is. In America’s vibrant democracy, a group of citizens has come together to defend another democracy, a tiny state surrounded by enemies in the radicalized Middle East. What then is there to “expose”?

Bruck offers more or less the same far-fetched answers that we heard from the last major “exposé,” written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in 2007. AIPAC, she suggests, basically controls American foreign policy in the Middle East. Members of Congress are victims of the AIPAC machine, forced by its political pressure to put the interests of Israel before the interests of America. Furthermore, as Israel has moved to the right, AIPAC has allowed itself to become a tool of rightwing Republicans who want to use Israel as a wedge issue to undermine President Obama. But, Bruck concludes, things are looking up. The American public, members of Congress, and even American Jews are fed up with the increasing extremism of both AIPAC and the Netanyahu government, and AIPAC’s support is declining.

The Bruck article does offer a few interesting insights, but its hostility to AIPAC and Israel is so intense that it is impossible to take seriously. Bruck professes to see AIPAC as a terrible bully, but the kind of arm-twisting that she describes happens every day in Washington. Since lobbying and tough talk on every issue imaginable are the very lifeblood of our political system, why exactly is advocacy for Israel any less legitimate than advocacy for any of the other matters, foreign and domestic, that come before Congress?

Furthermore, Bruck’s portrayal of Israel as the villain in Gaza is the best gauge of how she really feels about the Jewish state. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, more than 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel’s civilian centers, traumatizing the population and bringing ordinary life in large parts of Israel to a halt. While the civilian casualties in Gaza are tragic, Israel is the victim of Hamas, and not the other way around.

And finally, the picture that she presents of members of Congress borders on the absurd. They do pay attention to AIPAC—and to other lobbying groups, their own sense of duty, and most important, what they see, rightly, as the pro-Israel sentiments of their constituents. Even an American public that does not hold Senators and Congresspersons in high regard is not prepared to accept as credible that they are mindless automatons, disregarding principle and blindly accepting AIPAC’s dictates.

Bruck gets some things right. While the danger of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is a serious issue and a legitimate concern of Congress, we see from Bruck’s account that AIPAC bungled its handling of the matter. And she is right that despite its claim of bipartisanship, it has not always done well in that regard. As an example of AIPAC’s professed intentions, she quotes a statement by the AIPAC spokesman: “Our position in support of the Oslo process and the two-state solution have generated criticism from some on the right, just as our stand for strong prospective Iran sanctions has spurred criticism from on the left.” Fair enough. But while AIPAC leaders frequently talk about Iran sanctions, they hardly ever mention the two-state solution—or the settlements that may prevent such a solution from happening. These subjects are virtually absent from their educational materials and their annual conferences. If AIPAC is serious about bipartisanship and about bringing more Democrats, liberals, and young people into the AIPAC tent, it will need to advocate for the two-state solution that it already supports.

These virtues notwithstanding, the Bruck article is seriously flawed. AIPAC is one of American Jewry’s proudest accomplishments, and is invaluable for the survival of Israel—America’s most devoted Middle Eastern ally. An honest and thoughtful analysis of the organization would have been welcome. Sadly, what Ms. Bruck provides is a biased exposé, filled more with fantasy than with fact.

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, a writer and lecturer, was President of the Union for Reform Judaism from 1996 to 2012. His writings are collected at ericyoffie.com.

TIME Middle East

Israel and Palestinians Reach Open-Ended Cease-Fire Deal

The sign of victory as people gather in the streets to celebrate after a deal had been reached between Hamas and Israel over a long-term end to seven weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26, 2014 in Gaza City.
Palestinians in Gaza City celebrate in the streets after a deal had been reached between Hamas and Israel over a long-term end to seven weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 26, 2014 Momen Faiz—NurPhoto/Corbis

Truce ends the seven-week war, but it's an open question whether longer-term political talks will resume

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Tuesday that Israel and various Palestinian militant factions including Hamas and Islamic Jihad had reached a cease-fire deal to end seven weeks of devastating war, and to postpone negotiations over several remaining issues for one month.

The news follows weeks of intense efforts on the part of the Egyptian government to broker a truce between the sides, both of whom were keen to emerge looking victorious, or at least successful, from a bruising war that resulted in the death of nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told the BBC that the cease-fire would meet Israel’s primary goals of keeping its citizens safe. The deal, he said, “commits Hamas to ending all hostile activity against Israel from Gaza. Now if that in fact does happen, and we hope it does, that is, for us, victory.”

Abbas’ role in announcing the deal from his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank was evidence of the more prominent role that Egyptian, Israeli and other officials have sought in Gaza for the Palestinian President, whose Fatah party and security forces were ousted from the coastal strip in a Hamas coup in 2007.

In an evening speech making the deal official, Abbas said that he would soon present a detailed plan aimed at establishing a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, a reference to Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel occupied in the Six-Day War. He also indicated that he would not return to another round of negotiations with Israel amid what seems like such a discouraging prognosis for progress; the last round of talks ended in failure in April.

“The question now is, What’s next?” Abbas said. “Gaza suffered three wars and are we expecting another one? We will consult friends and the international community, and we can’t continue with cloudy negotiations.”

What’s in the Deal
The deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire and an Israeli agreement to ease its strict closure policy on Gaza, which Palestinians consider a siege. In theory, this means Israel should ease access at five crossings into Gaza that it controls, opening them up for a better flow of commercial goods and humanitarian needs, and most importantly, for building materials at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.

This latter aspect, according to a Palestinian source close to Hamas, has held up a deal in recent weeks as Hamas thought it necessary to hold out for the free flow of materials such as cement and steel as part of the reconstruction of Gaza. Also included in the deal is an Israeli agreement to allow Gazan fisherman to fish in waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast by the end of the year — more than doubling the distance they were able to travel offshore in recent years, leading to overfishing.

What Hamas did not get, but had demanded throughout the past month, are three other things that the sides have agreed to postpone discussing for one month. These include the creation of a Gaza seaport, an airport and the release of approximately 50 Hamas activists who were rearrested by Israel in June. After having let them go in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange in October 2011, Israeli forces arrested them in West Bank raids following the kidnap-murder of three Israeli teenagers in mid-June. A senior Hamas official last week took responsibility for that attack.

Also postponed for a month is the demand by Hamas for Egypt to open the border crossing at Rafah. Egypt said it would work that out in a separate, bilateral agreement, with sources suggesting that that Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wanted to take a wait-and-see approach before agreeing to ease Egypt’s own closure of the Hamas-run territory. Abbas’ Palestinian Authority forces are expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas, Reuters reports.

The agreement seems to lack exact details as to what precisely it would mean for Israel to “ease” its blockade of Gaza, leaving room for disagreements as in past years. Moreover, the deal largely mirrored the November 2012 cease-fire agreement that ended a week of war known as Operation Pillar of Defense. Exactly how “open-ended” this cease-fire ends up being thus remains to be seen.

Hamas Declares Victory
Hamas proclaimed itself victorious on Tuesday night, as details of the deal leaked out. Gazans gathered in several places throughout the strip and shot celebratory gunfire into the air.

“We are here today to declare the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza, with the help of God, and the steadfastness of our people and the noble resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at a news conference at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital.

The deal fulfilled what the Palestinian group had hoped for during the weeks of negotiations, said Gershon Baskin, an Israeli academic who has acted as a go-between Israel and Hamas on several occasions, including in the lead-up to the Shalit prisoner exchange deal almost three years ago. “Hamas has been ready for an agreement for two weeks, and has made it clear its achievements would not be military but political. What was important to them was to get building materials into Gaza,” he said.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of the Hamas political wing who has not been seen in public in some time, was one of several top Hamas officials to speak to the crowd of thousands gathered in Gaza City’s Rimal neighborhood Tuesday.

“We’re going to build our port and our airport, and if they attack the port, they attack the port. But anyone who attacks the airport will have their airport attacked again,” al-Zahar said, according to an Agence France-Presse report, in a reference to the numerous rockets launched at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport. Though none of these succeeded, a Hamas rocket that targeted a town near the airstrip caused the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend the landing of several U.S. airlines there for several days in July.

Netanyahu Faces Hard Sell
Israel seems less in the mood for celebrating. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who informed his cabinet of the cease-fire deal Tuesday evening, has a more complicated job of selling the war’s achievements to Israelis. While the vast majority of Israelis believed he was justified in going to war, according to polls, not all of them are ready to end Operation Protective Edge with Hamas seemingly undeterred — and many are fearful that a cease-fire is simply a time-out until the next round. Whereas 82% of Israelis supported Netanyahu in mid-July, when he first sent in ground troops, a new poll showed his approval rating sunk to 32%.

Three of Netanyahu’s most prominent right-wing coalition partners — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich — announced their opposition to the cease-fire deal. The heads of local councils in southern Israel also announced Tuesday night that they flatly rejected the cease-fire agreement.

Itamar Shimoni, the mayor of Ashkelon, one of the cities hardest hit by the rocket fire, called the deal a “surrender to terrorism” and added: “We wanted to see Hamas defeated and begging for its life, but instead we’re seeing Israel running to the negotiation table every opportunity that presents itself.”

The upper echelons of Netanyahu’s team and senior Israel Defense Forces officials, however, will present it much differently. “The Israeli spin will be that Hamas shot most of their rockets and that won’t easily be replenished, and that most of the tunnels were destroyed and can’t be rebuilt,” Baskin tells TIME. “The big question is whether the regional political process will restart, as it should.”

TIME Israel

Hopes for a Cease-Fire Rise as the Gaza War Drags On

A Palestinian walks on the rubble of a mosque that was partially damaged by an airstrike on Aug. 25, 2014 in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.
A Palestinian walks on the rubble of a mosque that was partially damaged by an air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on Aug. 25, 2014 Roberto Schmidt—AFP/Getty Images

The Gaza war has reached its eighth week, and people on both sides keep dying. But there are reports of a potential truce

Israeli and Palestinian media outlets were abuzz with reports Monday that the various factions involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict were close to agreeing on a cease-fire deal following renewed efforts by Egypt and Saudi Arabia to help negotiate a truce. Either way, the possibility of reaching a cease-fire with a longer shelf life seemed to increase the likelihood of the sides reaching a cease-fire that would also be the prelude to a return to peace talks.

Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad official attending the Cairo talks, was the source of reports that on the possible cease-fire. But a senior Hamas official, Izzat al-Rishq, said the sides had yet to agree on a cease-fire in Gaza, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, while another Lebanon-based Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, would only confirm in a Hamas radio interview that “efforts are under way to stop the Israeli aggression.” Late Sunday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement calling on Israel and Palestinian factions to agree to a cease-fire without a time limit attached and to return to the peace negotiations.

A senior Israeli official reached by TIME says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office is declining to comment on the rumors of a possible cease-fire and suggests “exercising caution” in giving credence to the reports. A report on Israel’s Walla! news site suggested that Egypt would make an announcement on a deal late Monday, one that would include a reopening the Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt and the expansion of Gaza’s fishing zone to 12 nautical miles, two of Hamas’ demands. If the cease-fire is maintained, the report says, Israel will allow more commercial products into Gaza, including construction materials.

Still, Israel and Hamas have very different visions about how the conflict should end — which makes it challenging to reach an agreement satisfactory to all sides. “The dilemma is that Israel is not willing to talk before reaching a cease-fire, while there is still shooting going on, and the Palestinian factions insist that they want achievements in exchange for agreeing to a cease-fire,” says Ghassan Khatib, a veteran Palestinian political analyst and the vice president of Birzeit University in the West Bank.

Adding intrigue about what the week may hold, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview Saturday with the Egypt’s Sada El Balad station that in the coming days he would introduce his own plan for solving the greater Israel-Palestine conflict. Many analysts here have speculated that this will likely be built on the Arab Peace Initiative — also called the Saudi Peace Initiative — first put forward in 2002. In the plan, moderate Arab states would recognize Israel in return for Israel recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Any such plan would, naturally, including a program for rebuilding Gaza, but Israel is concerned that materials like cement and steel will be used refresh Hamas’ military capabilities — including the tunnels that became the focus of the Israel Defense Forces’ recent Gaza invasion.

Abbas said he would be discussing the initiative this week with other top Palestinian officials in Ramallah. “It will be an unconventional solution, but I’m not going to declare war on Israel,” Abbas said in the interview. “I have diplomatic and political solutions.” He suggested that he doesn’t expect Washington to support his initiative but added that “in the end, our Arab brothers will go with us.”

Khatib believes that Abbas’s statement indicates that Saudi involvement would play a key role in a peace deal. “Saudi and international parties are trying to bridge the gap by giving guarantees, meaning that they would set up a mechanism by which a third-party will guarantee freedom of movement to and from Gaza, but check that this cannot be used for the rearming of Gaza.” Egypt, he says, would like to play this role — or at least a pivotal one. The three key European players — France, Germany and Britain — all are offering assistance as well. The three countries are reportedly working on a proposal for a U.N. resolution to end the fighting, according to a report leaked to Haaretz, as part of a plan to return Gaza to Palestinian Authority control under international supervision — the territory has been run by Hamas since June 2007 — end the Israeli embargo on Gaza and resume peace talks.

The alternative, it seems, is continued war. Each side has made it clear other over the past week than they are ready to keep fighting indefinitely. With the conflict between Israel and Hamas already dragging on far longer than expected — it is now heading into its eighth week — politicians on both sides in the conflict have begun to refer to the possibility of war of attrition. That’s a reference to the ongoing fighting following the 1967 Six-Day War, one that continued for another three years, pitting Israel against Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian and even Soviet forces. Netanyahu and his Defense Minister told Israelis on Aug. 24 to expect a protracted war and “if necessary,” a delay of the start of the school year next week, at least for schools that are in the line of fire from Gaza.

In the meantime, both sides have continued their attacks. Israel has carried out 70 air strikes in the Gaza Strip over the past two days, the IDF said in its Twitter feed, while over the same period Israel was targeted by more than 230 rockets and mortars from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in Gaza. On Sunday a 4-year-old Israeli boy was laid to rest after he was killed in a mortar attack from Gaza on Friday, triggering an exodus of Israelis from communities near the Gaza border, which are not protected by the country’s Iron Dome missile-defense system. The boy’s death brought the number of Israelis killed in the ongoing war to 68, including 64 soldiers. That same day a Palestinian mother and her four children were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza. At least 2,120 Gazans have been killed in the conflict, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Barring a lasting cease-fire, both numbers will keep rising.

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