TIME Middle East

If the Gaza Truce Holds, What Then? 5 Possible Outcomes

An Israeli soldier sits in an armored personnel carrier flying the Israeli flag as they return from the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip after pulling out of the Palestinian enclave on August 4, 2014 as Israel has begun withdrawing some ground troops.
An Israeli soldier sits in an armored personnel carrier flying the Israeli flag as they return from the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip after pulling out of the Palestinian enclave on Aug. 4, 2014, as Israel has begun withdrawing some ground troops. Gil Cohen Magen—AFP/Getty Images

How Operation Protective Edge might end — or carry on interminably

Egypt announced that Palestinian factions declared a 72-hour cease-fire to begin on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Israel sat out of the Cairo talks that produced the humanitarian truce but said it would hold by the cease-fire, a government spokesman told TIME.

Whether or not the parties actually make it through a full three days with no air strikes or rocket attacks remains to be seen. Every other cease-fire effort undertaken since the escalation in early July has failed. But there is a more pressing question: What now? Who and what can put an end to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Gaza — with 1,865 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed so far – and also propose a longer-term solution?

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, on Monday offered a new idea for solving the Gaza problem: let the U.N. take control of the long-troubled territory. “Everyone is asking, What happens after the operation ends? Suppose Israel defeats Hamas. There are a few options. International control of Gaza, by the U.N., should certainly be considered,” Lieberman said at a press conference. This has been tried in other war-torn locales, from Kosovo to East Timor. Why not Gaza?

Well, for one thing, it would be an enormous and expensive undertaking for the international community to take responsibility for Gaza. It would also require Hamas and other militant groups to agree to participate in such a scheme, which is difficult to imagine given that they’ve built their entire identities around what they view as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation. Still, many of the key players here say that almost a month into the bloodiest phase in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the second intifadeh, some significant change must emerge at the end of it. TIME looks at five possibilities for how this could end:

  1. Send in the U.N. This would involve what’s been referred to as mini–Marshall Plan, including a massive rebuilding program that would help Gaza pick up the pieces. The task would be huge: electricity and water supplies have been compromised, and an estimated 10,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged. Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli Defense Minister and IDF chief, has proposed some specifics. These include having the international community oversee the demilitarization of Gaza — a goal recently endorsed by Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu, but opposed by Hamas — and approximately $50 billion for rebuilding. E.U. foreign ministers issued a joint statement July 23 backing demilitarization.
  1. Bring the PA back to Gaza: Israel and Hamas will eventually be brought into some kind of proximity talks under an umbrella of Egyptian sponsorship, and the outcome of those discussions would likely involve the return of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces to Gaza, casting them in a key role as guardians of the crossing points into Israel and Egypt — along with international help. The PA, run by the PLO’s secular Fatah faction, was forced out of Gaza in 2007 as part of a violent coup staged by Hamas, whose name is an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement. Bringing a PA political and security presence back to Gaza would help beef up the legitimacy of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. As part of such an arrangement, Israel would likely demand a joint patrolling mechanism on the Gaza perimeter to prevent infiltrations and renewed attempts to rebuild tunnels, more than 30 of which the IDF says it has destroyed. However, the rockets from Gaza did not start when Israel pulled its troops and 8,000 settlers out of Gaza in 2005, but rather, Israel points out, in 2001. Therefore, Israel is likely to refuse any agreement that doesn’t include a mechanism for preventing Hamas from rebuilding its rocket arsenal. The fact that Hamas and Fatah joined in a “reconciliation” government in April makes this form of cooperation more feasible than it was even a year ago.
  1. A 10-year truce: Almost two weeks ago, Hamas offered Israel a 10-year hudna, or Arabic truce. Its terms include — but are not limited to — the following: 1) the release of approximately 50 Palestinian prisoners who, after being released as part of the Gilad Shalit deal in late 2011, were re-arrested by the IDF in June following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, 2) the opening of the border crossings with both Israel and Egypt, 3) international supervision of the Gazan seaport instead of the Israeli naval blockade, as well as extended fishing rights to 10 km off the coast of Gaza, 4) an international airport under U.N. supervision, and 5) international forces on the borders of Gaza. Even if Israeli officials were prepared to accept all of that — which would be unlikely — they have said that the very concept of a hudna, a concept rooted in Islamic history, is problematic because it suggests Hamas only believes in a limited period of calm with the Jewish state but refuses a more permanent solution because it seeks its destruction.
  1. Possible reoccupation of the Gaza Strip: This is an option that is often mentioned by Israel’s far right, including some members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet. Coalition partner Naftali Bennett, the Minister of Economy, said last week that Israel should continue its military operating until Hamas is completely defeated. Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, had suggested in late June that Israel reoccupy Gaza, saying only that would stop the rockets. Ultimately, Netanyahu appears to have rejected these calls, realizing that such a move would likely cause far more bloodshed and further rattle Israel’s already compromised international legitimacy.
  1. Indefinite war: In this scenario, Israel withdraws its troops and tanks from Gaza, but continues to use air and naval strikes as it sees fit. Hamas stays in power and launches rockets at Israel whenever it pleases, and essentially, nothing substantial changes from how things looked a month ago — other than a great number of destroyed buildings and upwards of 2,000 lives lost. If the parties cannot agree on a cease-fire deal that feels satisfactory, Operation Protective Edge could simmer down into a indeterminate cycle of occasional attacks, robbing both Israelis and Palestinians of a return to normal life. Some are hoping that the right cease-fire deal is just around the corner, and some are wishing their leaders will keep holding out for more. But the possibility of a low-level war of attrition, lasting years and costing yet more lives, is not remote.
TIME Israel

Construction Vehicle Attack Shatters Quiet in Jerusalem

Photos show extent of the damage

Israeli authorities say a man rammed a construction excavator into a bus in Jerusalem on Monday before he was shot dead by a police officer; hours later a gunman reportedly opened fire near Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, injuring a soldier before fleeing on a motorcycle.

The attacks came amid terrorism concerns in Israel arising from the nearly month-long war in Gaza. Officials in Gaza say 1,831 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since Israel launched its offensive July 8 with the aim of eliminating the means of firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

The driver of the construction vehicle killed a pedestrian Monday and then overturned the bus in what police described as a “terrorist attack,” Reuters reports. There were no passengers on the bus, but the images above reveal the destructive impact of the rampage.

Assailants in Israel have used construction vehicles in the past. In 2008, a Palestinian plowed a bulldozer into a Jerusalem bus, killing three and injuring dozens of others. Weeks later, a man in a bulldozer plowed into five cars and wounded more than 2o people.

TIME Israel

Hamas Leader: We’re Not Firing From Civilian Neighborhoods

"We kill soldiers, they kill civilians"

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal dismissed claims in a new interview that the militant group in control of the Gaza Strip fires rockets into Israel from civilian neighborhoods and uses Palestinians as human shields.

In a wide-ranging sit-down with CNN that aired on Sunday, Mashaal called the group’s militants “disciplined” and disputed the idea that they intentionally fire on Israel from densely populated civilian neighborhoods in order to provoke Israel into killing civilians. “It is unfortunate that the U.S. administration and President Obama have adopted the Israeli narrative, which is a lie,” he said. “Hamas sacrifices itself for its people, and does not use its people as human shields to protect its soldiers.”

“Look at the results,” he added. “How many Israeli civilians did our rockets kill? Israel knows the number. Meanwhile, how many Palestinian civilians has Israel killed?”

At least 1,700 Palestinians have been killed compared to 63 Israeli soldiers during the nearly month-long war, he said. “We kill soldiers, combatants, while they kill civilians.”

(MORE: Meet Khaled Mashaal: The Man Who Haunts Israel)

Mashaal, who currently lives in exile in Doha, Qatar, claimed that Hamas is only responding to aerial, naval and ground attacks, and will stop doing so when Israel meets its demands. He told CNN that in order for any cease-fire to eventually endure, the blockade around the 1.8 million people in Gaza must be lifted—in the form of open borders, a working airport and an ability to use the sea. In response, he added, rocket fire from Gaza and tunnel-building into Israel could be stopped.

When pressed further on Israeli assertions that Hamas fires rockets from civilian neighborhoods and that critics say the group does it to earn international sympathy for a high number of civilian casualties, Mashaal quickly dismissed those claims, saying, “Hamas does not seek sympathy through its own victims.”

The interview on Sunday came before a seven-hour humanitarian cease-fire was implemented by Israel on Monday, announced after an airstrike near a U.N. school in Rafah left at least 10 people dead.

[CNN]

TIME Foreign Policy

U.S. Criticizes Israel After Yet Another Strike on U.N. School

Calls for "full and prompt investigation"

The United States issued its strongest condemnations to date of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, denouncing a “horrifying” and “disgraceful” strike on a United Nations school that killed at least 10 people.

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., issued a statement late Sunday calling for a “full and prompt investigation” by Israel into a series of deadly strikes that have hit U.N.-run schools.

The Red Crescent charity told The Associated Press the latest deadly attack in the southern town of Rafah came as people were in line to get food from aid workers. The school was sheltering more than 3,000 people displaced from their homes.

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Middle East

Israel Seeks to Gain Advantage by Reversing Course in Gaza

ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-GAZA-CONFLICT
Israeli soldiers fold their equipment along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip after they pulled out from the Gaza Strip on Aug. 3, 2014 Gil Cohen Magen—AFP/Getty Images

Walking away from a cease-fire deprives Hamas of a PR victory, and leaves Israel with options on how to proceed

The war continues and there is no victor, but Israel is gradually pulling most of its troops out of the Gaza Strip in a sign that in the course of a weekend, it decided to take a completely different tack in its war with Hamas.

After four attempts at a humanitarian cease-fire over the past few weeks, including a much vaunted one Friday that was supposed to last for 72 hours but instead collapsed after two, Israel decided that it was no longer pursuing a truce with Hamas. Instead, it opted for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, save a new buffer zone it is carving out along the border, in the belief that there was more to be gained from walking away from what had begun to seem like a merry-go-round of failed cease-fires.

On the one hand, the decision is a stunning reversal from what many had begun to expect from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose more hawkish Cabinet members have been calling for a reoccupation of the Gaza Strip. On the other, the decision to pull back ground troops while declaring, as Netanyahu did Saturday, that the operation continues, is a formula for the blood-soaked Israel-Hamas war to plod on while the world watches the death toll in Gaza rise and international diplomats grow increasingly befuddled by the question of what to propose next.

That bloodshed may have been part of Israel’s equation. Amos Yadlin, a retired major general of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, told reporters Sunday that he thought reversing course was a wise move on the part of Netanyahu, as Israel faces growing international censure for its actions in Gaza. The Palestinian death toll now tops 1,800, according to its Ministry of Health, and on Sunday, Israel’s shelling of a U.N. school was vociferously condemned by the U.S. after 10 Palestinians were killed. It was the seventh incident of a school used as a shelter coming under attack, according to UNRWA.

The move also serves to deprive Hamas of the victory it has sought since the war began July 8. “We neutralize their main strategic forces, and leave them alone, without any achievement, without any demand, in their devastated place called Gaza,” Yadlin said. The change of tack is a “sophisticated, smart move,” he added, at least for the time being. “I don’t know if it’s sustainable for the long run. But we will have to see how Hamas will react, what kind of fire they will continue to use, and if we can live with it.”

It also gives Israel options on how to proceed. The mind-set goes that previous negotiated cease-fires, like the one that ended Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, served to “hamper” the IDF by limiting how it could respond. By unilaterally pulling troops out of Gaza — while declaring the key goals of the ground operation complete, including having destroyed some 30-odd tunnels — Israel believes it has gained the freedom to act as it sees fit.

“So if we want to proceed, we proceed. If we want to stop, we stop. If we want to initiate something else, we will initiate something else,” says Udi Dekel, a retired brigadier general, also of the INSS. “If Hamas continues to fire, we can fire. If we see any activity in the security perimeter, like digging another tunnel, we can attack them, because there is not any understanding or agreement between us and Hamas. So we keep all the possibilities in our hands.”

Hamas, for its part, says Israel will have no calm unless it negotiates the terms of a cease-fire. Among Hamas’ main goals is the lifting of an embargo on Gaza designed to squelch the economy and prevent Hamas from functioning. Many Palestinians argue this has turned Gaza into an open-air prison, while Israel argues that when it’s been lax in the past, Hamas has used the opportunity to build tunnels and bunkers.

Alongside its unilateral about-face in Gaza, Israel refused over the weekend to attend the cease-fire talks in Cairo as planned, calling the truce efforts futile. Israel says that Hamas broke one cease-fire too many, while Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal told CNN on Saturday that it never agreed to let the IDF keep operating in Gaza during the truce, which it sees Israel having broken.

But there may be more to Israel shunning the talks than simply wanting to refuse to play ball with Hamas any further. Political scientist Yoram Meital notes that as Israel’s goals in the operation moved over the course of the few weeks — from rockets to tunnels to demilitarization of Gaza — the latter became the buzzword. The Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the E.U. and the Obama Administration said demilitarization would indeed be a good idea, but it would need to take place in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement.

“This is of course a very different perspective from Netanyahu’s view,” says Meital, a Ben Gurion University professor who specializes in Israel’s relationship with Egypt and the Palestinians. “While demilitarization is a very legitimate objective, Netanyahu is not ready to pay the price for this commodity. He understands perfectly well that by discussing this as part of the peace process, one of the meanings is that after several years, the Gaza Strip and West Bank would be discussed as one unified Palestinian territorial unit.” That, he notes, is the last thing the Israeli right wing wants.

So now the “new phase” of the conflict has begun. Columns of IDF tanks were seen cutting through the dust of Gaza’s outskirts and pulling out toward Israel Sunday, but the IDF’s air strikes on Gaza continued. The IDF said rocket fire continued over Tel Aviv, and in southern Israel. Israelis meanwhile, turned their attention to the dramatic end of what they had been told on Friday was the Hamas capture of IDF soldier Hadar Goldin. On Saturday night, Goldin was declared dead based on forensic evidence collected at the scene, and on Sunday he was buried before a crowd of thousands. Among them was his cousin — Israel’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon.

TIME Middle East

U.S. Condemns Gaza School Attack as Israel Says ‘Battle Is Ongoing’

Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinains take refuge, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip
A Palestinian carries a wounded boy following what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike at a United Nations-run school, where displaced Palestinians are taking refuge, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Aug. 3, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa—Reuters

Israel says it's scaling back but isn't done with fighting Hamas

Update 2:02 p.m. ET

The State Department joined United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in condemning the killing of 10 Palestinians outside of a UN Relief and Works Agency school in Gaza on Sunday, as the Israeli military issued a warning to residents of the Palestinian territory that “the battle is ongoing.”

“The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, in a statement issued Sunday. “The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.” She called for a “full and prompt” investigation of the incident.

In a statement earlier Sunday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon called the attack “a moral outrage and a criminal act.” Ban also called for an investigation into what he called “yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law,” and for an immediate end to fighting. “This madness must stop,” he said.

The school had been sheltering Gaza residents displaced by the nearly four weeks of fighting that have taken place. Approximately six UN facilities have been hit by Israeli fire since the conflict began, the Associated Press reports. The Israel military had no immediate comment on the most recent attack, but said it would look into the reports.

Israel has previously said that when Hamas deliberately uses civilian centers as weapons depots or places from which to fire rockets, it turns those places into targets. “When a schoolhouse, hospital, mosque is turned into a military command center or a weapons depot, or a place where you fire rockets, it becomes by the rules of war a legitimate target,” said Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, on July 22.

As the UN called for an immediate end to the violence, the IDF began withdrawing some troops from the Gaza strip as it entered a “next stage” of combat. A statement from the IDF says it was “redeploying to enable combat against Hamas & continued defense from tunnels.”

“We have indeed scaled down some of the presence and indeed urged Palestinians in certain neighborhoods to come back to their homes,” military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner also told the AP, though Israeli air strikes continue in the region.

The IDF shared its plans to scale back troop numbers as it dropped notices all over the Gaza Strip warning that “the battle is ongoing” and that “all the leaders of Hamas and other terrorist groups are unsafe,” NBC News reports.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a Saturday evening press conference that Israeli’s Operation Protective Edge would go on in Gaza “no matter how much time it takes and how much strength it requires,” the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

“Every option is on the table to ensure long-term quiet to the residents of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I won’t say when we’ll finish and where we’ll go. We have no obligation outside of our security concerns.”

Plans for a 72-hour cease-fire brokered by the UN and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry fell apart Friday morning just before the truce was supposed to begin, reportedly after a Palestinian militant made a suicide-bomb attack near the town of Rafah.

More than 1,750 Palestinians, largely civilians, and 70 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have been killed in the conflict so far.

Related: Children Suffer as War Continues in Gaza and Israel

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TIME Israel

Hamas Fighters Deny Keeping Israeli Soldier Captive

Israeli soldiers walk outside the Gaza Strip as they proceed towards Gaza
Israeli soldiers walk outside the Gaza Strip as they proceed towards Gaza August 2, 2014. Baz Ratner—Reuters

Israel has said it believes Second Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured in Friday fighting

Updated 3:17 p.m. ET August 2

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel will decide the future of its ongoing operation in the Gaza Strip only after Hamas-controlled tunnels linking Gaza and Israel are destroyed. Netanyahu added that Israel’s latest Gaza offensive could last as long as Israel considers necessary.

“The military will prepare for continuing action in according to our security needs and only according to our security needs,” Netanyahu said in a television address, the Associated Press reports.

The prime minister’s comments came after Islamic militants in Gaza said they are not holding captive an Israeli officer who went missing while a Friday outbreak of violence ended plans for a 72-hour cease-fire.

“Until now, we have no idea about the disappearance of the Israeli soldier,” read a Saturday statement from the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, the New York Times reports. “We do not know his whereabouts or the conditions of his disappearance … Our account is that the soldier could have been kidnapped and killed together with our fighters.”

Hamas suggested the officer might have been killed in an Israeli operation after a Palestinian militant’s suicide-bomb attack near the town of Rafah upped the Israeli military’s death toll to 63. Israel, meanwhile, says it believes the officer, 23-year-old Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, may have been captured.

Hamas claims Friday’s violence occurred Saturday around 7 a.m. local time, one hour before a cease-fire brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations was supposed to begin. Israel, however, says the attack took place later, at 9:20 a.m., and statements from Kerry and President Barack Obama on Friday calling for the officer’s release seemed to support that version of events while blaming Hamas for the disintegration of the latest cease-fire attempt.

An Israeli military spokesman said Israel had “increased [its activities] in the search for Second Lt. Hadar Goldin.” An Israeli military statement also said Israel attacked more than 200 targets around the Gaza Strip since Friday’s clash.

The current conflict between Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza has been raging for 26 days. The Gaza health ministry reports that more than 1,650 Palestinians, the vast majority of which civilians, have been killed in the nearly month-long struggle. Israel says 63 of its soldiers have been killed, while three civilians in Israel have been killed by Palestinian attacks.

[NYT]

MORE: Hamas Spokesman, Osama Hamdan, on Israeli Soldier

TIME Israel

Gaza’s Future Unclear After Cease-Fire Ends Just Hours After it Began

A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014.
A Palestinian family from Gaza Strip's central Bureij refugee camp drives back to their district during the first hours of a failed truce on August 1, 2014. Marco Longari—AFP/Getty Images

The future of Israel's war in Gaza is uncertain after a cease-fire ended hours after it began and an Israeli soldier was said to be captured

The optimists in this part of the world went to sleep last night feeling vaguely hopeful, or at least relieved. The pessimists woke up and said, “I told you so.”

The 72-hour cease-fire announced by the United Nations and United States around midnight Thursday local time was supposed to go into effect Friday morning at 8 a.m. About an hour and a half later, the Israeli military says, soldiers who were at work dismantling a tunnel in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, came under attack. Two Israeli Defense Forces soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber and one was captured.

Hamas, however, says the incident happened just before the cease-fire went into effect.

Israel named the soldier as 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23, of Kfar Saba, north of Tel Aviv, and soon after his name was released he became a Twitter hashtag as well as the subject of at least three Facebook pages calling for him to come home safely. It is exactly the kind of build-up that Hamas likely hopes for, as its stated goal is repeating the pattern it established when it secured the 2011 release of 1,026 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli: Corporal Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped in an June 2006 infiltration attack inside Israel.

The capture of an IDF soldier has been the event that Israel feared Hamas had been gunning for, knowing that Hamas sees soldiers as bargaining chips for more Palestinian prisoners and increased popularity. Over 5,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli jails, some having been convicted and others held as “administrative detainees.”

The brazen attack is by Israeli accounts the fourth time since this war started on July 8 that Hamas and other Palestinian militants groups in Gaza has broken or rejected a truce. The incident seems likely to open the doors for yet more intensive bombardments from the Israeli military — following the attack, the IDF pounded the area with artillery, killing 40 Palestinians.

An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014.
An Israeli soldier prepares his equipment at an army deployment area, on the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, on August 1, 2014. Jack Guez—AFP/Getty Images

The cease-fire violation and ensuing violence derailed plans for talks on a more prolonged peace, which were to be held in Cairo on Friday. But the Israeli soldier’s capture only underscores how differently the two sides see the ongoing conflict. Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal hailed the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in mid-June – even though it turns out that was executed by an independent cell of Hamas-inspired militants acting on their own. Hamas has tried capturing soldiers during other recent infiltration attacks as well — Israeli soldiers have found handcuffs, tranquilizers and syringes in captured militant tunnels.

But from Israel’s point of view, there’s little chance of an agreement to exchange prisoners for another captured soldier.

“We are in the middle of a war,” said Ephraim Kam, an expert in strategic intelligence at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as a retired IDF colonel. “I assume that Israel will continue as if it had not happened. I’m doubtful that we will repeat the exchange that happened with Gilad Shalit.”

Kam added that Israeli public opinion has particularly been colored on this issue by a recent incident of recidivism: a Hamas operative who was released as part of the Shalit deal was found by Israel to be responsible for shooting and killing an off-duty police officer in April.

“As a result, it will be much more difficult than ever before,” for Hamas to get the prisoners it expects to in exchange for one live soldier, Kam says.

Gershon Baskin is among those who helped forge a backchannel between Israel and Hamas to get the two sides to negotiate over Shalit’s release. Baskin, a peace activist and the co-founder of the Israel/Palestinian Center for Research and Information, maintains contacts in the political wing of Hamas. He tells TIME he communicated to Hamas three weeks ago his belief that the group would not be able to stage a repeat of the Shalit deal because too many factors had changed.

“I told them that the idea that Israel will negotiate and agree to a ratio of 1:1,000, that time is over and it won’t happen again,” Baskin said. “The scenario in which we already have 40,000 soldiers in Gaza and another 14,000 being called up tells me Israel isn’t leaving without the soldier, dead or alive.”

Baskin predicts that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, which will meet late Friday, may decide on a total conquest of the whole southern Gaza Strip around Rafah, both in search of the missing soldier and in looking for more tunnel entrances.

“Whatever happens, Hamas will win in their definition, because they have a different kind of rationale,” Baskin said.

Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014.
Smoke and flames are seen following what witnesses said were Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 1, 2014. Ibraheem Abu Mustafa—Reuters

Indeed, the Palestinian version of events is significantly different than the Israeli one. Not only did the soldier’s capture happen before the end of the cease-fire, some Palestinian leaders argue, but Hamas officials also accuse Israel of breaking the cease-fire first.

“There is no justification for Israel to violate the truce as the officer was captured and the two soldiers were killed ahead of the truce,” senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouq told the Anadolu News Agency, a Turkish newswire. Marzouq said the troops were only responding to “Israeli aggression.” In a press release, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel made the claim of Hamas violating the cease-fire to “cover up a massacre” in Rafah.

It was never clear exactly how the cease-fire agreement would stick for three days even while Israeli troops are operating in Gaza. Netanyahu said Israel would work at destroying tunnels with or without a cease-fire, and the truce indicated that Israeli forces would stay in Gaza but not attack Palestinians. Israel read this as permission to continue destroying tunnels. However, Hamas says it treats any Israelis efforts against infrastructure as an act of aggression and would, in the words of Hamas spokesman Osama Hamdan speaking in Beirut, act accordingly in self-defense, according to Israeli radio.

Hamdan also said that he has no knowledge of a captured soldier, possibly pointing to an old pattern that has been noted by Hamas observers before: a gap between what the political wing says and what the military wing does.

TIME

Obama: ‘We Tortured Some Folks’

US President Barack Obama makes a statement while at the White House in Washington
President Barack Obama makes a statement while at the White House in Washington on Aug. 1, 2014. Larry Downing—Reuters

On Friday, the President offered his frankest admission of post-9/11 interrogation tactics, condemned Hamas for breaking the cease-fire and criticized House Republicans

On Friday, President Barack Obama previewed the upcoming release of a Senate report into the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation after the attacks of September 11, 2001, saying “we tortured some folks.”

Speaking to reporters from the White House, he said, “Even before I came into office, I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong,” Obama said. “We crossed a line and that needs to be understood and accepted. We have to as a country take responsibility for that.”

At the briefing, Obama also condemned Hamas for breaching a cease-fire with Israel minutes after it went into effect Friday morning, saying the breach makes it more difficult to end the weeks-long conflict in Gaza. he said Hamas must immediately release captured Israeli solider Hadar Goldin, who was taken on the Israel-Gaza border in a Friday morning attack that killed two other Israeli soldiers. “If they are serious about resolving this situation, that soldier needs to be released unconditionally as soon as possible,” Obama said. He added that with the trust broken, “I think it’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again.”

“The Israelis are entirely right that these tunnel networks need to be dismantled,” Obama said, adding that Israelis should be pursuing ways to do so with fewer civilian casualties.

The president also defended CIA Director John Brennan, who has been caught up in controversy amid revelations that CIA staffers improperly accessed the files of the Senate investigators. “I have full confidence in John Brennan,” Obama said.

Obama also heaped praise on Secretary of State John Kerry for his efforts in negotiating the cease-fire, saying he had been the subject of “unfair criticism” in recent weeks. He also said Israel must do more to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza. “It’s hard to reconcile Israel’s need to defend itself with our concern for civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Obama also defended his handling of the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine, saying the United States has done everything to support the Ukrainian government. “Short of going to war, there are going to be some constraints in terms of what we can do,” he said. Obama said that Russian President Vladimir Putin should want to resolve the situation diplomatically, “but sometimes people don’t always act rationally.”

Before taking questions from reporters, Obama highlighted Friday’s jobs report showing the sixth-consecutive month of 200,000+ job growth and blasted congressional inaction on ambassadorial appointments and dealing with the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southwest border.

“House Republicans as we speak are trying to pass the most extreme and unworkable versions of a bill that they know is going nowhere,” Obama said.

Obama said he would act to shift money around to pay for the care of the unaccompanied minors in U.S. custody because Congress left him no other option.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner said Obama has been AWOL on the border crisis. ““When it comes to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, President Obama has been completely AWOL – in fact, he has made matter worse by flip-flopping on the 2008 law that fueled the crisis. Senate Democrats have left town without acting on his request for a border supplemental. Right now, House Republicans are the only ones still working to address this crisis.”

–with reporting by Justin Worland

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