"Mission Accomplished": Israel Withdraws Troops After Nearly 1,900 Killed in Gaza

A 72-hour cease fire has commenced between Palestinian factions and Israel on Tuesday and IDF ground forces have reportedly withdrawn from the Gaza Strip after a nearly month-long bombardment and military offensive that left nearly 1,900 Palestinians dead— including huge numbers of civilians and hundreds of children—and close to 10,000 people injured.

Sixty-four IDF soldiers and three civilians were killed in Israel during more than three weeks of fighting began that began on July 8.

The truce was reached in Cairo late on Monday, with both Israeli and Hamas representatives saying they had agreed to both the language and the terms.

Indications from Israeli officials were that the accomplishment of their mission—and not outside pressure to end the assault on Gaza—was the primary reason for agreeing to the deal and the withdrawal of troops.

On Tuesday morning the IDF tweeted: “Mission accomplished: We have destroyed Hamas’ tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel. All of Israel is now safer.”

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Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an IDF spokesman, said Israel had destroyed dozens of underground tunnels and thousands of rockets belonging to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“Overnight, we completed the destruction of 32 tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” Lerner said, fulfilling promises by Israeli government officials that the attack on Gaza would not stop until all known tunnels were destroyed. Lerner said that troops would remain on standby for the duration of the cease fire and that IDF would “maintain defensive positions from the air, the coast and the ground outside the Gaza Strip.”

With the temporary truce now activated, delegations in Cairo are expected to discuss the prospects of a longer-term agreement, though no one expects that to be easily achieved. As the Associated Press reports:

Amid hopes that the current cease fire will hold, relief agencies and humanitarian organizations have stressed that the unprecedented destruction in Gaza will not be easy to repair and that the humanitarian crisis for Gazans is far from over.

Nishant Pandey, head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, described the level of destruction as “outrageous” and said it was “much worse than anything we have seen in previous military operations” by Israel.

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Not only were thousands of homes and scores of neighborhoods destroyed, but a number of hospitals, economic centers, and the Gaza Strip’s main power plant were targeted and damaged during the operation, elevating a pre-existing water and economic crisis for the people living there.

The New York Times reported:

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, “the Gaza Strip is a disaster area and there is an urgent need to treat the disastrous humanitarian situation resulting from deliberate Israeli attacks on the civilian infrastructure, including electricity, water, hospitals, shelters and houses, forcible displacement of more than 500,000 civilians and systematic and mass destruction of civilian communities.”

Writing for the Electronic Intifada, PCHR’s director Raji Sourani, describes why a cease fire simply isn’t enough for the people of Gaza. He argues that in addition to ending the economic blockade and military siege, Gazans are entitled to justice, the rule of law, and to be treated fairly as human beings with equal rights to others in the world, writing:

 

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