There is a report in Haaretz today saying that the Islamic Jihad in Gaza will cease firing rockets into Israel. Interestingly, the announcement is not covered in any other major news outlet (that I could find). The announcement by Islamic Jihad comes immediately after Hamas and Russia called for the end of rocket fire from Gaza. Daoud Shihab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, announced on Islamic Jihad Radio that the group will be stopping the rocket fire into Israel for “internal Palestinian purposes – first and foremost to help end the siege on the Gaza Strip.” An anonymous official from Islamic Jihad later denied that rockets would stop, perhaps showing an important difference of opinion in the group.
[tweetmeme] The rocket attacks are certainly undermining the Palestinian cause and at least giving Israel an excuse to perpetuate the crippling blockade of the strip (read: Israel Lets Clothes into Gaza for First Time). The announcement by Islamic Jihad is political progress in Gaza and must be met with recognition by the US and Israel. If the group actually does cease firing rockets, there should be a reciprocal loosening of the Israeli grip on Gaza. If no tangible action is taken by Israel to recognize the step, the entire situation will simply serve as a disincentive for halting future attacks. Indeed, without reciprocal action by Israel, this could be seen as incentive for continuing attacks.
The announcement by Islamic Jihad also comes after heightened tensions between Israel and groups in Gaza. Last week, two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Hamas on the Gaza-Israel border (watch the BBC news clip here). The recent tensions along the border have led to Israeli threats of another full invasion of the strip, similar to the devastating Operation Cast Lead of 2008/2009.
Al Jazeera is also reporting that the cluster bombs left by Israel in Operation Cast Lead are still killing and injuring Palestinians. A UN bomb team is in Gaza working to discover and remove the many Israeli bombs and mortars that were left. Echoing the Goldstone Report, the UN bomb team leader has announced that the team has found residual traces of white phosphorus, a chemical that th IDF denies using.
Photo from Bill Warner