The Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas lasted only a few hours. Before its end, Israel self-consciously warned Hamas that if its rocket attacks did not end, it would have “international legitimacy” to take action. That is precisely what the failed ceasefire has now granted Israel, which was struggling to defend its latest operation, Protective Edge, in Gaza. Launched to avenge Hamas’s alleged killing of three Israelis, the week-long operation, which has already claimed 192 lives in Gaza and injured close to 1,200, has long lost its raison d’ętre, if it ever had one. The aborted ceasefire now provides Israel with a fig leaf of defence. Israel did not have to work too hard to get its licence to kill though. Very few, least of all its ally, the United States of America, still question its right to defend itself. Israel has repeatedly reminded the US of this right while blaming the US for undermining it by trying to get Iran to sign a nuclear deal. The US, which was recently caught off-guard talking of Israel turning into an “apartheid state” for its unwillingness to reach a deal with the Palestinian Authority, has not yet found its voice to unilaterally condemn Israel’s action in Gaza. Like so many other international powers, it has only urged “maximum restraint”. A half-hearted condemnation, not surprisingly, has resulted in a half-hearted peace mission. Egypt, as in 2012 under Mohamed Mursi, was pressed into action. But with its military regime having already alienated Hamas by closing the cross-border and underground exchanges, it had little chance of pushing a deal through. Hamas, expectedly, rejected the ceasefire on grounds that it was not consulted and its demands — the opening of the Rafah border and the end of the Gaza blockade — were not met.
Hamas, almost dutifully, has played into Israel’s hands. It has given its bęte noire another chance to ravage Gaza as a deterrence measure, leave Palestinians baying for revenge and, therefore, wreck any chance of Palestinians being able to work together or push Israel towards a lasting settlement. In this completely lopsided war, the Palestinian people once again find themselves caught between Hamas and Israel, both trying to settle a score. While the world watches silently, they will have to pick themselves up to prepare either for another intifada that demands more sacrifices from them or subject themselves to the ignominy of living on like caged animals.