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What will happen after Israel-Gaza ceasefire ends?
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by Saud Abu Ramadan

What will happen after the short- lived Israel-Gaza ceasefire ends on Friday? Every single Palestinian in the poor besieged enclave of Gaza Strip asks the question with great concern.

Some Palestinians said nothing more would happen than what has happened over the past two years, as they have been used to living under a tight Israeli blockade imposed on their enclave, and their suffering has been mounting day after day.

Asked about the possible scenario after the tahde'aa (truce) ends on Friday. Salman Abu Jazzar, a 28-year-old Gaza cab driver, said "if there is no truce, there will be escalation of rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli retaliation."

"As usual exchange of fire between the two sides would continue for several days or weeks, more innocent people would be killed or wounded, and then either Hamas or Israel would be under the pressure of a third party and another lull would be declared. That's it," he added.

However, other Palestinians are more concerned that if the truce ends without being extended or renewed, life would be more difficult and their suffering would mount more and more without seeing any hope.

"Gaza Strip is an area that is not only hated by Israel, or the Arabs, but also by the Palestinian (National) Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas himself. Everybody hates us and everybody doesn't want us to live a good life," said Khamis Hamad, a Gaza store keeper.

He added that there are several options to get out of the current deadlock, the first step "is to get rid of Hamas in Gaza by war," or "renew the truce and achieve an internal Palestinian reconciliation and get back to a normal life."

A six-month lull brokered by Egypt between Gaza militants and Israel would expire on Friday, while all Gaza militant groups said that Israel was the only side which earned benefits from it, and the Palestinians' suffering remained the same.

Leaders of Gaza Islamic and left-wing factions agreed that over the past six months "Israel was not committed to the truce, and therefore it will be illogic to renew it for another six months."

A day before the truce ends, violence has mounted, in which Gaza militants fired a barrage of rockets at Israel, prompting the Israeli forces to launch airstrikes and killed one civilian.

Nafez Azzam, a senior Islamic Jihad (Holy War) leader said that "armed resistance is the natural, basic and logical choice to defend Palestinians from the ongoing escalating Israeli aggression."

"The terms of this dying truce were not fit for the people and the last six-month experience asserted that there is no doubt that the Israeli enemy was the only payee of the truce," said Azzam.

Palestinian analysts also said that Hamas will not renew the lull with Israel, "simply because it wants to keep its rule of Gaza Strip and wants to get politically stronger and keep its Islamic regime in the enclave."

"Hamas has lost part of its popular support, and recent polls showed that its support had decreased due to its responsibility for the current difficult situation in Gaza, therefore, it wants to get back to armed resistance to earn more popularity and Arab support," said Husam Abu Zarifa, a political analyst.

He added that he is certain that "after Hamas pays a high price in the fighting with Israel, it would earn more support among the population, and then in case there is any election, it would win again for its military sacrifices and credits."

Senior Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Rodwan said that his movement's "experience within the past six months was negative because Israel was not committed to the truce and Hamas had suffered more under the tight siege."

He reiterated that if the lull is not renewed, "Hamas movement would have the right to defend itself and respond to any stupid aggression carried out by the enemy," however, he added that " meetings, consultations and discussions with other factions on the truce is going on."

Talal Oukal, a Palestinian analyst, said "before or after the truce, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has never ended," adding "there was no difference between the periods before and after the truce."

"Let's wait and see what will happen next if the truce is not renewed, especially the whole region is heading for changes in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the United States," said Oukal.

(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2008)

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