Hamas announced an immediate ceasefire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory.
The move came after Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire late Saturday, ending its offensive against the Palestinian Islamist group in Gaza.
“Hamas and the factions announce a ceasefire in Gaza starting immediately and give Israel a week to withdraw,” said Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal.
Hamas also demanded that Israel open all of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings to allow in food and other goods to meet the “basic needs for our people.”
Damascus-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed the cease-fire on Syrian television. [continued...]
Editor’s Comment (updated) — It looks like Hamas has succeeded in grabbing the diplomatic initiative here by turning the tables on Israel. Israel said it will pull out of Gaza if the rocket fire stops but now Hamas is going to demonstrate that it retains command and control of Gaza by giving Israel a week to clear out. That leaves Israel in a bind. If they start pulling out right away they will appear to be complying with Hamas’ terms. If they drag their feet and as a consequence rocket fire resumes, they will appear to have squandered an opportunity to end the fighting.
The crucial element — from Hamas’ point of view — is that by maintaining a disciplined truce it provides a very visible demonstration that it retains control on the levers of power in Gaza. This sends a strong message to Israel and the rest of the world: Hamas was not crushed and it has the capacity and willingness to engage in a truce.
And the underlying message is the message that Israel and its allies have thus far been extraordinarily obstinate in refusing to learn: Hamas is not going away. They can either be fought or engaged but those who still cling to the fantasy of Hamas’ annihilation are nursing a destructive delusion.
UPDATE: Although Israel initially said it wanted “to allow the dust to settle and see how Hamas reacts” before it would start pulling troops out of Gaza, the fact that Israel began pulling troops back almost immediately after Hamas made its own ceasefire declaration, suggests — even if Israel won’t admit it — that they are implementing a deal. Both sides have a stake in maintaining an uncompromising posture but what we are witnessing now is mutually understood language being translated into actions.