Tel Aviv Diary: Hamas Fires Rockets as Ceasefire Collapses

Rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel Amir Cohen/Reuters

It's amazing how fast things seem to change here. Last night, as I was writing this diary, I was trying to fully understand the supposed agreement that had been reached in Cairo. However, at the last moment it become clear that an agreement had not been reached-- though a ceasefire was being extended for 24 hours in order that there would be enough time to finalize the last details.

Only overnight did it become clear that none of this was true. It turns out that last night the representatives of the Palestinian Authority were putting forth a patently untrue story as to what Israeli and Hamas had agreed, when neither had. Unfortunately, all of the press (both Israeli and worldwide) reported the story as true. As a result, last night we all went to sleep thinking there had been a 24 hours extension – and that there was no doubt over the next few hours an agreement would be reached (for better or worse).

Nothing was further from the truth. By morning, it was becoming apparent that neither Israel nor Hamas had signed on to any agreement. Moreover, the sides were far apart. Further complicating the situation, it turns out that the Hamas delegation was split, the political leadership, led by Hamid Mashal, seemingly opposed to any agreement in which their demands, like the granting Gaza a seaport, were not met.

Any hope that this round of negotiations could be salvaged disappeared late this afternoon when rockets were fired at Beersheva. Israel responded by attacking targets in Gaza and ordered its negotiating team back from Cairo – since Israel had made clear it would not negotiate under fire.

As the evening progressed, the situation quickly deteriorated, with missiles first being fired at Israeli territory near Gaza, then at Ashkelon, where a cafe was hit. Next was Ashdod and, finally, toward the Tel Aviv area. The missiles that were fired at Tel Aviv fell in open areas, so there have been no sirens up to this point in Tel Aviv.

Listening to the radio at the moment the rocket warning seem to be coming every few moments. It has become almost impossible to hear any radio program between the announcement of rocket attacks. We are now back to where we were two weeks ago, with rocket attacks now coming one after the other. By this evening, the Home Front Command ordered all bomb shelters opened from Gaza to Netanya.

Where we go from now is anyones guess. We are clearly back to square one. If Hamas thinks that Israel will change its positions due to the rockets attacks, they are clearly wrong. They have stated that they are ready for a War of Attrition.

The Israeli army has been ordered to go onto a full war footing and prepare once again for a possible ground attack. It could be that that is exactly what Hamas wants to happen; force Israel into a costly full ground assault on Gaza. They may get their wish, as much as the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been against such an assault.

If this goes on for very long, I do not think he will be able to withstand the public and political pressure to do something drastic.

Political historian Marc Schulman is the editor of An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. He is also a columnist for the Times of Israel.