Tel Aviv Diary: A Storm of Missiles Heralds New Ceasefire

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A Palestinian carries a mock rocket as he celebrates with others what they said was a victory over Israel, following a ceasefire in Gaza City August 26, 2014. Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Theoretically, a ceasefire went into effect at 7 am. I say "theoretically" since in the first few minutes of the alleged ceasefire there was non-stop missile fire from Gaza—starting with barrages of missiles that slowly died off. Later in the evening, some Hamas leaders came out of their underground bunkers, which is a sign that this may actually be a real ceasefire.

The new ceasefire has no expiration date. It is effectively almost identical to the first ceasefire agreement that was offered to the Hamas as the war began. Under the terms of the agreement, the border crossings (especially that with Egypt) will be open to bring in supplies. One month from now, negotiations are scheduled to take place on all of the open items (such as disarmament, ports, airports and whatever else).

There is no question that during the coming month Hamas will try to produce new missiles. Thus, if war does resume in one month Hamas will have made strides toward replenishing their supply of missiles.

This current agreement between Israel and Hamas was not approved by the Israeli security cabinet. The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not have a majority in the cabinet in favor of the agreement (with neither his right wing cabinet members—nor possibly even the liberal Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni -- in favor). However, Netanyahu agreed without their approval.

Tonight, both Israel and Hamas are claiming victory. There will be much to analyze in the coming weeks. What seems clear, for the moment, is that Hamas gained nothing. After insisting throughout the war that it would not agree to a ceasefire without getting a port, Hamas seems to have agreed to a ceasefire merely based on the promise of later discussion on the matter. It would seem that the state of Gaza and their dwindling reserves of missies convinced Hamas to agree to what it chose not to accept before there were 2,000 dead in Gaza.

This is the fifth major ceasefire called in this war. Will it hold? No one knows. The ceasefire may hold for a few months. There is nothing in this agreement to ensure hostilities will not resume in a couple of months, or a year or two. Nothing significant has changed. When all is said and done, there will be almost 2 million people living in Gaza, a small area with no real means of support, and no real hope for the future. But that is a discussion for another day.

Today was a difficult one in Israel. In Tel Aviv, the day began with a missile assault at 6:30 am. While the missile targeting Tel Aviv was intercepted, one missile headed for Tel Aviv failed during the launch phase. Instead of reaching Tel Aviv, the missile fell on Ashkelon. Since the missile was not expected to land in Ashkelon, it was not intercepted. That missile caused significant damage in Ashkelon and wounded 50 people.

The missile fire continued all day. One missile landed in the playground of a kindergarden in Ashdod. Fortunately, the school was closed. In the hour just before the ceasefire, major attacks were made on the communities around Gaza. In one of these attacks two Israeliw were killed and two were seriously wounded.

During the course of the war, Hamas fired a total of 4,594 missiles on Israel, 2,532 fell in Israel in open areas and 116 in built up areas, 188 fell in the Gaza Strip, 735 were intercepted.

Tonight in Israel there is what I would call "skeptical optimism." It looks like Hamas has very few missiles left and a population that is tired of war. As a result, Israelis are hoping that today will indeed be the end of this war. On Monday, the school children of Israel are scheduled to return to school. Israelis hope the new term will be a period of peace.

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