Israel’s offensive on Gaza has deterred Hamas from new hostilities despite its claims of victory and the front is now at its quietest in 20 years, a senior Israeli military officer said.
Vastly lopsided shelling exchanges over eight days killed 170 Palestinians and 6 Israelis before the Nov. 21 truce brokered by Egypt.
The Islamist militant group Hamas, which for the first time managed to fire rockets towards Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during the conflict, says it won in the absence of an Israeli ground invasion that might have toppled its Gaza administration.
The officer said Hamas should be allowed to save face after failing to inflict more pain on the Jewish state.
“Their jubilation was not from victory, it was from their relief at being able to emerge from shelters,” said the officer, who could not be identified by name under military regulations.
“They took a major blow and they have to patch up their honour,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of the Gaza Strip last weekend to welcome the first visit by their previously exiled leader Khaled Meshaal. He declared victory at a rally and vowed to seize all of modern-day Israel one day.
The ceasefire brought Palestinians access to border farmland and fishing waters that Israel had previously kept off-limits and truce talks might lead to a further rolling back of Israel’s blockade of the coastal strip.
There have been scattered confrontations since, with Israeli troops killing two Palestinians who neared the border fence.
The officer said such incidents were rare and lacked the backing of Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions, which he said were now “thoroughly daunted” by Israel and trying to shore up the calm or at least avoid breaching it.