Cease-fire announcements and truce interruptions have become routine in the current conflict between Hamas and Israel. On Friday morning, a planned 72-hour cease-fire raised some hopes for further peace talks or at least a short break from the fighting. However, it didn't last long.
There have been at least five proposed or accepted cease-fires in the conflict so far. Here's what happened to them:
Egypt, long a mediator in conflicts between Israel and Palestinians, proposed a cease-fire on July 15, and Israel announced that it would accept, surprising some as Israel's United Nations envoy had earlier said that a cease-fire was not on the cards. The proposal had called on Israel and Hamas to agree on an immediate truce without preconditions, with peace talks in Cairo launched within 48 hours. Hamas, however, said they had not been properly consulted and refused to stop fighting.
Days later, the U.N. tried to lead an initiative for a five-hour humanitarian cease-fire agreement. At the time, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson explained that the truce would have limited aims:
“This humanitarian window is meant to allow the civilian population of the Gaza Strip to engage in resupply for their humanitarian needs. Should the humanitarian window be exploited by Hamas or other terror organizations for the purpose of launching attacks against Israeli civilian or military targets the IDF will respond firmly and decisively.”
In the evening, not long after the cease-fire ended, Israel began its ground offensive with the aim of destroying tunnels that were being used to infiltrate Israel.
The Red Cross facilitated a two-hour humanitarian and medical cease-fire requested by Hamas in the region of Shijaiyah. However, Israel abandoned the cease-fire after its troops were attacked by Hamas.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's planned agreement called for a long-term cease-fire that could have led to peace talks. According to the reported details, Kerry proposed a two-stage plan that included a week-long truce complemented by comprehensive talks between the warring parties. Israel is believed to have rejected Kerry's proposal as it was felt it would give too much leeway to Hamas, and Kerry was widely criticized in the Israeli press for his proposal.
Hamas and Israel agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire, and Israel later tried to extend the cease-fire for another day. Hamas initially refused the truce but then reinstated a new one hours later so that Gaza residents could observe the Muslim holiday of Eid. By the next afternoon on Monday, July 28, both sides had begun fighting again.
Late on Thursday, a three-day cease-fire was announced by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Kerry. The purpose of the 72-hour truce was primarily to provide humanitarian relief. Kerry was cautious not to raise expectations too high, saying: "This is a respite. It is a moment of opportunity, not an end."
While his previous two-step plan had been refused right away – potentially because of its focus on future peace talks – the new cease-fire was primarily supposed to allow "urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured and restocking food supplies." Kerry had also been careful to include regional allies of Hamas, such as Qatar and Turkey, in the negotiations. However, the cease-fire that began at 8 a.m. Friday only lasted for a few hours before clashes between Hamas militants and Israeli soldiers erupted. Hamas is reported to have killed two soldiers and kidnapped another in these clashes.