Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Did Israel agree to stop "assassinations?" (updated)

From Reuters/Ma'an:

Islamic Jihad said on Tuesday it would adhere to its commitments under a truce deal brokered by Egypt to end four days of fighting with Israel that killed 25 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Jihad leader Daoud Shihab told Ma'an the deal was reached after many meetings and discussions with Egypt. The movement stressed it demanded that Israel halt assassinations of political leaders, Shihab said.

The latest fighting was sparked when Israeli warplanes killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees on Friday.

Shihab said the group is committed to the truce as long as Israel adheres to its commitments. "We do not trust Israel, but we trust our power and if Israel does not commit, we will reply," he added.

He called the truce a victory for Islamic Jihad, and a Palestinian achievement.

A senior Egyptian security official told Reuters that the deal to cease hostilities was set to take effect at 1 a.m. local time (2300 GMT).

The official said in a telephone call from Cairo that both sides had "agreed to end the current operations", with Israel giving an unusual undertaking to "stop assassinations", and an overall agreement "to begin a comprehensive and mutual calm."

"There is an understanding," Israeli Civil Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio. "At the moment the direction is toward calm and it appears, unless there are last minute developments, that this round is now behind us."

Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defense official, said Israel would feel free to take "pre-emptive action" if Israeli lives were in danger -- a reference to future strikes against Palestinian militants believed to be planning attacks.

But, he told Army Radio, if "there is quiet on their part, there will be quiet on our part."

A Palestinian official close to the talks said "the factions are committed," alluding to the Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees, who were most active in the fighting, but that these groups were waiting to see how Israel would respond.
Vilnai was quoted as saying in a radio interview that "anyone who is planning to carry out attacks must calculate that he might be targeted."

There is a lot of contradictory information here.

Islamic Jihad has been explicit that it wants to see a stop to "assassinations," by which it appears to mean targeting of terrorist leaders, not weapons depots or other targets. Its own announcement of the cease fire - hours after an angry communique that insisted that it would never accept any calm with Israel - only mentioned the "assassination" aspect and didn't ask for a stop to airstrikes in Gaza altogether.

From all appearances, Islamic Jihad leaders are trying to save their own skins. There announcement was striking by not referencing any pain that Gaza citizens might be feeling; it was only about their "mujahadeen." They simply don't care about anyone but themselves.

The question is, what exactly did Israel agree to?

On Friday, after a few rockets hit Israel, Israel attacked and killed the PRC leader, saying that he was planning a major terror attack on Israel. Did Israel commit to not doing so again? From the quotes that are out there, the answer is a strong "perhaps" depending on who is doing the speaking. It seems inconceivable that Israel agreed not to kill people preparing to shoot rockets into Israel. Or would Israel wait until the rockets are in the air?

The Jerusalem Post adds: (h/t Ian)
Speaking with Army Radio Tuesday morning, hours after the Egyptian-brokered deal came into effect, Gilad denied that Israel committed to refrain from assassinating heads of terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

"There is no written agreement," Gilad said, "Israel has no documents, no negotiations, no contacts with the terrorist organizations."

The only understanding that exists, he reiterated, is quiet.

If Israeli intelligence knows of a terrorist attack being planned, "there will be action to prevent it."

Either way, while things are calmer, that are hardly calm.
An Israeli army spokesman said three rockets landed in southern Israel Tuesday morning, without causing injuries.
Several mortars have also been fired recently.