Monday, March 3, 2008

Normality


Wall painting in Yaffo


For the past few days the IDF and Hamas have been battling it out in a round of mutual deterrence at the end of which neither side seems deterred and both sides vow to continue. The result has been about 100 Palestinians, two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian killed. According to the army about 90% of the Palestinians killed were militants; according to the Palestinians the number is 50%. The truth is no doubt somewhere in the middle.

In Israel, Ashkelon was hit several times with longer range katyushas, including a direct hit on a house. This is a strategic achievement for Hamas. In Gaza the destruction was far greater, the Hamas leadership was forced underground and PM Hania's headquarters were reduced to rubble.

Behind the battle scenes, by all accounts, some sort of negotiations are going on with the mediation of the Egyptians, and the involvement of Israel, the US, the PA and others, to reach an overall cease-fire, a prisoner exchange ( i.e. thousands of Palestinians for Gilad Schalit) and the re-opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The fighting seems to be at least partly about the terms that will (hopefully) be settled. For example, the extent of Israeli remote control at the Rafah crossing. Meanwhile there could well be much more violence.

Here's an Ha'aretz analysis of what's going on

While Sderot and Ashkelon were "burning" an hours drive to the south, S (on a short family visit) and I enjoyed the pleasant weather and took a few hours to bike around Yaffo and Florentin. Here life continued undisturbed by the war down south (or by the rioting in East Jerusalem I've just seen on TV).


Local house-owners found colourful ways to decorate their entrances.



Clients at Abu Hassan's getting their daily fix of houmous and ful.



And the Yaffo sea scouts taking to the waves in their 'optimist' class sailing boats. You have to be an optimist to survive. Two such optimists are Hope Man (an Israeli from Sderot) and Peace Man (a Palestinian from Gaza) who have been corresponding via a joint blog that you can read at http://gaza-sderot.blogspot.com

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