That did not last long. A ceasefire announced last night in a joint statement by John Kerry and Ban Ki Moon crumbled after four hours. The details are still murky, but it seems that Hamas has captured an Israeli soldier.
The ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations special representative in the region, Robert Serry. He is a career diplomat, originally from the Netherlands, who has served as the UN’s “special coordinator” for the Middle East peace process since 2007. (He’s a well known trouble shooter. A few months ago, he traveled to rebel occupied Crimea where he was briefly kidnapped by separatists). The ceasefire, while it lasted, called for 72 hours of calm in which humanitarian relief organizations in Gaza could be resupplied and families could begin to assess the damage to their homes in Israel and Gaza.
This kind of humanitarian pause is central to the international community’s strategy for securing a longer ceasefire agreement. As John Kerry put it, ““by stringing together enough temporary periods of quiet … there might yet be a way for the Israelis and the Palestinians to begin talks on a long-term solution.” The idea is that a humanitarian pause in the fighting, perhaps for 72 hours, could give both sides some breathing room and space to negotiate a more durable ceasefire.
This is now the second time in one week that this tactic has failed. The question going forward is whether or not to try again or find another approach?