Few Palestinians or Israelis were willing to put much trust in the cease-fire deal their leaders reached on Wednesday, saying they remembered all too well the failed cease-fires of years past.
Israel and Hamas agreed to end eight days of hostilities in a truce brokered by Egyptian officials, though both sides waited to the last moment before the pact was to go into effect to halt the violence. But skepticism abounded among residents of the Gaza Strip, which has been hit by hundreds of artillery shells and bombs in the past week, and among Israelis in southern Israel, who have been threatened for years by rockets fired by militants from Gaza.
“This is a pause, not a peace,” said Ya’ara Menachem, a 41-year-old resident of the southern Israeli city of Sderot. “We don’t believe in cease-fires anymore.”
In Gaza City, Samer Mazar said he was holding off on moving his family back to their home near the border with Israel.
“I want to see if the cease-fire holds up first,” he said. “We do not trust them when they say it is over. We have to see it first.”
Many pointed to the last 24 hours, when both Israel and militants in Gaza stepped up the intensity of their attacks. Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles were fired deep into Israel’s densely populated center Tuesday night, hitting a building in Rishon LeZion.
Altogether, five Israelis died in the past week as Palestinian militants fired more than 1,000 rockets into central and southern Israel. On Wednesday, a bomber struck a bus across the street from Israel’s military headquarters in the heart of Tel Aviv, leaving more than 15 wounded. Palestinian medics said that more than 140 Palestinian have been killed in the past week of Israeli attacks, 34 of them children.
“When so much blood has been shed, it’s hard to imagine either side is forgiving and forgetting,” Mazar said.
Near the Tel Aviv street where the bus had been bombed Wednesday afternoon, protesters held signs and began to chant “No to a cease-fire deal.”
“They bomb us and agree to all go home quietly, how can this be?” asked Yasmin Kampach, a 24-year-old student. “We don’t want to see a cease-fire deal. We want our country to eliminate the threat.”
In the southern Israeli cities that have been the most frequent target of rocket fire from Gaza, protests were held Wednesday night against the cease-fire agreement.
“We didn’t live under this rocket fire, which disrupted our lives and our children’s lives, just to buy another couple years of quiet,” said Chaim Levin, a resident of Sderot. “We wanted to see the (army) go into Gaza. I don’t care, let the army do whatever it takes, just make sure there are no more rockets.”
For days, Israel’s military leaders had warned that it was preparing for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip. More than 70,000 Israeli reservists were called up as tanks and artillery units lined the border with Gaza in preparation.
“Not launching the ground invasion was a mistake,” said Moshe Yamin, a 67-year-old resident of Ashdod. “It makes it look like we were scared to take them on.”
A snap poll on Israel’s Channel Two news confirmed what many were saying. The poll found that 70 percent of the Israeli public did not support signing a cease-fire with Hamas, 24 percent were in favor and 6 percent were undecided.