The Six Months of the Lull Arrangement
1. On June 17, 2008 , after several months of indirect contacts between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian mediators, Egypt and Hamas individually announced that a lull arrangement ( tahadiya 1) had been reached between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and it would go into effect at 0600 hours on the morning of June 19 . Israel ‘s position was that the lull had no time limit. The position of Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations was that it would remain in force for six months and they then expected it to be extended to Judea and Samaria . Spokesmen of Hamas and other terrorist organizations later stated that it would end on Friday morning, December 19; in the field it had been seriously eroded since November 4.
2. The lull arrangement was based on unwritten understandings and called for the cessation of the fighting in the Gaza Strip. Hamas committed itself to enforce the arrangement on the other Palestinian terrorist organizations which had not expressed their opposition (some organizations opposed it, some were reserved). The cessation of the fighting was supposed to lead to the opening of the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel , to initiate negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit , the abducted Israeli soldier, and to lead to discussions about the opening of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt .
3. The lull arrangement brought relative quiet to the western Negev population and the Gaza Strip, especially during its first months, but it did not completely end the rocket and mortar shell attacks. In the six months the arrangement was in force, 329 rockets and mortar shells were fired at Israel , most of them during the month and a half after November 4. That was significantly fewer than the rockets and mortar shells fired during the six months preceding the lull, during which 2,278 rockets and mortar shells were launched (an average of 380 a month).
4. An analysis of the situation on the ground indicates two distinct periods:
i) A period of relative quiet between June 19 and November 4 : As of June 19, there was a marked reduction in the extent of attacks on the western Negev population. The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations, in some instance in defiance of Hamas (especially by Fatah and Al-Qaeda supporters). Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire. The IDF refrained from undertaking counterterrorism activities in the Gaza Strip, taking only routine defensive security measures along the border fence. Between June 19 and November 4, 20 rockets (three of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) and 18 mortar shells (five of which fell inside the Gaza Strip) were fired at Israel .
ii) The escalation and erosion of the lull arrangement, November 4 to the time of this writing, December 17 2: On November 4 the IDF carried out a military action close to the border security fence on the Gazan side to prevent an abduction planned by Hamas, which had dug a tunnel under the fence to that purpose. Seven Hamas terrorist operatives were killed during the action. In retaliation, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations attacked Israel with a massive barrage of rockets. Since then, 191 rockets and 138 mortar shells have been fired. The attacks have been continuous and some were carried out by weapons not previously used, such as 122mm standard Grad rockets and 120mm mortar shells. Hamas has been directly involved in the attacks in cooperation with the other terrorist organizations.
5. During the second period a new dynamic was created which replaced the former relative calm: Hamas and the other terrorist organizations extended their attacks (rocket and mortar shell fire, IEDs and light-arms fire), the IDF operated to prevent attacks within the Gaza Strip (Israeli Air Force attacks, firing at terrorist squads within the Gaza Strip near the border), the terrorist organizations responded with barrages of rocket and mortar shell fire to retaliate for their losses and continued daily sporadic fire, in response to which Israel closed the border crossings, exerting pressure on Hamas and the Gaza Strip residents.
6. During the first period the crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip were open most of the time ( Israel closed them for short intervals in response to rocket fire). Scores of trucks delivered large quantities of consumer goods through the Karni and Sufa (and later Kerem Shalom) crossings on a daily basis, including supplies of commodities Israel had previously not permitted into the Gaza Strip, such as cement and iron. Hamas leaders admitted that there was an improvement in the supply of goods and that civilian life was returning to normal. Life also returned to normal in the western Negev towns and villages for the first time in the period preceding the lull.
7. With the escalation in rocket and mortar shell attacks which began on November 4, Israel began closing the crossings for longer periods . That led to shortages of basic goods in the Gaza Strip and to disruptions in the supply of various types of fuel (although electrical power was not cut off, since the plant in Ashqelon , which supplies 65% of the Gaza Strip’s electricity, provided an uninterrupted flow of power).
8. Hamas did nothing to stop the attacks against Israel , preferring to deal with the problem of the closed crossings by instituting a propaganda campaign in the international media . Hamas hoped it would exert pressure on Israel (and Egypt ) and force it to open the crossings, even while the rocket and mortar shell attacks continued. At the same time, Hamas found alternatives to the crossings, institutionalizing the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border and setting up a maritime delivery service from abroad. The alternatives have eased the shortages but have not provided an appropriate solution for the problem of the closed crossings.
9. Israel ‘s expectations that the lull arrangement would speed up negotiations for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit , and Hamas’s expectations that it would lead to discussions regarding the Rafah crossing, were not realized during the six months the arrangement was in force. When it came to Gilad Shalit, Hamas obstinately refused to budge from its former demand for the massive release of Palestinian murderers from Israeli jails. As to the issue of the Rafah crossing , Egypt does not seem eager to negotiate, possibly as a way of exerting pressure on Hamas because it is disappointed with Hamas’s policies regarding a variety of internal Palestinian issues and because it fears Hamas will establish a radical Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip. In our assessment such an emirate might try to establish closer contact with the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, its mother organization and a major, longstanding opposition group to the Egyptian secular-oriented regime.
10. During the lull, Hamas and the other terrorist organizations exploited the pause in IDF activity in the Gaza Strip to continue their military buildup and improve their preparedness for the expected confrontation with the IDF "the morning after.” 3 They smuggled vast quantities of weapons into the Gaza Strip through the tunnels, stepped up the pace of the military training of their operatives and continued developing their weapons-manufacturing capabilities. Hamas and the other terrorist organizations gave extensive media coverage to their activities to frighten both Israeli and internal Palestinian public opinion.
11. Conclusion : It is safe to say that the lull arrangement, especially its first period, provided a breathing-space in the daily fighting between Israel and Hamas. During that time there was also a significant increase in the amount of goods delivered to the Gaza Strip through the crossings. However, when the terrorist organizations began a policy of continuous rocket and mortar shell attacks against Israel , accompanied by other forms of terrorism, the lull arrangement was eroded to the point where it remained only on paper as its first six months drew to a close.
ii) The situation on the ground during the lull arrangement
iii) The crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip
iv) The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip
v) The release of the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit
vi) The military buildup of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations during the lull
vii) The tunnel industry during the lull
viii) The increase in radical Islamic activity in the Gaza Strip
ix) Terrorism in Judea and Samaria during the lull
x) The influence of the lull arrangement on the residents of the western Negev population and the Gaza Strip
xi) The internal Palestinian arena during the lull
xii) Appendix : Data relating to lull arrangement violations carried out by the Palestinians
1 The correct transliteration of the Arabic word is tahdi’a , but due to the difficulty of pronouncing the Arabic alif hamzah as a consonant, the word is usually transliterated "tahadiya.”
2 On December 17, 18 rockets and six mortar shells were fired; two or the rockets targeted Sderot and Ashqelon . Two civilians were wounded. The PIJ claimed responsibility for most of the rocket fire. In response, the IDF attacked rocket-launching squads and terrorist targets in the northern and southern Gaza strip.
3 Note: This assessment was written prior to the outbreak of Operation Cast Lead, December 27, 2008 .