JERUSALEM – Both Israel’s prime minister and Hamas declared victory Wednesday in the Gaza war, although their competing claims left questions over future terms of their uneasy peace still lingering.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments, delivered in a prime-time address on national TV, appeared aimed at countering critics of the war, with both hard-liners in his governing coalition, as well as residents of rocket-scarred southern Israel, saying the war was a failure because it did not halt Hamas’ rocket attacks or oust the group from power.
Masked Hamas militants carrying heavy weapons gave their own address upon the rubble of one destroyed Gaza neighborhood, although their own major demands won’t be addressed until indirect talks with Israel begin again in Cairo.
Israel and Hamas agreed to an open-ended truce Tuesday, with each side settling for an ambiguous interim agreement in exchange for a period of calm. Hamas, although badly battered, remains in control of Gaza with part of its military arsenal intact. Israel and Egypt will continue to control access to blockaded Gaza, despite Hamas’ long-running demand that the border closures imposed in 2007 be lifted.
Hamas is seeking an end to the Israeli blockade, including the reopening of Gaza’s sea and airport. It also wants Egypt to reopen its Rafah border crossing, the territory’s main gateway to the outside world. Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza’s 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel. Only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.
Israel, meanwhile, wants Hamas to be disarmed.
“Hamas was hit hard and it received not one of the demands it set forth for a cease-fire, not one,” Netanyahu said. He said Israel “will not tolerate” any more rocket fire, and would respond “even harder” if the attacks resume.