Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas mediated by Egypt as a first step towards negotiations on a more enduring end to the month-old war.
Minutes before the truce began at 8am (0500 GMT), Hamas launched a salvo of rockets, calling them revenge for Israel’s “massacres”. Israel’s anti-missile system shot down one rocket over Jerusalem, police said. Another hit a house in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. There were no casualties.
Israeli armour and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesperson saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed. “Mission accomplished,” the military tweeted.
Troops and tanks will be “redeployed in defensive positions outside the Gaza Strip and we will maintain those defensive positions”, spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said, reflecting Israeli readiness to resume fighting if attacked.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesperson for the Islamist Hamas faction that rules Gaza, said Israel’s offensive in the densely populated, coastal enclave was a “100 percent failure”.
Israel sent officials to join talks in Cairo to cement a longer-term deal during the course of the truce. “The delegates left under an hour ago. I assume they’ve already arrived in Egypt,” an Israeli official told Reuters.
In Gaza, where some half-million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents, carrying mattresses and with children in tow, left UN shelters to trek back to neighbourhoods where whole blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and the smell of decomposing bodies fills the air.
Sitting on a pile of debris on the edge of the northern town of Beit Lahiya, Zuhair Hjaila, a 33-year-old father of four, said he had lost his house and his supermarket. “This is complete destruction,” he said. “I never thought I would come back to find an earthquake zone.”
Several previous truce attempts by Egypt and other regional powers, overseen by the United States and United Nations, failed to calm the worst Israeli-Palestinian fighting in two years.
An Israeli official said that in the hour before the ceasefire came into effect, the civilian airspace over Tel Aviv was closed as a precaution against Gaza rockets, and takeoffs and landings were delayed at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.
Hamas said it had informed Egypt “of its acceptance of a 72-hour period of calm”, beginning on Tuesday. The Palestinian cabinet issued a statement after its weekly meeting in Ramallah welcoming the ceasefire.
The US state department also welcomed the truce and urged the parties to “respect it completely”. Spokesperson Jen Psaki said Washington would continue its efforts to help the sides achieve a “durable, sustainable solution for the long term”.
Efforts to turn the ceasefire into a lasting truce could prove difficult, with the sides far apart on their central demands, and each rejecting the other’s legitimacy. Hamas rejects Israel’s existence, and vows to destroy it, while Israel denounces Hamas as a terrorist group and eschews any ties.
Besides the truce, Palestinians demand an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on impoverished Gaza and the release of prisoners including those Israel arrested in a June crackdown in the occupied West Bank after three Jewish seminary students were kidnapped and killed. Israel has resisted those demands in the past.
Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki said there was “clear evidence” of war crimes by Israel during its offensive in Gaza as he met International Criminal Court prosecutors in The Hague on Tuesday to push for an investigation.
Both sides have traded allegations of war crimes during the Gaza assault, while defending their own actions as consistent with international law.
Israel: demilitarise Gaza
Lerner said the army overnight destroyed the last of 32 tunnels located inside Gaza and which had been dug by Hamas for cross-border ambushes at an estimated cost of $100 million.
“Today we completed the removal of this threat,” he said. Israeli officials say, however, that some tunnels may have gone undetected and that the armed forces are poised to strike at these in the future.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also wants to disarm Hamas and demilitarise Gaza, after guerrillas launched more than 3,300 rockets and mortar bombs at Israel this past month. Hamas has ruled that out.
“For Israel the most important issue is the issue of demilitarisation. We must prevent Hamas from rearming, we must demilitarise the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told Reuters television.
Since the fighting began, several previous truces barely held. Regev said Israel had accepted Egypt’s terms weeks before Hamas, and expressed a wish that the truce would last: “I hope this time we see the ceasefire work that’s good for everybody.”
Egypt has positioned itself as a mediator in successive Gaza conflicts but, like Israel, its current administration views Hamas as a security threat.
Besides the loss of life, the war has cost both sides economically. Gaza faces a massive $6-billion price tag to rebuild devastated infrastructure. Israel has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism, other industry, and fears cuts in overall economic growth this year as well.
In London, a British minister, Sayeeda Warsi, resigned on Tuesday, saying she could not support government policy on the war. While his government has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticised by the opposition for refusing to describe Israel’s military actions in Gaza as disproportionate.
Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs
We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.
While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.
At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.
We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.
Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.
We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.
A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.
Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.
We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.
We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.
We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.
Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.
Our emergency services keep people safe.
Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.
Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.
Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.
We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.
With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”
Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality
Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.
On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.
On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.
Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.
Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton
Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.
Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?
The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.
He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture. That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries. Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.
The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.
Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.
Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response. However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.
Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth. Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.
In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide? Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed? However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.
The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?
Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.
Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.