Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire Sunday in the 22-day offensive against the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamist group Hamas. Hours later, Hamas declared a separate ceasefire. Since both parties refused to talk and weigh each other’s demands, the calm is tentative. Israel, Hamas and other parties concerned, including Egypt and the United States, are urged to work out a permanent truce as soon as possible.
To counter rocket attacks by Hamas, Israel launched air raids against Gaza on Dec. 27 and poured ground forces into the area on Jan. 3. In mid-December, Hamas had decided not to renew a six-month ceasefire brokered by Egypt, thus sowing the seeds for conflict this time around. But that decision had been in response to the strengthened blockade of Gaza by Israel.