Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said the Gaza war with Israel amounted to a “great victory” for the Palestinians, in a televised speech on Sunday.
“God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people,” said Haniya, the prime minister appointed by the Islamist movement Hamas in the impoverished territory.
“We have stopped the aggression and the enemy has failed to achieve any of its goals,” he added, less than 24 hours after Israeli halted a massive offensive on Gaza that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians.
Israeli troops have begun a gradual withdrawal from Gaza after a deadly 22-day war against Hamas, an army spokesman said on Sunday.
The pullout comes after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered a unilateral halt late Saturday to a massive operation designed to put an end to Hamas rocket-firing.
Israeli television images showed pictures of soldiers walking out of the battered coastal strip, many of them carrying flags and flashing victory signs.
Olmert said Israel intended to withdraw troops “as quickly as possible” and had no intention of reoccupying a territory from which it withdrew settlers and the army in 2005.
“We are not interested in staying in the Gaza Strip, we want to leave as quickly as possible,” Olmert said at a press conference with European leaders.
The delegation from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, earlier attended a summit in Egypt with Arab leaders aimed at shoring up the truce
Ref: Al arabiya
Gunfire ends but the debate in Israel begins: should we have pressed on?
Talk of victory was scant in Israel today after the government’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza. “The decision was terrible,” said Shimon, a 55-year-old from Ra’anana, a town in Israel’s interior. “We should carry on fighting until Hamas is devastated.”
Overwhelmingly, the Israeli Jewish public supports the country’s assault on Gaza. But while the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, described the three-week war as a “brilliant” achievement of Israel’s objectives, the public does not seem as certain. “I hope we will succeed in halting the rockets, but I think the ceasefire was a little premature,” said Avot Yitzhak, 48, from Tel Aviv. “They should have continued, to show [Hamas] that they really have lost.”
A return to square one
Another aspect of the last few weeks of conflict has wider significance here in the region too. The uncompromising use of firepower by Israeli forces, the resolve to use this overwhelming power at the expense of huge numbers of civilian casualties and of infrastructure, has come against a backdrop of almost universal Israeli domestic approval. The war has touched on deep impulses, evoking strong convictions of Israeli righteousness among the public, and with it, a thirst for unequivocal images of defeat in Gaza. Israeli leaders will draw vindication from this. In domestic public relations terms, it is, so far, a clear victory for its architects.
In the longer run, however, things are not so clear. The uncompromising nature of the assault is having a profound impact. Muslims saw the Israeli mood as drawing on an ancient narrative: a desire for an unmitigated, religious victory. Israel will point to its statistics of perceived success, but the other side will see not the hollow counting of damage inflicted but an archetypal image of a heroic Muslim stand against overwhelming military odds. “Victory” may look rather different a few months from now.