Alistair Crooke over at Conflicts Forum sums up the diplomatic events and ploys of the last couple of days: ‘At another level, however, the 22-day war has changed the parameters in the region: it has produced an unparalleled, overt challenge to Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the formal structures of Arab political power. The Doha informal meeting of heads of state on Friday gave legitimacy to the Palestinian resistance movements, called for direct action to isolate Israel and pronounced the Arab initiative to normalise relations with Israel in return for withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967 to be “dead”. None of these decisions has any formal status, but they represent a striking and open attack on the Egyptian and Saudi claims of primacy over Palestinian affairs. It heralds the beginning of a bitter struggle of the Doha-Syria axis versus the Saudi-Egyptian alliance for control over the future of the region. Mubarak struck back: on Sunday, in a summit held in Egypt, and attended by the UN secretary general and European leaders, Mubarak was back in the chair. It was Israel and the US who were absent. This is likely to infuriate the Israelis, as Mubarak no doubt intends, but the internationalising of the Gaza ceasefire will also complicate an already fragile situation. All of these separate initiatives – Israeli, American and Egyptian – have as a primary aim an agreement from which one of the main protagonists, Hamas, is excluded. None of this bodes well. It resembles the choreography for a further round of conflict.’
Israeli troops are reported to have left Gaza already, well before Hamas’ ultimatum, but keep sporadically shelling Gaza, wounding five Palestinian civilians today by shooting at them from the sea. Needless to say, both Israel and Egypt keep the border crossings closed (Egypt even refusing to let an Iranian aid ship dock in its harbours) and the tunnels are consequently in full operation… Meanwhile, ever more horror stories are emerging of Palestinian civiians being rounded up irrespective of age and gender and murdered in cold blood, Sabra & Shatila-style, by soldiers of the occupation forces in the course of the invasion.