The attention of the world is focused once again on the Middle East in the hope that the fragile ceasefire brokered chiefly by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Wednesday will hold. The ceasefire took effect after eight days of cross-border fighting that killed 163 Palestinians and six Israelis, but already there have been serious violations. Less than an hour after the ceasefire was announced, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by an unmanned drone, and on Friday one Palestinian was killed and at least 10 others wounded after Israeli soldiers stationed at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel opened fire on them, according to medical sources. The dead man was trying to put a Hamas flag on the fence that runs between the town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip and Israel.
These sorts of incidents could trigger fresh rocket assaults on Israeli territory from Hamas, which would almost certainly be met with another show of overwhelming force from the Israel defence forces, and possibly a ground assault into Gaza. But notwithstanding the seriousness of the violations there is reason to hope the ceasefire will continue to be officially honoured by both sides for the time being, for the simple reason that neither is prepared to risk the consequences if the ceasefire is abandoned. There is an opening for true peace-building on top of the damage control offered by the ceasefire, but any chance for success must take into account the region's rapidly changing dynamics.
Mr Morsi has been roundly praised for his role in the negotiation process, and clearly this signals a rise in Egypt's regional and international clout. The old regime led by Hosni Mubarak could not have held any sway with Hamas. And while Mr Morsi made no secret of his personal feelings _ he called the Israeli bombardment of Gaza "a blatant aggression against humanity" _ he recognises that Hamas should be faulted for its provocations as well. He is committed to maintaining Egypt's long-standing peace treaty with Israel and putting a stop to the smuggling of arms through Egyptian territory into Gaza.
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