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Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 16:53 UK

Can there be lasting peace in Gaza?

By Jonathan Marcus
Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News

Both the Israelis and the Palestinians of the militant group Hamas have agreed to some form of truce or understanding to go into effect on Thursday.

Palestinian security forces of Hamas train in Gaza City - 14/06/2008
Can Hamas rein in other Palestinian militant groups

But what is it that has brought the various parties to this decision? And what are the chances of any truce holding?

While the exact terminology to be used to describe the tacit arrangement between Israel and Hamas is unclear, the purpose of the discussions that have been underway with Egypt as intermediary, is self evident.

Israel wants a halt to the rocket and mortar fire across its border from the Gaza Strip.

A major military foray into the territory is not a terribly palatable option. Many in Israel believe that all avenues must be explored before such a fateful step is taken.

The Hamas leadership wants a period of calm to consolidate itself and relieve the economic pressure on the Palestinian population.

There is benefit too for the Egyptians, who have taken such a prominent role in working with the two sides.

The government in Cairo also wants the pressure-cooker atmosphere in the Gaza Strip relaxed.

Inevitable confrontation?

Of course there is more here than just a halt to the fighting.

Hamas wants entry and exit points into the Gaza Strip opened. Israel wants the return of its captured soldier Gilad Shalit. And it also expects the Egyptians to make a real effort to halt the smuggling of weaponry into the Gaza Strip.

Everything now depends upon implementation.

Can Hamas prevail on other more radical Palestinian groups to halt their fire into Israel? Can Egypt get a grip on the weapons smuggling?

And if Israel sees Hamas bolstering its fortifications and arsenal will it refrain from taking action?

Some analysts fear that - truce or no truce - Israel and Hamas are on a collision course and that this is simply a necessary lull before an inevitable military confrontation.


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