Israeli citizens have made a guarded response to the United Nations-brokered ceasefire between Israeli forces and the armed wing of Lebanese political party Hezbollah.
In Zion Square, the heartbeat of West Jerusalem’s shopping district, Israelis of all ages and backgrounds said they wanted peace – but many added they feared Hezbollah would use the ceasefire as an opportunity to rearm itself.
“We aren’t sure that this is the end of the fighting,” said Zipoa, a 50-year-old lawyer from Jerusalem. “We have to wait at least until the international force is in place. Everyone is happy when the bloodshed ends. But we cannot trust [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.”
UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701 was unanimously approved on 11 August, the 30th day of the conflict, which began on 12 July when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers.
Israel responded with a land, sea and air military offensive that killed 1,110 people in Lebanon, the vast majority civilians, according to the Lebanese High Relief Council (HRC) – a government body set up specifically to manage relief efforts during the crisis.
In retaliation, Hezbollah has killed 157 Israelis, including 43 civilians, in ground fighting and by rocket fire into Israel, according to the Israeli military.
UNSCR 1701 calls for an immediate ‘cessation of hostilities’ between Israel and Hezbollah. This began at 8 a.m. Lebanon time on Monday morning.
The next step is the joint deployment of Lebanese army forces and a strengthened UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), totalling 15,000 personnel, to replace Israeli troops in southern Lebanon.
While the new resolution has been approved by the Lebanese government, which includes two Hezbollah ministers, and the Israeli government, feelings are mixed in the Israeli street.
Michael Hababa, a 28-year-old biologist of Ethiopian origin, said he would have liked to see a ceasefire sooner.
“Stopping the fighting will benefit both sides and in my opinion it should have happened a lot sooner because human lives would have been saved and people would not have had to become refugees,” he said.
Hannah Rahman, a 56-year-old Haifa resident whose home was damaged by a Hezbollah rocket, said Hezbollah should accept that Israel has a right to exist if there is to be real peace.
“There will be no peace until Hezbollah is disarmed. We are very unhappy about the loss of life on both sides. But they have to recognise that Israel has a right to exist,” she said.
But young credit card salesmen Eli Jacobson from Modiin and Zev Brodsky, originally from the US but now living in Bet Shemesh, said the Israeli government was wrong to accept a ceasefire.
“It’s unwise. We are fighting a terror organisation and just as we were getting to the point of wiping them out we stop,” said Jacobson, 19. “I think [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert has been too influenced by the United Nations. The UN thinks that peace is always the answer but sometimes peace doesn’t pay off in the long run.”
“I’m not happy at all,” said Brodsky, 20. “Olmert was doing great until the ceasefire, which was stupid. This war should only end when we have totally destroyed them. Six years ago we had the opportunity to destroy them before we withdrew from Lebanon and we didn’t take it. They spent the intervening time rearming themselves. This peace will not last.”
Obadia, a 57-year-old Orthodox Jew from the US, agreed with the youngsters.
“I think we should have finished them off. This ceasefire has brought us back close to where we began because we are giving them a chance to rearm,” he said.
Chaim Nunberg said he welcomed the peace, but said Israel had no choice but to retaliate against Hezbollah.
“I want peace not war,” said Nunberg, 59. “Here in Jerusalem, Arabs and Jews live together, it’s not a problem. But this is the Middle East, not Europe, and the only way to deal with Hezbollah is to take strong action against them.”
Tamar Levy, a 17-year-old from France who was collecting money for Israelis who have been living in bomb shelters to escape the Hezbollah rockets, said she was unconvinced the peace would last.
“My heart hopes this is real peace but my head says it is not over yet,” she said.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions