'Calm' Holds, but Angst Rampant; Hamas Seen as 'Big Winner' in Israeli Truce

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Byline: Joshua Mitnick, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

TEL AVIV - As the Israel-Hamas cease-fire held for a fourth day Sunday, many in the Jewish state feared that the Islamic militant group had begun to achieve international credibility despite its vow to destroy Israel.

Israel on Sunday boosted supplies of food and medicine going into the Gaza Strip by about 50 percent and said it's considering further relaxations of the months-long siege on the war-weary enclave, a military official said on the condition of anonymity because of rules forbidding comment for attribution.

Despite predictions by Israelis and Arabs of the cease-fire's imminent demise, the accord marks a break with a several-years-old policy of Israel and the U.S. to boycott Hamas.

"The big winner from this agreement is Hamas. The victory of Hamas in this round is a victory for radical Islam, comparable with the victory of Hezbollah in Lebanon," wrote a former general, Yiftah Ron Tal, in the daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom, referring to the inconclusive 2006 war between Israel and the militant group based in southern Lebanon.

"This will lead to the collapse of the international boycott of Hamas. In other words, the state of Israel is promoting - even if this was not its intention - the establishment of Hamastan in Gaza, a state ruled by terrorists."

The agreement gives Hamas an opportunity to demonstrate that it can enforce a truce on Gaza's disparate militias - a sign of sovereignty that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was never able to fulfill.

If the quiet holds, Hamas is slated to be included in negotiations over the opening of the Rafah terminal - Gaza's only international crossing for civilians.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, the father of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped two years ago in the Gaza Strip, appealed to Israel's Supreme Court to issue an injunction against the cease-fire deal, saying it endangers his son.

The shift in policy comes one year after Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip triggered an internationally sanctioned siege promoted by Israel. …