Palestinians pick up pieces in ravaged Gaza after Israel ceasefire

Published May 23, 2021
A child makes victory sign during Hamas fighters’ parade through Gaza streets for Bassem Issa, a top commander, who was killed by Israel prior to a ceasefire reached after an 11-day war.—AP
A child makes victory sign during Hamas fighters’ parade through Gaza streets for Bassem Issa, a top commander, who was killed by Israel prior to a ceasefire reached after an 11-day war.—AP

GAZA CITY: Gazans tried to piece back their lives on Saturday after a devastating 11-day conflict with Israel that killed more than 200 people and made thousands homeless in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.

Authorities started distributing tents, mattresses and covers to those in need in the Gaza Strip, a reporter said, a day after a ceasefire ended deadly Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave and rocket fire out of it towards Israel.

Attention turned to rebuilding the territory controlled by Hamas, with the United Nations saying that at least 6,000 people had been made homeless.

Rescue workers searched for bodies or survivors in mounds of rubble, as residents tried to asses what was left of their previous lives.

Hamas authorities announce reopening of govt offices today

The latest round of bombardment killed 248 people in Gaza, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 since May 10, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

The United Nations says more than half of those killed, the overwhelming majority in Israeli air strikes, were civilians.

Rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups killed 12 people in Israel including a child, an Israeli soldier, an Indian citizen and two Thai nationals, the police say, and injured around 357 people.

In front of a flattened tower block where she used to rent out apartments, Aisha Mousallem was wearing black. “Even if I lost no one in my family, I’m in mourning,” she said.

Sarah Muscroft, the head of the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the intensity of the bombardment had led to “extensive damage in across Gaza”.

“Over 6,000 people have been rendered homeless as a result of the hostilities,” she said.

More than 1,042 housing or commercial units were estimated to have been completely destroyed, and 800,000 people have no regular access to water.

“The building effort is going to be really quite profound,” she said.

Earlier on Saturday, shopkeepers assessed the damage, finding many supplies coated in thick layers of dust.

Shopkeeper Wael Amin al-Sharafa said he had stocked up his shop with new clothes to sell during the usually busy season of Eidul Fitr.

“But now it’s all lost,” he said. “Who will pay for all this? I have no idea.” Rami Abu Amira and a dozen other fishermen prepared their nets before heading out to sea for the first time in two weeks.

“We need to eat,” he said after the Gaza coastguard allowed fishing again.

Abu Amira said, however, he would stick close to the coastline, adding: “We, fishermen are scared the Israeli navy will shoot at us. It’s up to everyone to decide whether to go or not.”

Convoys of lorries carrying aid began passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing after it was reopened by Israel, bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel.

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

The latest round of Israeli bombardment forced 91,000 people to flee their homes in Gaza, according to OCHA.

Thousands returned to their homes on Friday to examine the damage.

Both Israel and Hamas were fast to claim victory, as two Egyptian security delegations arrived to monitor the deal.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombing campaign had been an “exceptional success”.

Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh said they had “dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks” on Israel, and thanked Iran for “providing funds and weapons”.

The Hamas authorities said government offices would re-open on Sunday.

The international community welcomed the ceasefire.

US President Joe Biden pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict.

“We still need a two-state solution,” he said.

Peace talks have stalled since 2014 including over the key issues of the status of occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2021

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