GAZA: With children and pets in their arms and their belongings loaded onto donkey carts or car roofs, thousands of displaced Gazans headed home Friday as a four-day Zionist-Hamas truce began. The din of war was replaced by the horns of traffic jams and sirens of ambulances making their way through crowds emerging from hospitals and schools where they had taken refuge. For nearly seven weeks, Zionist strikes on the Gaza Strip had been relentless.
But on Friday morning, no more shots were heard in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Palestinian territory. “We are civilians,” said Mahmud Masood, standing in front of flattened buildings in Jabalia, northern Gaza. “Why have they destroyed our houses?” A woman sat on top of a mound of debris with her head in her hands, crying.
Hayat Al-Muammar was among those hurrying to take advantage of the truce deal. “I’m going home,” said the 50-year-old, who had been sheltering in a school. “We fled the death, destruction and everything,” she told AFP. “I still don’t understand what happened to us — why did they do this to us?” she asked. The lives of Gazans have been turned upside down since Oct 7. Weeks of sustained Zionist bombardment has killed nearly 15,000 people, around two thirds of them women and children. Some 1.7 million of the territory’s 2.4 million people are estimated to have been displaced, and more than half of homes damaged or destroyed.
A multitude of men, women and children travelled on foot, carts or tuk-tuks with the few belongings they had taken with them when the war started. One woman carried her cat in her arms through the streets. Some families tried to retrieve some living basics from under the rubble before getting back to school shelters, as panic ensued when some unexploded missiles were sighted inside the houses.
Large parts of Gaza have been flattened by thousands of air strikes, and the territory faces shortages of food, water and fuel. Zionist warplanes dropped leaflets warning people in the south not to head back to the north, which it has previously told Palestinians to leave for their safety. “The war is not over yet,” they read. “Returning to the north is forbidden and very dangerous!!!”
Even so, Ghadi Salamat was considering going back from the south. “We’re fed up of being here. It’s no life. We hope that we can return to Gaza City, even if it’s to set up a tent in the rubble,” he said. Abu Qussai, however, had no intention of returning. “It’s a ghost town. When we left, there was already nothing but rubble,” he said. “Why would I go there? To see my destroyed house? To see the bodies of my dead cousins? To be cold outside?” he asked.
Khaled Al-Halabi said he would like to see his home in northern Gaza but did not plan to risk the journey back. At least with the truce “we will finally breathe after 48 days”, he said, welcoming the arrival of aid trucks from neighboring Egypt. Raed Saqer, who took refuge in Rafah, said he hoped the promises of increased aid would come true. “We needed this truce to treat the wounded, so that people could recover a little, because people displaced from the north are experiencing an unspeakable tragedy,” he said. “We hope it’s the first step towards a definitive ceasefire,” he added. – AFP
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