Scenes of joy and cries of triumph amid the ruins
The mood in Gaza on the first morning of the ceasefire was of joy and triumph, writes RUADHAN MAC CORMAICin Gaza
Ahmad Saleh steps gingerly over the piles of building blocks and shards of glass that lead into the building’s central open space and, coming to a halt in a clearing of ashen soot, presents his family’s living room. It contains a blackened sink and the shell of a cream-coloured cabinet, but otherwise there is only rubble and mangled metal.
“And that’s the Hijazi family’s house,” Saleh says, pointing through his missing wall to a wide 10ft crater filled with tiles, blocks, furniture and toys. His neighbour’s house is gone.
Saleh was watching the television news with his parents and sister at about 7.30pm last Monday, he says, when two missiles fell on the Hijazi house next door. He and his family survived, but Fouad Hijazi and two of his small children were killed while Hijazi’s wife was seriously injured.
Yesterday, as many residents of Gaza’s Jabaliya district emerged from their homes for the first time in a week, neighbours gathered to take in the sight of the vanished home. For Saleh, a 31-year-old wearing a faded tracksuit and flip-flops, the question of whether the seven-day conflict between Hamas and Israel was worth it doesn’t even arise.
“The war was imposed on us,” he says. “We didn’t do anything. Our neighbours didn’t do anything.”
Notwithstanding the grief of bereaved families – a florist in the city said he was expecting a busy day preparing wreaths – the mood in Gaza on the first morning of the ceasefire was of joy and triumph.
Markets and shops re-opened, traffic again clogged the cratered streets and friends caught up after a week of aerial bombardments. Every so often, celebratory gunfire echoed around the city.
Hamas declared it a national holiday, and its militants, brandishing kalashnikovs and RPGs, moved slowly through the streets on the back of their jeeps. When one of the jeeps stopped, children gathered to shake the militants’ hands.
At the biggest rally, jubilant crowds waved green Hamas flags, but hundreds also carried the yellow emblems of the rival Fatah group led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas – a striking image of reconciliation that broke a prevailing pattern of bitterness since Hamas gunmen drove Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007.
“Today our unity materialised, Hamas and Fatah are one hand, one rifle and one rocket,” senior Hamas leader Khalil Al-Hayya told several thousand people in the main square of Gaza city.