Many Palestinians in occupied Gaza said on Tuesday they saw nothing new from the gathering, having grown tired of summits that have become meaningless by their abundance.

"It's the same old same old. So many summits have come and gone. Besides, it is only security related, nothing more. And if there is no binding agenda, the summit will fail. This is just a delaying tactic being used by Sharon," 38-year-old Nahla al-Natur said. 

"We have taken so many decisions in the past. Why doesn't the international community force Israel to abide by them instead of coming up with new summits?"

Others were guardedly optimistic about the summit, in which Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon verbally committed themselves to a "mutual ceasefire". 

Cautious optimism

While not a permanent solution to the problem, they acknowledged, it may bring some much-needed if fleeting relief to a devastated Palestinian population.

Store owner Hisham al-Nabulsi said, "It's good for now. People are tired, they are poor, and they are hungry. They have truly reached the point of misery in all its meaning. This is a security-related summit, not a political one anyway, and in that regard it is a positive step.

"I have more hope in Sharon than I do in other so-called doves like Peres. I trust that he has no interest in continuing to occupy Gaza because Israel is interested in economic occupation of the Middle East now," he added, alluding to the Israeli prime minister's comment addressed to the Palestinian people about having no desire to rule over Palestinians.    

Naaima al-Araj is an unemployed widow of seven children who said she did not have money for the day's dinner. She told Aljazeera.net, "We need peace ... not more summits. We need the release of the prisoners, and the right of return for the refugees. At the same time, we pray for something to come out of this meeting. The situation is truly bad."

Issues ignored

But families of prisoners being held in Israel, who have been demonstrating in the thousands throughout Gaza city for the past few days, said they had hoped for more tangible results on the issue, which was not so much as addressed in the speeches.  

"It's the same old same old.  So many summits have come and gone.  Besides, it is only security related, nothing more. And if there is no binding agenda, the summit will fail" 

Nahla al-Natur,
Palestinian refugee in Gaza

"Listen to us, oh leaders at Sharm al-Shaikh: There can be no peace so long as the prisoners remain holed up in their cells," they chanted.

Nidal al-Sarfiti, two of whose sons were killed by Israeli occupation forces and one other imprisoned in 2002, was one such family member.

"We were hoping we would see something serious come of [the summit]. But Sharon is refusing to release prisoners who he says have 'blood on their hands', although he is the one who has blood on his hands. We have no trust in him. The Israelis sign agreements and they renege on them. Our trust is in God alone," he said.

While Sharon offered to release a token number of prisoners with relatively minor infractions on their records, a move that Palestinian officials have called "insulting", the fates of some 8000 others remain unclear.

Points of disagreement

In addition, some of the more complicated and crucial issues, such as the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank, and the illegal separation wall, were completely absent from the speeches. As was any mention of occupation.

Without addressing such issues or providing more immediate relief for the Palestinian population, whether in the way of removing checkpoints that tear apart Palestinian towns or offering a true withdrawal, a ceasefire cannot be sustained, according to shopkeeper Khamis Allawy. 

The only one who is making out with any gains from the summit, he says, is Sharon. 

"This [summit] is to the benefit of the Israeli government only and Sharon personally. He's asking for a ceasefire from one side only, using the equation of security for peace ... of 'calm' with 'improvement'. But it is an old equation, and it won't work. 

"I have no hope, and I'm not optimistic. He's only withdrawing from cities that he believes are 'calm' or neutralised. What he said to the Palestinian people - about wanting peace and wanting us to govern ourselves - was a lie. 

"How can we govern ourselves as he says if we can't even go from here to the south of Gaza without being stopped? If you truly want peace, and want to withdraw, then withdraw from all of our cities."