GAZA CITY- Less than 24 hours after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was called, the streets were already filled with people and officials clearing away the rubble, and returning to work.
For the Hamas government, past experience has taught them to act quickly and efficiently.
“We have been through this before,” said Ismael Ashkar, an official from Hamas, referring to the 2008-09 Israeli war on Gaza.
“You’ll see, by the day after tomorrow, everything will be working normally.”
“We are not saying we are stronger than Israel, but what Israel saw this time was just a fraction of what we have“
– Ismael Ashkar, official from Hamas
In 2009, Hamas got to work on reconstruction by recycling the rubble of the destroyed infrastructure and smuggling material through the tunnels at the border.
“From 2009 until now, we managed to build 70 to 80 per cent of everything that was destroyed,” he said.
“This time, it will be even quicker because the ceasefire requires Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza.”
Describing the role and mechanisms of their military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, Ashkar said they have been working night and day since the last war to achieve the level of expertise they now have.
“This involved a lot of training and development, both from inside Gaza and outside,” he said.
“We are not saying we are stronger than Israel, but what Israel saw this time was just a fraction of what we have.”
The Israeli attacks on Gaza killed a total of 162 Palestinians, including more than 40 children, and left more than 500 others wounded. Five Israelis were also killed.
The ceasefire, pushed forward by Israel, came into effect on Wednesday evening, following eight days of Israeli strikes from both the skies and the sea.
On their part, several Palestinian armed groups fired a barrage of rockets into Israel, several of which reached as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
New chapter for Gaza
Regarding the use of armed struggle against Israel, and whether or not this is something they will continue, Ashkar answered simply that they will keep going forward.
“We are on a ladder; every step below us has been burnt, so the only way is up,” he said.
“We will not go backwards.”
For Hamas, “our future will be focused on rebuilding the country, and keeping the resistance”.
As thousands of Gaza residents gathered on Thursday at the Unknown Soldier’s Square in Gaza City to celebrate their victory, for the first time in a long time, flags from every Palestinian faction were raised together, flying defiantly as the crowds chanted in support of the resistance.
“Hamas will not be able to make decisions alone as they only represent a sector of society. But everybody has to be under one colour, which is the colour of Palestine“
– Mohammad Hijazi, local Fatah politician
Cries of “Hit! Hit Tel Aviv!” and “Resistance! Resistance!” were repeated over again by jubilant men, women, and children, as well as “the people want an end to the division!”
For many, the most recent atrocities committed by Israel against Gaza were not only a victory for the Palestinian resistance, but a huge step to bridge the divide between the two main opposing factions, Hamas and Fatah.
“What happened is a victory, a massive achievement for the Palestinian revolution, and it has created a unity between all of us in Gaza,” said Sager al-Moughrabi, a 51-year-old Fatah supporter who had spent considerable time in Israeli prisons during the 1980s.
“We are all one people, and we are all proud of what has been achieved.
“We, as people, are now committed to the resistance more than ever”.
Mariam Moussa, who came to the public square with her children, claimed to not support any of the factions.
Yet her voice was one of the loudest when chanting: “This is a new chapter for Gaza. For the first time we are all one.”
She said “we are all part of the resistance, and we thank them for protecting us”, adding: “God willing, next time our rockets will bring down [Israel’s] planes!”
Unified as one people
Mohammad Hijazi, a local Fatah politician, praised the Palestinian resistance, saying: “This is a victory for all the Palestinians, because these attacks were against all of us, and we all resisted by living through it.”
Regarding the boost the “victory” has given to Hamas and its role as one of the main political factions, Hijazi was diplomatic in his answers.
“All of the factions are celebrating this victory, and now we will stay talking together,” he said.
“Today, as Fatah, we will work together, and we are working continuously as one body towards achieving one goal.”
Hijazi said despite the victory, “Hamas will not be able to make decisions alone as they only represent a sector of society. But everybody has to be under one colour, which is the colour of Palestine”.
Imad Abu Rahme, a local leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a faction with leftist-liberal views which in the past has criticised Hamas’s style of governance, was more cautious about what might happen to Gaza now.
“There is a concern that Hamas may maintain a limited view of the way they govern,” he said, “especially following the amount of support that came from the Arab world. This could let them stay as they are without changing.”
While the PFLP and Hamas share the same philosophy regarding resistance against Israeli occupation and aggression, they differ sharply in terms of ideology.
“Religion should not control us; rather state law should. Hamas’ interpretation of religion should not control us,” Abu Rahme said.
According to him, Hamas has put a lot of restrictions on the freedom of people in Gaza, “and sometimes they deal with people in a way that is not in line with the law, using authority and the media as a way to enforce Islamisation of values”.
“Today, Hamas needs to improve, especially in their relationship with people and other resistance brigades,” Abu Rahme said, explaining that what he called the victory of Gaza was a result of the resilience of the people themselves.
“There were a lot of martyrs and destruction, yet the people still kept supporting the resistance,” he said.
“Hamas therefore needs to deal with their relationships in a more respected way now. Neither Hamas, nor the other factions will achieve anything without the support of the people.”
Follow Nour Samaha on Twitter: @Nour_Samaha