Gaza residents nervous despite brief truce

Short five-hour pause in fighting has ended as Palestinians brace for what comes next in the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

Gaza City – Life  momentarily returned to the streets of the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning after Israel and Palestinian resistance groups accepted a request from the United Nations for a temporary pause in hostilities.

Having spent nine days trapped under intensive Israeli bombardment, people ventured out to markets, grocers, barbers, and banks, which have opened for the first time since before the Israeli aerial offensive began.

The five-hour cesation in fighting came a day after four Palestinian boys were killed at a beach in Gaza on Wednesday by an  apparent naval bombardment .

Attaf Baker [L] refused Israel’s apology for the incident [Fares Akram/Al Jazeera]

Attaf Baker, who lost his nine-year-old son, Ahed, and 10-year-old brother, Zakareya , told Al Jazeera that he was watching the news on television when a breaking news strap said that four children from his family were killed. ” They always go to the sea. They are kids and they have energy and can’t stay home all day,” he said. 

The Israeli army released a statement on the incident saying: “Based on prelimenary results, the target of this strike was Hamas terrorist operatives. The reported civilian casualties are a tragic outcome. The investigation is ongoing.”

What should I do with their apology? They killed my only son and now they apologise? They say it’s an error. Is ending the life of a child an error? Those were kids, not terrorists. They were just playing,” Attaf Baker said. 

Arabi Baker, 11, one of the children who survived the strike on the beach told Al Jazeera they were playing on the beach when the incident took place. “When we were playing, they fired a missile that hit my cousin, Ismail, and killed him, he said.

“Ismail was my closest cousin. We went to the school together, but he dropped out of school last year. I will go to his grave after the war is over. I will go there every day after school.”

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Earlier in the day, Omar al-Mukhtar Street in downtown Gaza was jammed with cars. Lines of employees blocked traffic waiting for the shuttered ATMs to open .

Moumtaz Abu Haloub, a Palestinian Authority (PA) employee, said he came  to Gaza City, where the banks are located, from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, which is under threat of ground invasion.

“We were running our life by borrowing groceries from relatives and friends,” he said of the nine-day bombardment.

He says that the first thing he will do when he get his salary will be paying his debts. “There will be a little sum of cash with me: I will buy some food and vegetables,” said the 39-year-old policeman, who provides for eight children.

He hopes that a ceasefire securing the lift of the Gaza blockade will take effect, “because we are very tired of the siege”.

Abu Haloub said he also does not trust Israel despite the pause. “I’m very nervous, tense… They may strike here or there… Who knows?”

Some families left their temporary shelters in UN-run schools, where they have stayed for days after evacuating their homes in the northern Gaza Strip for fears of an Israeli ground invasion. Some went back to check on their homes. “We will come back to the schools, we can’t return and stay in our homes before a full ceasefire is in place,” said Umm-Ayman al-Attar, 49, who was about to board a van with other family members to go and survey their home.

The sound of Israeli airstrikes and outgoing rockets were absent during the day, but Israeli surveillance and attack drones, were still buzzing overhead during the brief truce.

Source: Al Jazeera