Gaza City – Normal life has trickled back onto Gaza‘s streets after a three-day escalation in the besieged enclave last week that saw at least 25 Palestinians and four Israelis killed.
The truce, mediated by Egypt and the United Nations, went into effect early on Monday morning after Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with air raids, artillery and gunboat shooting as armed factions in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets at towns and settlements in southern Israel.
Yet, while a shaky calm has returned to Gaza, those who lost loved ones in the recent Israeli air raids are in mourning, their lives changed forever. Several members of three families, including a pregnant woman, were killed during the escalation.
On Sunday afternoon, the al-Madhoun family, which lives in the northern Gaza Strip, was sitting at home when it was struck. Palestinian officials said it was hit by an Israeli air raid.
“A few minutes after I went outside in the garden, a big explosion shook our house,” Ahmad al-Madhoun, 34, told Al Jazeera.
“I ran inside screaming hoping to save my family. I found my wife, Amani, who was pregnant in her ninth month bleeding under the rubble. She was killed by shrapnel in her belly.”
In total, five members of the al-Madhoun family were killed in the strike, five others were wounded and the family home was destroyed.
“My 65-year-old father Akram, my wife Amani and our unborn child, my 21-year-old brother Abdullah, and my brother-in-law Fadi Bardan were all killed in the attack,” Ahmad said.
Among those wounded were Ahmad’s three-year-old son Mahmoud, who remained in intensive care at the hospital, his two-year-old daughter Fatma and three of his brother’s children.
“My wife was preparing clothes for the new baby,” Ahmad said, his eyes glistening with tears. “My children were happily playing with the Ramadan lanterns their grandfather brought them.”
“Where’s the justification of targeting a family sitting peacefully at their home?”
In the Sheikh Ziad neighbourhood in northern Gaza, an Israeli air raid killed Ahmad al-Ghazali, 31, his wife Eman, 30, and their four-month-old baby girl Maria, when their home was struck.
“I can’t believe it,” Ahmad al-Ghazali’s mother said, tears running down her cheeks.
“Ahmad was packing his luggage to evacuate his home with his family and join us in his brother’s home,” the 69-year-old mother told Al Jazeera.
Umm Ahmad was at her youngest son’s house when suddenly their phones were inundated with calls asking about Ahmad.
“I felt that there was something wrong,” she said. “We tried to call him or his wife but there was no answer.”
It was only after Sahar, Ahmad’s sister, read the news on Facebook that a family of three – a couple and their infant daughter – had been killed in their neighbourhood, that Umm Ahmad had her worst fears confirmed.
“I can’t understand why they were killed,” she said. “My son was a simple man working in a fizzy drinks factory. He doesn’t have any political affiliation and is not involved in military action.”
“He was very kind, his wife too. I was very attached to their baby girl and couldn’t wait to see her begin walking and talking. The loss is heartbreaking.”
The home of the al-Ghazali’s neighbours, the Abu al-Jadyan family, was also hit, killing Talal Abu al-Jadyan, 46, his wife Raghda, 40, and their 11-year-old son Abdulrahman.
Talal’s oldest son, Mohammed, told Al Jazeera he was standing with a friend outside the building when a missile struck the fifth floor where his family lives.
It was around 8:00pm on Sunday, and Mohammed and those around him rushed to save his family and his neighbours.
“We could see nothing,” the 26-year-old said. “It was dark and the floor was totally destroyed. I found my brother’s body, but I didn’t find my parents.”
Mohammed spent the night thinking of his parents’ bodies buried under the rubble. Early on Monday, he went back with his relatives to look for the bodies.
“I found them under the rubble of a building behind us. They were torn into shreds.”
Gaza-based political analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan told Al Jazeera that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to convey a strong message to Hamas that it is he who sets the conditions regarding a ceasefire, and not the demands made by Hamas via mediators.
“Netanyahu’s conditions for a ceasefire to hold is linked with ‘calmness’, and not as Hamas wants, with ending the siege,” he said.
“The unwillingness of Palestinians to return to the equation of calm for calm without results, such as ending the siege, will keep the state of tension continuing, including the risk of a new wave of armed conflict,” he said.
“The results achieved after the last round of violence, in which Israel said it will implement its side of the ceasefire understandings, shows that the truce is fragile based on the lack of commitment of Israel,” he said.