The truce in Gaza has been more painful than the 50 days that preceded it

The ‘humanitarian pause’ allowed us to see the massive destruction and feel the enormous pain of loss.

A Palestinian woman sits by buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. on the second day of the temporary ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian woman sits next to buildings destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza on November 25, 2023 [Adel Hana/AP]

Many of us did not dare go out on the first day of the temporary truce in Gaza. We were too afraid it would not hold. On the second day, we gathered our courage and stepped out.

The daylight illuminated the destruction caused by Israel’s non-stop bombardment of Gaza over the past seven weeks. We did not recognise our neighbourhoods and streets.

There are whole stretches of land where there is not a single building standing. Nothing has been spared: houses, residential towers, shops, bakeries, cafes, schools, universities, libraries, children’s centres, mosques, churches.

The destruction was the first thing we saw. Then came the pain.

Amid the panic, alarm and scurrying to survive the bombs, many of us did not fully grasp the loss of loved ones, the wounds sustained, the lives, bodies and dreams shattered and destroyed. Many could not bury their dead. Many could not grieve.

As Sabri Farra, a medical student from Gaza, wrote in a post on social media: “The word catastrophe is insufficient to describe this. It is a collective inferno of extermination against the Palestinian people.”

I left my home in Gaza City during the first week of the war. I was lucky to have made it. On the same day, the Israeli army bombed a convoy of evacuees, killing at least 70 people.

The road that Israel designated as a “safe route” for people to evacuate from the north to the south has been anything but safe. Throughout the past seven weeks, people who made it south reported seeing harrowing scenes of bodies of civilians lying everywhere. The horror was documented on videos circulated on social media.

When the truce came into effect, more Palestinians decided to evacuate from the north, hoping it would be safe to do so.

But as they made their way south, they encountered Israeli army checkpoints, where they were stopped and searched and their belongings confiscated. Women in my family and friends told me that Israeli soldiers even took their gold. They were forced to walk with their hands in the air, carrying nothing but their IDs.

Those who made it through were lucky, as Israeli soldiers have also been systematically abducting evacuees. I have friends with siblings who were taken and are still missing after trying to evacuate through the designated “safe route”. The Israelis arrested even Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha. He was let go only after a massive international campaign for his release. We still don’t know the true number of those who have been abducted.

The walk from the north to the south is almost eight hours if you don’t stop. This is a trip many Palestinians are struggling to make as they are too old, too young, too tired, too starved and dehydrated, injured or disabled.

While going north to south can be risky and could lead to abduction, going in the opposite direction can cost you your life. The Israeli army dropped leaflets on us warning us not to attempt that trip. Israeli soldiers killed at least two people trying to go back to the north on the first day of the truce.

I, like hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, am banned from returning to my home in Gaza City. I am heartbroken that I cannot go and check on my house to see if it is still standing. Many others who have family and friends shot in the streets or stuck under the rubble cannot go retrieve their bodies and give them a proper burial.

Israel controls everything: where we go, what we do, how much we eat or drink, whether we can save the wounded or those stuck under the rubble for days. It even decides how we tend to our dead. Its army is forcing more and more of us into an ever-shrinking space before it resumes the indiscriminate bombardment and the genocide.

The trucks of humanitarian aid Israel is allowing to enter Gaza cannot alleviate the humanitarian disaster. We are barely surviving. If the bombs don’t kill us, the hunger, the thirst, the lack of medicine, the cold will.

This pause has been more painful than the 50 days before it. It is the first time the people of Gaza were able to look at their open wounds, martyred children, slaughtered families, destroyed homes and shattered lives. Just imagine living for six days just to prepare and wait for your death on the seventh.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.