Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Gazans pick up pieces as guns fall silent

Posted by Alessandro Accorsi su 19 gennaio, 2009

Omar Karmi and Safwat Kahlout, Foreign Correspondents

The National – UAE

GAZA // It was the first quiet day in Gaza in more than three weeks. And as both Israel and Hamas vowed to hold fire, for now at least, Gazans slowly began to emerge from their shelters to take stock.

In some areas, that was easily done. In Beit Lahiya, an agricultural village north-east of Gaza City, where Israeli troops and tanks had pushed in early in the offensive and which was the scene of some heavy fighting, there was devastation everywhere.

Earthmovers had been called in to clear debris from the streets, which had been changed beyond recognition. Rubble was everywhere. Houses were either destroyed or only partially left standing. Schools and mosques were in ruins and greenhouses, which provided livelihoods for many people here, had been flattened.

On the roads, cars were moving again, mostly bringing those who had sought shelter elsewhere back to assess the damage to their homes.

Jamal Atar, 49, sat with his unshaven face in his hands atop the rubble of what was once a three-storey house that was home to his and a brother’s families. In the first days of the Israeli ground offensive, he took his wife and seven children to seek refuge at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school.

“I lost three brothers. I lost US$20,000 with those greenhouses there. I lost my home,” said the farmer, his voice rising as his despair gave way to anger. “God take revenge on all those Arab countries who sat and watched us being slaughtered by the Israeli army and did nothing to help.”

Mr Atar did not know what to do next.

“What kind of plans can I make? I am at the mercy of God. The Israelis left nothing for us to survive on. We will have to stay in the UNRWA school until we can find somewhere to live.”

Not far from the ruins of Mr Atar’s house, an elderly woman sat crying. Her house too had been destroyed. Like Mr Atar and an estimated 45,000 others, Um Mohammad, 68, and her family had sheltered at an UNRWA school during the fighting. She did not want to talk, but between her sobs there were flashes of anger.

“We have nothing left. The house, everything is gone. God show no mercy on those who did this to us.”

It was the first quiet day in Gaza, but a tragic one nonetheless. As paramedics gained access to different areas for the first time, they pulled 95 bodies from the rubble.

Taking a short break from his duties in Beit Lahiya, one paramedic, Muhannad Mughrabi, 36, shook his head.

“I have done this for many years, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “Bodies are in pieces, faces are burnt. Some relatives could not even recognise their kin. This is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

On a bystander’s phone, a text message beeps. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has announced that it was against the ceasefire. A group of young men around the medic laughs wearily.

“If we were to believe all the SMS’s we get from the PFLP, the DFLP, [Islamic] Jihad and everyone else,” said one, “we would expect them to be invading Tel Aviv any moment now”.

Everyone was a target for derision except Hamas’s Izzedin Al Qassam Brigades.

“They fought,” said another young man. “We sat at home and they fought and died. We respect them. But we are tired. We want a rest.”

In the Jabalya neighbourhood of Gaza City, Mohammad Dabour, 54, could count himself as one of the lucky ones. The 54-year-old government teacher’s house had sustained only relatively minor damage. The windows and doors had been blown out, the water tank was destroyed and inside was covered in dust. But he was relieved to be able to begin repairing his home.

Mr Dabour is a Fatah supporter in a Hamas neighbourhood.

“We are fighting a state that does not respect the human being, any rules or agreements. Hamas needs to understand this. Someone said the other day, ‘Israel has won and Hamas has won. Only the people lost’. I agree.”

Mr Dabour said Hamas should stand down.

“Fatah may be corrupt, but the international community will deal with it. The world does not want Hamas, so it should take this into account.”

But to Hamas supporters like Abu Khalid, a neighbour, the offensive looked very different.

“Hamas won this war. Hamas fighters are still there. The government is still there. Practically speaking, we won. Hamas won.”

At least 1,200 people were killed in Gaza since Dec 27 when the air strikes began and more than 5,500 have been wounded. These numbers are liable to change as more bodies are pulled from the rubble and families get a chance to reconnect.

But even if the violence stops, by no means a certainty, the battle will continue. Both Israel and Hamas will claim victory, and it is likely that both, in one way or another, can.

What happens with the diplomatic efforts in Egypt, however, will to a large extent determine if ordinary Gazans, some of them now displaced three or four times over, will be able to pick themselves up and rebuild their lives out of the rubble they are left with.

Again.

okarmi@thenational.ae

* Omar Karmi reported from Jerusalem. Safwat Kahlout is in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip

http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090119/FOREIGN/326081803/1009/COMMENTARY

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