Bombing has ceased, but pain and destruction remains in Gaza City
A Palestinian sells balloons Friday in Gaza City in front of the Al-Shuruq building, which was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike. Image: Mahmud Hams / AFP via Getty Images
After 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, a ceasefire went into effect at 2 a.m. local time on Friday. Gaza health officials say at least 240 people have been killed there by waves of airstrikes from Israel. Twelve people have died in Israel from more than 4,000 rockets fired by militants in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.
Friday was the first day that foreign journalists were allowed to enter the Gaza Strip since the fighting began.
In Gaza City, completely intact buildings stood right next to where others had been razed. One building looked like a tiered cake, with one tier stacked on top of the other.
Families walked the streets together, dressed in chic clothes – holiday clothes for Eid, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan and which began last week. Due to the war, people were unable to visit their friends and relatives during the holidays, so they celebrated it today.
“We are finally leaving our homes. We go out into the streets to celebrate this holiday, to visit our loved ones. And we see the pain and destruction with our own eyes, ”said Tahani, a 30-year-old woman who walked with her husband and three daughters. All wore matching pink outfits.
In Al Wahida Street, Israeli airstrikes killed more than 40 people, according to health officials in Gaza. A few buildings on the street collapsed, burying the families alive. Israel said it was attacking a militant tunnel deep underground and the foundations of the buildings collapsed.
The street is now a wall of rubble where the apartments used to be. A sofa was crushed under a large piece of cement.
Who won this battle? Gazans say they did.
In a video game store, a young gamer named Hossam Ashour said Hamas and the Palestinians were defending Jerusalem, its Al-Aqsa mosque and a neighborhood where Israel was about to expel Palestinians. Yet, he said, Gazans do not deserve all this death and destruction.
This destruction signifies a need for major reconstruction.
Hundreds of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. For now, Gazans are marking the rubble with signs bearing the owner’s name and phone number, so they can be contacted when help arrives.
And there is the current danger of unexploded bombs. Also in Al Wahida Street, workers were removing two large unexploded missiles, under the surveillance of militants.
The fighting has ceased for now, but dangerous demining work is ahead.
Daniel Estrin of NPR reported from Gaza City. NPR’s Laurel Wamsley reported from Washington, DC
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