A temporary “ceasefire” means realizing everything we have lost

A temporary “ceasefire” means realizing everything we have lost

For Gazans, the four-day truce only allowed them to fully understand what they experienced: “It is only today that we realize that they are gone. It is only today that we feel the presence of death here.”

The streets are suddenly flooded. People can now inspect destroyed buildings in Khan Younis, Nuseirat, Deir al-Balah and other southern towns, moving away from their shelters to bring food to their families. Above all, they can now get news of their surviving family members, with whom contact had been broken throughout the war.

They can now look for each other, mourn together what they have lost and what they still risk losing.

The “temporary ceasefire,” if that is what they call it, does not mean the end of the war. It just means we have more time to cry and grieve.”

Even though the fighting that preceded the truce was some of the heaviest since the war began, people remained hopeful that it would end with a ceasefire that would allow them to return home safely. in Gaza City and the northern Gaza Valley.

Early yesterday morning, Israeli warplanes dropped several leaflets aimed at people remaining in the northern Gaza Strip, warning them not to leave. The Israeli military also randomly called cell phone numbers of registered residents of Gaza City, warning them not to return to the northern Gaza Valley. The leaflets and phone calls sent the same message: the war is not over, and to return home is to return to death.

But families who were torn apart by the genocide and displaced for more than a month are desperate for information about the fate of loved ones left behind. Many also want to return to where their homes once stood, perhaps to salvage what they can from the rubble, including provisions, important possessions and official documents.

Ahmad Lafi, 34, from the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, fled south to Khan Younis with his wife and two children at the start of the war, leaving behind his father and mother, two sisters and two brothers . He told Mondoweiss that he lost contact with them two weeks ago and did not know if they were alive. Neither the Red Cross nor any other organization was able to help him in his attempt to find information about their whereabouts.

Yesterday, he tried to head to Gaza City with scores of other refugees looking to do the same thing. When they reached the checkpoint on Salah al-Din Street, and before approaching within 100 meters of the Israeli armored vehicles, the soldiers began firing from tank-mounted machine guns in the direction of the crowd.

Immediately, dozens of people fell to the ground, seriously injured, and a few others were killed by machine gun fire, Ahmad told Mondoweiss. They then turned around and ran in the other direction.

Later in the day, Gaza government authorities announced the deaths of two martyrs in the incident and reported more than 15 people injured by live bullets in the legs and chest.

The terms of the ceasefire allow the passage of those remaining in the north to the south, but the same does not apply to those who wish to go in the other direction. Analysts believe that the absence of such a stipulation in the terms of the ceasefire means that the new military occupation of the northern Gaza Strip has been consolidated.

Shaher Abu Shirbi, 42, is a father of six children and a refugee in an UNRWA school in Khan Younis. He had hoped that the truce would give him the opportunity to return to Beit Hanoun in the north.

“Even though it’s dangerous, I want to check my house. Even if it is demolished, I want to take one last look at it,” Shaher told Mondoweiss.

Mr. Shaher explains that in the rush to flee the bombings, he and his wife were unable to take as many personal belongings and left behind important items such as their identity papers and birth certificates of their children. They also didn’t pack enough clothes and are scrambling to find warmer clothes as winter approaches.

Perhaps for some these priorities do not seem essential in the midst of death and destruction. But once the ceasefire came into effect, regardless of what people thought about it, it had the effect of giving some a glimmer of hope. Some families who remained in the north throughout the fighting also chose to stay there, even after the ceasefire ended. But these families received little respite from the truce, as it only gave them the chance to fully understand the extent of what they lost.

Shahd Matar, who lost two of her brothers in an airstrike in the Jabaliya refugee camp, where she and her family still live, wrote on Facebook during the ceasefire:

“The truce turned our house into a funeral home, as people started going to each other’s homes to express their condolences. For the first time during the war, and since the death of my two brothers, our neighbors and friends flocked to express their condolences to my mother and me,” she said.

“But my mother has settled in a corner of the house and won’t stop crying,” Shahd continues. “It was only today that we realized they were gone. It is only today that we feel the presence of death here.”


Translation: AFPS