Gazans wish for peace and a strong resistance

It is an optimistic man who opens his mirror shop during a one-sided and fragile ceasefire.

At his shop on Tuesday morning – an hour after Israel said it was pausing its assault on Gaza and before the hostilities resumed – Abdullah Sawafri (62) was sitting outside with his glass, cutting tools and reading the Qur’an as Gaza’s streets filled up in hope of an end to the current eight-day conflict.

“There have been no air strikes since nine this morning,” he says. “I haven’t had any customers yet but I’m expecting people to call me to fix their broken windows.”

Even as he speaks, a rocket flies overhead towards Israel, underlining the fragility of the hoped-for cessation of violence. Israel’s ceasefire ended a few short hours later when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a resumption of attacks in response to ongoing missile fire from Gaza.

But for just under six hours, Gaza exhaled. Its streets filled up and bakeries, barbers and bike shops opened for business. “I want peace,” says Sawafri.

“I’m exhausted by war. My own wish is not to see rockets fired from Gaza or fired at Gaza. We just want to live. We have been under siege for so long, we can’t live. What we need is peace and to be able to live like normal people.”

Schools across northern Gaza were opened as refugees for those displaced by the past week of bombing and shelling. But families who only on Monday carried their belongings in and hitched their donkey and horse carts to the school wall outside were leaving on the promise of an end to the violence.

Among those leaving was Ahmed Zarteet (23), who has come with 13 members of his family to a school in Jabaliya. Carrying three mattresses on his back out of the gate, he ties them to the roof of a yellow Mercedes taxi for the short ride to his home in Beit Lahia.

“I want to go back,” he says, as his wife walks past, carrying their small baby. “I want it to be over. But I want it to finish with the resistance’s demands fulfilled: an end to the siege, a release of the prisoners and an opening of the crossings.

“Maybe it is finishing, maybe it will escalate. But we should finish with a strong resistance.” – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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