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Dispatch from Gaza: The bloody devolution of a 'ceasefire'

A 72-hour ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was called off Friday morning after a mere two hours. Samer Badawi visited the Gazan towns of Shejaiya and Khuza’a, where people rushed to retrieve their belongings before the fighting resumed.

GAZA CITY – After a night of relentless shelling from tanks and naval warships, a ceasefire meant to take hold in Gaza at 8 a.m. this morning quickly devolved into fierce fighting on two fronts along the Strip’s eastern and southern borders. As of this writing, Israeli shelling in Rafah had killed 40 Palestinians, and heavy bombardment was visible east of Gaza City, near the already battered towns of Shejaiya and Khuza’a.

Just after the ceasefire took effect, residents of both eastern towns scrambled to retrieve what they could of their belongings as news of the renewed fighting filtered through the chaotic scene.

Residents of Shejaiya rush to retrieve their belongings during a temporary ceasefire, August 1, 2014. The ceasefire fell apart soon after and fighting in the area resumed (photo: Samer Badawi)

Residents of Shejaiya rush to retrieve their belongings during a temporary ceasefire, August 1, 2014. The humanitarian truce was called off soon after and fighting in the area resumed (photo: Samer Badawi)

Children hurried on foot through lines of cars, trucks, and donkey carts, carrying backpacks filled with their schoolbooks. Adults carried mattresses, gas canisters and infants too young to walk. Teenagers hauled away remnants of the earlier Israeli assault – metal ammunition cases, bullet casings, spent tank shells and mortars.

Despite the chaos, the scene was eerily quiet. “See that man there,” said one resident taking a break on the side of the road. “He lost nine family members in the fighting.” The man walked past us with a heavy gait, solemn but stoic. Another resident from the Munasra family stood inside her gutted home, describing how 40 members of her extended family fled on foot, returning to find blackened walls or others that, simply, were no longer standing. “We had a couch here,” she said, pointing to a floor that was only shards of glass and concrete. “I guess it disappeared in the flames.”

The families seemed unfazed when the sound of automatic rifles rattled the air some 90 minutes after they had returned. Later, we learned that, around the same time, a Palestinian man had been shot dead nearby by Israeli snipers.

That, say Gaza’s residents, was how the ceasefire broke. But the Israeli military claimed the shots were in response to a Hamas operation in which fighters, using a tunnel under the Rafah border, kidnapped an Israeli officer. Hamas issued a statement saying the kidnapping took place before the ceasefire.

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza'a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The temporary ceasefire later fell apart and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

During a temporary ceasefire residents of Khuza’a return to find their homes destroyed and retrieve the bodies of those killed. The humanitarian truce was later called off and fighting in the area was renewed, August 1, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

As the two sides traded blame, news of the kidnapping spread quickly, and Gaza became a mix of frenetic activity and dread. Residents scrambled to buy bread, charge phones and hunker down before what the Israeli military vowed would be a massive response.

It came almost immediately. As artillery units pounded Rafah, we heard from one resident that Israeli forces had warned residents to leave the area. Meanwhile, UNRWA reported that the number of displaced Gazans had already reached more than a quarter-million. With more than 120,000 residents in Rafah, their numbers would push the total number of displaced above 20 percent of Gaza’s population. With 44 percent of Gaza’s territory now consumed by Israel’s expanded “buffer zone,” it’s unclear where Rafah’s displaced would go or how the UN agency charged with sheltering them would cope.

But they are on the move. Said one Rafah resident reached by phone, “We’ll go anywhere just to stay away from the tanks. They’re much scarier than the F-16s – because they’re completely random.”

“Anyone can die at any moment.”

Related:
40 Palestinians killed; IDF soldier captured by Hamas
Photos: Deadly week in Gaza
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths
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    COMMENTS

    1. Richard

      Hilarious attempt to blame Israel for breaking the ceasefire. Your BS doesn’t even line up with Hamas’s account of when the ceasefire broke. +972 at 100% full propaganda capacity at this point in the war.

      Reply to Comment
      • Johnboy

        Richard: “Your BS doesn’t even line up with Hamas’s account of when the ceasefire broke.”

        Hamas, twitter, 7:34am: “At 7 a.m. a group clashed with forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them”

        Odd, that.

        If the clash of arms took place at 9:30am (the IDF’s claim, and yours) then how could Hamas be reporting that clash at 7:30am?

        Maybe they had some help from Mr Peabody and Sherman.

        Or maybe there is a simpler explanation. You know, one that doesn’t violate physics and causality.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Richard

      +972’s “reporting” on this war will be the tipping point that dries up money from Rockefeller Brothers fund, just like Durban led the Ford Foundation to reverse course. You’ll have to fundraise in Qatar and at AKP rallies in the near future I think.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bar

      Lies, lies and more lies.

      972mag is like a propaganda leaflet that changes its cover every day. And what does it publish? Arab anti-Israeli propaganda.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Whiplash

      A Finnish reporter reports that Hamas is shooting rockets out of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza at Israel.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu-e5qWXx-k

      Hamas uses the hospital as a command center, as an interrogation center to interrogate Palestinians, as a storage site for missiles and as a launching site for its rockets. Hamas has transformed a protected civilian hospital into a legitimate war target. It is being reported that civilians are leaving the area of the hospital because they believe Hamas has made it a target.

      Last week a Palestinian journalist wrote he had been interrogated by armed Hamas men at the Al-Shifa Hospital.

      An Italian journalist a couple of days posted that he was an eye witness to Hamas rockets hitting the Al-Shifa hospital and killing Palestinian kids.

      Yet 972mag will not report the truth about how Hamas is conducting the war.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Joel

      Believing that the ceasefire would begin at 8 am, Rafah civilians sought to take advantage of the humanitarian ceasefire to gather possessions, or see what happened to their homes. That’s when Hamas attacked and kidnapped the IDF officer.
      The civilians of Rafah, hit in the bombardment, are truly the victims of Hamas. They trusted the group’s declaration of a ceasefire, took to the streets, and got caught up in the fighting which was started by Hamas.

      Reply to Comment
      • Johnboy

        Joel: “That’s when Hamas attacked and kidnapped the IDF officer.”

        Ahem.

        Hamas put out this tweet at 7:34am: “At 7 a.m. a group clashed with forces east of Rafah and caused many injuries and death to them”

        Which leaves you in a pretty impossible position i.e. you claimed that Hamas attacked the IDF at 9:30am, even though Hamas had already reported the clash at 7:30am.

        How do you explain that?
        Time machine, perhaps?
        Crystal ball, maybe?

        Or maybe, just maybe, the IDF was lying when it claimed that the clash occurred at 9:20am?

        Nah…. except…. ITV News editor Rageh Omaar tweeted this: “Just returned from Southern gaza – got to border with Israel multiple artillery barrages whilst there an hour after supposed ceasefire”

        An. Hour. After. Supposed. Ceasefire.

        Help me out here, Joel… an hour after 8:00am would be…. 9:00am.

        Correct?

        But the IDF insists that Hamas attacked their troops at…. 9:30am.

        Correct?

        So those IDF retaliatory artillery barrages were “retaliating” for an attack that hadn’t happened yet.

        Correct?

        Reply to Comment
        • bar

          Would you cut it out with the BS already? You are bragging about tweets after it was only yesterday that Hamas claimed there was no such attack to its knowledge. So there were public tweets but Hamas claimed it didn’t know about an attack?

          Just swallow the fact that Hamas has now violated its 6th cease fire of this war, this final one being a UN-US brokered one.

          Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            “You are bragging about tweets after it was only yesterday that Hamas claimed there was no such attack to its knowledge.”

            Riiiight. Because the Hamas higher command – you know, the ones who confirm or deny – are also the dudes sitting around tweeting on their phones.

            Correct?

            “So there were public tweets but Hamas claimed it didn’t know about an attack?”

            No, the Hamas are reporting that they were unable to re-establish any contact with their forces AFTER the clash i.e. they don’t know their fate, nor the fate of any IDF soldiers who might have been captured by them.

            That is a totally different statement to your crude attempt at verballing them.

            They never denied that there was a clash. They never denied knowledge that there had been a clash.

            What they said is what they said i.e. that they lost contact with their forces AFTER the clash, and so they assume that force was wiped out in the subsequent Israeli over-reaction.

            After all, Israel seems to be doing a lot of that lately, right, bar?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bar

            Wrong, Johnboy. If Israel would have overreacted, there wouldn’t be a Gaza left standing and the vast majority of killed wouldn’t be young men.

            And just to add to your errors, Mashaal himself acknowledged that Hamas fired first. He justified it by stating that Israel “moved” troops into an area and thereby “violated” the cease-fire. In other words, Mashaal himself admits it was Hamas that violated it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            “Mashaal himself acknowledged that Hamas fired first.”

            Enjoy moving those goalposts, Bar?

            Nobody is disputing that “Hamas fired first”.

            What I am disputing is the IDF claim that places the firefight at 9:30am.

            Not so, says Hamas.

            They say the IDF was redeploying its troops at 2am, so they hit them at 7am because – du’oh! – that’s Before The Ceasefire.

            Now, so sorry, but nothing in Mashaal’s quote supports the IDF claim of a clash of arms at 9:30am.

            Care to try again?

            Reply to Comment
          • Goldmarx

            Oh, come on, don’t encourage him!

            Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          I’m aware of the Hamas tweets. Are they genuine, or forgeries? Any contemporaneous tweets from Rafah confirming an encounter at 6:30 am? Show me something from from Twitter that the dated tweets are bona fide and I’ll accept the Hamas narrative. Until then…

          Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            Joel: “Are they genuine, or forgeries?”

            Are you suggesting that Hamas can forge the date-stamp on twitter posts?

            How, exactly?

            “Any contemporaneous tweets from Rafah confirming an encounter at 6:30 am?”

            Riiiiiight. Because Gazans hold disco parties down in those tunnels, so – of course! – there are going to be Other People down in those tunnels withnessing firefights between Hamas and the IDF.

            Riiiiiight.

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the ceasefire violation on Hamas. Is he pro Israel?

            So did Obama.

            Are they both wrong Johnboy? Are they in the habit of engaging their mouths first and the brain only later? Don’t you think they have reason to believe Israel rather than Hamas? Do they act without seeing evidence first?

            I guess it is possible. But somehow when they sound off against Israel, you guys seem to take their claims at face value. Why not now? Are you suffering from an acute case of biasISIS? Anyone who gets struck by that disease always finds reasons to make excuses for Arab Islamists. No matter what …..

            Reply to Comment
          • Johnboy

            Hahah! Both Ban and Obama are politicians. Are you really suggesting that politicians are far,far,far too noble to be incapable of leaping to conclusions, to assigning blame based upon faulty knowledge, or to being misled by partisan reports and doctored allegations.

            Here, an example: a US President blamed an Iraqi dictator for refusing to dispose of his WMD. That blame did – of course! – prove his guilt.

            Right?

            Reply to Comment
          • JohnW

            “Hahah! Both Ban and Obama are politicians. Are you really suggesting that politicians are far,far,far too noble to be incapable of leaping to conclusions, to assigning blame based upon faulty knowledge, or to being misled by partisan reports and doctored allegations.”

            Hahah, I hope you will remember to say the same thing when Ban and Obama blame Israel for something the next time.

            Reply to Comment