Before a scheduled 72-hour ceasefire collapsed early Friday, Gazan residents tried to use the time to collect possessions, as well as the bodies of loved ones buried under rubble.
Photos by: Anne Paq and Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org
As the death toll in Gaza topped 1,500, hundreds of residents returned to the southern Gaza Strip village of Khuza’a, hoping to make use of an announced 72-hour ceasefire to collect bodies and salvage possessions. Khuza’a has been cut off from the rest of Gaza and occupied by Israeli soldiers since attacks began there more than a week ago. A large number of residents have been killed and injured, and many homes destroyed. Most residents fled the Israeli attacks when they began.
According to one eyewitness account by Abu Saleem, 56, a resident of Khuza’a:
Israelis claim that Hamas is using us as human shields – how? This is a lie, we do not see fighters in the streets. It’s them, the Israelis who used us as human shields in Khuza’a and Shejaiya. They turned our houses into military posts, terrified residents in the houses. They attacked innocent civilians with their bombs and missiles, they attacked chicken farms, they burned our crops, they have no mercy.
The ceasefire collapsed almost as soon as it went into effect. As Samer Badawi reported on +972:
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.
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.