On Sunday evening the Israel Defense Forces began a troop withdrawal from Gaza, following three straight weeks of attacks. Israel's unilateral ceasefire was announced earlier in the day, and met with an offer for a one-week ceasefire from Hamas, the full text of which is here. Bloggers in Gaza, able to safely leave their homes for the first time in weeks, are mulling over the events of the day.
Palestinian photojournalist Sameh Habeeb blogs at Gaza Strip, The Untold Story:
Thousands of people appeared on the Gaza streets. Everybody is trying to explore what has happened to his relatives, houses and areas. I have documented a massive devastation throughout east, north and west of Gaza Strip. The devastation storms everything needed for normal life. Houses, schools, hospitals, clinics, police stations, charities, universities and streets totally and partially destroyed.
Australian activist Sharyn Lock, who writes at Tales to Tell, updates us:
So you remember I wrote this about Wed morning Jan 14:
“While there, heard shouting, went up stairs to see medic S covered in blood, he had just carried a little girl in from the street who snipers had shot in face and abdomen. We saw her father fall on the hospital stairs, having been shot in the leg. Mother was panicking, shouting there was another girl left behind. S, I and other medics went out to get her, found her not far away, S took her on his shoulders into the hospital. The other medics and I realised they were just the beginning of a stream of desperate people fleeing their buildings, many of which were on fire.”
This was the Batran family. Faddel al Batran, 54, was shot in the leg. Yasmine, 12, was the girl we went to bring in. Haneen, 9, was the one shot in the face and abdomen: I knew she had been taken straight into surgery at Al-Quds. Today [January 17] I found out that she was transferred to Al-Shifa [hospital] and died shortly afterwards.
Last night [January 16] they bombed another UNRWA school in which homeless people had taken refuge in Beit Lahia. There are 36 wounded, including 14 children. Two boys aged 3 and 8 are dead. John Ging of UNRWA was on the TV being coldly furious. But as I type (I’ll be reading this out over the phone to the UK for uploading) a truce has apparently begun. It is strangely quiet. Everyone desperately wants to hope it’ll have some meaning.
In a post published on January 18 she says:
The planes are still buzzing overhead, but there have been no explosions near me today. However this supposed ceasefire from Israeli’s side since 2am does not seem to have extended to Beit Hanoun, where there was shelling this morning and F16s were attacking.
Canadian activist, Eva Bartlett, blogs at In Gaza:
Today [January 18] was the first day that medics and journalists were able to reach areas occupied by the invading Israeli troops. Palestinians by this point, by weeks ago, were desperate for any semblance of a normal life, though normality here is far from normality anywhere else. They were desperate to return to their homes, survey the damage and if possible repair it, find displaced family members, or their corpses, as well as neighbours, friends. Not everyone returned home to stay; many could be seen returning to where their homes were, or had stood, to retrieve anything worthwhile. Donkey carts and taxis were piled with blankets, clothes, cooking pots, cupboards, pieces of furniture, people… […] I have so much to tell, so many photos that don’t do justice to the suffering, heart-break, trauma, psychological damage, and despondency of people here. So many smells ingrained in my memory, that when sniffed will bring images of dead children, burned houses, chemical fires. Slamming doors will forever remind of the missiles slamming the earth, the life below. […] While the bombs may have stopped, for now, the terror remains. F-16s still flew low, terrifyingly low, today, so loud, so unpredictable. No one here has any reason to believe any words Israeli leaders proclaim. Only reason to believe in the worst. But out of necessity, we must hope for the best.
نور .. نور ، أيضاً لا أستطيع أن أتجاهل وجهك صباحا في طريقي لمدرستي وأنت لجامعتك ، آخر مرة حدثته فيها كانت قبل أن يحدث هذا كله و سألته كم تبقى لك في الجامعة ؟ أجابني ” هذا الفصل الأخير لأتحرر .. وأتخرج ” ، نِلتَ تخرجك مبكراً يا صاحب الإبتسامة الأوسع ، مبارك لك و عليك يا صديقي
ممدوح .. ممدوح .. ممدوح ، اللعنة ! ماذا أكتب فيك ؟ ولمَ أبدو هذه اللحظة عندما أحاول أن أكتب لك سخيفاً كرئيس دولة في قمة عربية ؟ .. كسرت قلبي يا ممدوح ، كيف لك أن تسرق نفسك منّا ؟ كيف تحرمنا من إبتسامتك و حضورك المازح دوماً .. لن أسامحك ، أؤمن بأنه كانت لديك فرصة لتنجو لكنك آثرت الرحيل ، فرصة لم يحظى بها غسّان مثلا ..
Noor… Noor, I cannot ignore your face either, in the morning on my way to school and you to your university. The last time I talked to him was before all this happened, and I asked him, “How much longer do you have at university?” He answered, “This is the last class before I am free, and graduate.” You got your graduation early, my wide-smiled friend, congratulations to you.
Mamdouh… Mamdouh… Mamdouh… Damn it! What shall I write to you? Why do I think of the moment when as a joke I tried to write to you as a head of state at an Arab summit? … You have broken my heart, Mamdouh – how could you let yourself be stolen from us? How could you deprive us of your smile and your presence, forever joking… I will never forgive you, I believe that you had a chance to save yourself but chose death, an opportunity that Ghassan did not have, for example…