Published — Friday 23 November 2012
Last update 24 November 2012 10:29 am
GAZA CITY: Gaza’s streets, empty and quiet during a week of violence, were once again flooded with cars and people yesterday as life returned to normal after a truce deal between Hamas and Israel.
“Move it, people! Go, go, go!” one frustrated Hamas policeman shouted in a futile attempt to diffuse a traffic jam, as a coffee vendor threaded his way between the cars.
The clogged streets would have been unthinkable 24 hours earlier, as Israeli missiles fell and Palestinian rockets were launched skyward.
His voice was barely audible over the sounds of honking cars and a nearby celebration organized by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Participants waved the yellow flags of the Brigades and red flags of the PFLP as residents watched from nearby buildings. The mood was palpably joyful, with strangers greeting each other with handshakes and smiles.
Outside the Parliament building, thousands gathered for a celebration organized by Hamas, many waving the movement’s trademark green flag.
Although it was led by Hamas, the gathering had an unusually non-partisan feel for Gaza, where the movement has often cracked down on displays of support for other Palestinian organizations, including arch-rival Fatah.
Parents carried children with the words “Hamas” in green and “Fatah” in yellow painted onto their cheeks, and some waved the flags of both movements.
Sixty-year-old Yusef Jdeidah was smiling as he watched the scene.
The Hamas prime minister of the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, called on all Palestinian factions to respect a truce deal reached with Israel.
“I salute the resistance factions who have respected the agreement since it entered into force and I ask everyone to respect it and act accordingly,” Haniyeh said in a Gaza City speech.
The top cleric from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has denounced peace efforts with Israel, urging holy war to liberate Palestinian territories.
Yesterday’s call by Mohammed Badei came just a day after Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, succeeded in brokering the truce.
Badei says “jihad is obligatory” for Muslims and that peace deals with Israel are a “game of grand deception.” He says there’s been enough negotiations, the “enemy knows nothing but language of force.”
The Brotherhood and its members don’t recognize Israel and refuse to hold direct talks with Israelis.
After days and nights cooped up at home, residents were eager to reclaim their hometowns and their lives.
Many stopped by newspaper vendors to pick up a daily or ate breakfast at one of the falafel stands dotting the city. People were also visiting multiple sites bombed by Israel, taking pictures of the damage with their mobile phones.
Shop owners began to reopen, some for the first time since the violence began on Nov. 14, and electrical workers and glaziers were out in force, repairing the damage caused by the bombing.
Some swept the pavements in front of their shops, as locals queued in front of cash machines, withdrawing money now that places were open for business again.
Not far from the demonstration, 23-year-old Majdi Kheil was manning a stall selling nuts and seeds, nodding approvingly as a hit song called “Hit, Hit Tel Aviv” belted out of the speakers.
“I finally feel comfortable and safe, this is the first time I’ve worked since the war started,” he said.
“I’m really glad the groups seem to be working together and think the truce was detailed, so I hope it will last.”
Hamas declared yesterday a public holiday — “a national holiday of victory.”
It called on Palestinians “to celebrate this occasion and visit the families of the martyrs and the wounded and those affected by the violence, and to affirm national solidarity.”
Gaza’s children, virtually absent from the streets since the violence began, will begin to return to school from tomorrow.
But in the meantime they too were taking advantage of the festive atmosphere, successfully entreating their parents to buy them new clothes, a toy, or some ice cream.