Thousands return to destroyed Gaza homes after Israel truce

Thousands of displaced Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have started returning to their homes to check for damage, while Israelis returned to normal life, as a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took hold after 11 days of deadly fighting.

Palestinian officials on Friday put the reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars. Five more bodies were pulled from Gaza’s rubble, taking the death toll to 248, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 wounded.

The Israeli military said an Israeli soldier had been killed, as well as 12 civilians, including two children. Hundreds were treated for injuries after rocket salvoes caused panic and sent people as far away as Tel Aviv rushing into shelters.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Gaza’s health facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed by the thousands of injuries.

She called for immediate access into the Gaza Strip for health supplies and personnel.

“The real challenges are the closures,” she told a virtual UN briefing.

Gaza has for years been subjected to an Israeli blockade that restricts the passage of people and goods, as well as restrictions by Egypt.

Fabrizio Carboni, regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, echoed WHO’s call for urgent medical supplies, adding, “It will take years to rebuild – and even more to rebuild the fractured lives.”

Hundreds of homes destroyed

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Gaza, said that about 1,000 individual homes have been completely destroyed, 700 have been severely damaged, and another 14,000 home units have been partially damaged.

“[There is a] ratio of about more than six people per home in this town and in the Strip, that’s more than 80,000 people who have lost their homes or had their homes seriously or partially damaged. That is a major catastrophe for this community,” he said.

Nazmi Dahdouh, 70, a father of five, said his house in Gaza City was destroyed in an Israeli attack.

“We don’t have another home. I’ll live in a tent on top of the rubble of my home until it’s rebuilt,” he told the AFP news agency.

Malak Mattar, an artist in Gaza City, told Al Jazeera that the ceasefire had brought relief for her family.

“We are feeling relieved. We are finally able to get long hours of sleep which is something that we’ve been deprived of for the past 10 or 11 days, so it’s such a good thing that we are feeling safe, that there are no bombardments,” Mattar said.

“We are able now to get food supplies … so, we are feeling relieved.”

Al-Aqsa raid

In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police cracked down on protesters on Friday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, two weeks after a similar crackdown triggered the escalation in violence. The site is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

Clashes also broke out in several other parts of Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, and at the crossing point between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, Israeli police said, adding that hundreds of officers and border guards had been mobilised.

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said while the war in Gaza was over, tensions were still running high elsewhere.

“There is a ceasefire but that ceasefire really concerns only Gaza. All the rest of the issues between the two sides are very much there,” Abdel-Hamid said.

“Today, people were also celebrating and they had a sigh of relief that the war in Gaza is over, but the tensions are still there.”

Israel and Hamas claim victory

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombing campaign of Palestinian armed groups had killed “more than 200” fighters in Gaza, including 25 senior commanders, which he described as an “exceptional success”.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the coastal enclave, also claimed “victory”.

“We have dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks” on Israel, said the movement’s political chief Ismail Haniya, pledging to rebuild Gaza.

He also thanked Iran for “providing funds and weapons” to Hamas.

Several world leaders welcomed the ceasefire deal. US President Joe Biden said he believed there was “a genuine opportunity to make progress” and stressed his commitment to “working toward it”. The European Union insisted that working towards a “two-state solution” was the only viable option. Russia and China called for a return to peace talks.

Netanyahu’s office had announced the ceasefire “without pre-conditions” on Thursday evening, with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – another armed group in Gaza – confirming it shortly afterwards.

Ceasefire monitors

Egyptian state media reported that two Egyptian security delegations had arrived to monitor the ceasefire deal from either side.

The US State Department said top diplomat Antony Blinken would “meet with Israeli, Palestinian and regional counterparts in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said Israel and the Palestinians now had a responsibility to have “a serious dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict”.

He also called for a “robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery”.

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