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A 'victory' parade in the middle of a city reduced to rubble

Friday, 23 November 2012 - 12:42pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

The party that had filled the streets of Gaza City within an hour of the ceasefire being declared on Wednesday lasted long into the night.

The party that had filled the streets of Gaza City within an hour of the ceasefire being declared on Wednesday lasted long into the night. Roads that had been deserted for eight days were suddenly packed with revellers who pounded the horns of their cars and met the calls of victory that rang out from the minarets with hoarse cries of "Allah Uakbar".

A small car edged through the thick of the dancing crowd, four toddlers dangling out of the windows punching their small fists in the air triumphantly chanting: "We have won, we have won a victory over America."

Gaza declared the conflict a triumph for a new and powerful Arab world led by Egypt; the Hamas leadership had showed they would not kow-tow to Israeli aggression or the demands of its ally America; Mohamed Morsi had brokered peace, not Hillary Clinton. But the real heroes were the Palestinian fighters.

"The resistance is the hero of this war - not Hamas, not Egypt but the Palestinian resistance," one man concluded as he watched the chaotic celebrations from his front door in Gaza City, his wife and daughters cheering behind him.

Yesterday, Gaza City woke eager to claim a new normality. Fishermen were out on the sea for the first time in a week. Children ran across open stretches of open ground, stretching their legs after days cooped up in the safety of their homes. Thoroughfares were jammed with commuters heading to work and shoppers heading to the reopened and bustling high streets.

The major scars of the eight-day conflict were already being covered up. On Omar el Mokhtar, the Oxford Street of Gaza City, the clear-up operation at the site of the obliterated police station was under way. Craters that pockmarked the city were being bulldozed over with sand. The population, so adept at rebuilding from the destruction of war, wanted to move on.

With normal life trying hard to resume, the celebrations stuck a more political note. In place of Wednesday's spontaneous outpouring of public joy was an organized rally of Fatah supporters, their yellow flags parading down Omar El Mokhtar street. This was a time for unity, they said.

In the early afternoon, Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, was joined by his ministers a press conference at the parliament building. He appeared calm and content. The ministers, clutching prayer beads, exchanged broad smiles back-slapping hugs. They claimed victory, but their most evident "triumph" was simply survival.

In eight days and 1,500 strikes, the Israeli military had destroyed 19 Hamas command centres, the interior ministry and other key ministerial offices, internal security infrastructure and assassinated 30 key figures in the Hamas leadership.

The civilian toll has been even greater. Of the 150 dead, most are women and children. The number of homes damaged and destroyed has not yet been calculated. As the 11,000 people who had fled their homes trailed back on foot or on donkey carts, many would find them without windows, walls or doors.

The Hamas government had a duty to its people and will help those who have damages, those whose relatives had been killed and those who have been injured, Haniya promised. He thanked Iran for providing money and weapons. He thanked Egypt for its solidarity. Above all he thanked the fighters and rocket launchers.

Several blocks away, at the Shifa hospital morgue, there were no celebrations however. A group of hard-faced young men, who would not be named, were mourning their cousin, a fighter, hit in an Israeli airstrike in the last hours of the war.

"Only Israel has benefited from this truce. The siege of Gaza has not ended," one said. "Israel may have begged for this war to end but I still want revenge."


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