GAZA CITY— Life in Israel and the Gaza Strip is returning to normal after a cease-fire ended an eight-day aerial bombardment between the two sides. Both will need time and money to rebuild but the task for Gaza is expected to be difficult due to an Israeli blockade that chokes its struggling economy.
The cease-fire between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza has allowed Palestinian fisherman to return to the sea for the first time in more than a week.
The catch is small. Israel limits how far Gaza's fishermen can travel from the shore. It is part of the blockade imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority five years ago. Since the cease-fire Israel has extended the distance to 10 kilometers, double the previous limit.
Mifleh Abu Riallah says the blockade destroyed Gaza's fishing industry. Two-thirds of the fishermen have quit.
“Our hope is to lift the siege and live in security and that they (Israelis) will open the sea for us completely," said Riallah.
The recent bombardments destroyed the fishermen's cooperative and port authority building along with many other government structures in Gaza.
Since the cease-fire, Israel has allowed Palestinian farmers to visit land near the border fence in what had been a shoot-to-kill zone, two-kilometers-wide, containing one-fourth of Gaza's farmland.
Vegetable vendor Mahmoud al-Komi says fresh produce is expensive because of the blockade, and farmers cannot export their goods.
“Before the conflict it was sometimes good, sometimes bad. The border was open and closed, open and closed. Now, we hope it will be open for good," said al-Komi.
Gaza's largest supermarket has re-opened. Owner-manager Hazem Ashi says the blockade destroyed jobs and made goods unaffordable for many.
“We hope the cease-fire will lead to a peace agreement but the situation on the ground doesn't make me optimistic.... First you have to improve the political situation, then the economic situation will improve," said Ashi.
Analyst Mkhaimar Abusada says Hamas maintains that lifting the blockade is vital for the cease-fire to succeed.
“This is one of Hamas's conditions for the cease-fire and in the long term that will mean Hamas will not be subjected to isolation, will not be subjected to siege or blockade," said Abusada.
Israel says it will end the blockade if Hamas stops smuggling in weapons. Many Israelis doubt this will happen, given past experience. But that does not prevent people on both sides from hoping, at least for now.