Cease-fires in embattled Gaza have been all too brief in recent days, shattered by a swift return to fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militant fighters. Civilians are caught in the middle, and they try to resume normal life whenever the mortars, artillery and rockets fall silent.
As the cease-fire began Friday morning, people flocked to the beach after being cooped up in their apartments for more than three weeks. Fishermen launched their boats, although they were careful not to venture too far out to sea.
One of Gaza’s cooking-gas depots opened and residents rushed to stock up. Although fuel supplies were plentiful during this conflict, the stations were afraid to open because of a fear of missile strikes.
The central market bustled, as shoppers stocked up on food and other essentials.
Worshippers gathered for Friday prayers outside the al-Susi mosque, which had been destroyed two days before by an air strike. They prayed for peace and for strength.
Imam Sheikh Saed Abed told the faithful they would never submit to an Israeli presence in Gaza. And he denied the Israeli accusation that weapons were being hidden in mosques like his.
“These are just lies. We don’t have anything in our mosque. Our mosques are just for praying to God. We don’t have one bullet [shot] in our mosque,” he said.
Children gathered for Koranic school. Head teacher Emad al-Dajany said they were being taught that despite the violence against them, the message of their religion is that all people who worship God are good people.
“I promised the parents of all the children that we will build this school again and they will study here again. We will teach them how to love people, how to be good people, and to be Muslims loving each other,” said al-Dajany.
As the faithful left shortly after midday, word spread that the ceasefire had been broken and fighting had resumed.
Across the city the shops began to close. The vendor stalls shut down. The beaches were bare. And Gaza’s fishermen returned to port.
The parks also emptied. And the mood in Gaza returned to one of isolation and fear.