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Hamas Honor Dead in War-Weary Gaza

Hamas militants take part in rally commemorating those killed during seven-week war with Israel, Gaza City, Sept. 26, 2014.
Hamas militants take part in rally commemorating those killed during seven-week war with Israel, Gaza City, Sept. 26, 2014.

Hamas militants in black ski masks enter the rally in the back of pickup trucks, guns aloft, to the cheers of their supporters.

A month after the latest war here has ended, since Hamas and Israel reached a ceasefire brokered in Cairo, the militant political faction that controls this battered Palestinian enclave is commemorating its war dead.

Earlier today, senior United Nations officials said Gaza saw unprecedented levels of human suffering and destruction over the summer, and that it will take years to rebuild the territory to where it was before the war began.

The latest United Nations figures put the number of people killed at more than 2,100, including some 500 children. The fighting left 470,000 displaced, and roughly 100,000 Palestinians without homes to return.

But Hamas supporters like Taha al Mashharawi feel they have won.

"The [Hamas] resistance did its best," he said. "Whatever Israel does, this is our land, and, God willing, we will liberate it from the Zionist filth and soon we will free [al Aqsa mosque in] Jerusalem, too."

While top U.N. officials such as James Rawley, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, say reconstruction of homes, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure — development plans with which Israel appears to be cooperating — will be good for the Palestinian economy, it is critical that Israeli and Palestinian authorities first solidify the fragile ceasefire.

But part of the Cairo-brokered deal calls for Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, to work together with Fatah, the lead party of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

That unity government will then open the way for Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza, and allow the movement of badly needed cement and other materials to rebuild the shattered enclave.

But many here in Gaza say they are skeptical that the new unity deal will last long, because the political and personal differences run too deep.

Basel al Hatoum, sitting on a plastic chair with some friends off a dusty track, is one of them.

“I think it will fail because all the previous agreements failed," he said. "They always make agreements, but nothing happens on the ground.”

But without reconciliation between the two political factions, the badly needed reconstruction of this small Palestinian territory won’t be able to advance.

That, says Hatoum, echoing the sentiment of many others who live here, will only lead to more economic desperation.

Lisa Schlein contributed reporting from United Nations headquarters Geneva.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.