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Conflict

Normal activities return to devastated Gaza

The cease-fire between Hamas and Israel is still holding, even though many wonder for how long. Gaza residents reported mixed feelings of relief and wariness to our correspondent.

The windows are shattered and the shelves are empty. Suleiman Fleife is sad and worried. His small grocery store was damaged in the attack on the nearby stadium. Now, he says, it's time to clean up and repair the damage.

"It's good that this dangerous war is over," says the 55-year-old store owner. "No one in the Gaza strip was safe."

His son, Mohammed, is still visibly shaken by the violence of recent days.

"I'm glad we no longer hear the fighter jets in the air," he says. "And if the blockade is eased, maybe things will get better."

Return to normalcy

He only wishes. No one knows whether or not the ceasefire agreement brokered in Egypt will bring concrete results. It only calls for crossings to be opened for goods and people for a 24-hour period.

Hamas interprets the agreement as an end to the hated blockade, which has nearly suffocated the 1.7 million people living in Gaza.

Palestinians celebrate 
REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot (GAZA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS)

Palestinians celebrate as the ceasefire holds

At the moment, most people are trying to return to normal life, which ended so suddenly just over a week ago. People are now out on the streets again. They appear happy to be moving about freely. Families that fled the eastern and northern parts of Gaza are now returning home with their bags.

Young motorcyclists roar down the streets, proudly waving the green flag of Hamas.

Also waving in the streets is the secular Fatah party's flag. Members of its al-Aqsa Brigades, wearing balaclavas and touting Kalashnikovs, give interviews on a street corner. The offensive has united the political groups, according to the militants.

But not everyone is happy about the developments in Gaza. "I can't get excited about these celebrations," says one pedestrian, who declined to give his name. "Too many innocent people have died. And now only the radicals have a say."

According to the United Nations, 158 Palestinians have been killed, including 103 civilians. Palestinian sources reported 163 deaths. Six people died in Israel.

The cleanup has already begun in many places. Diggers are working their way through the rubble of the bombed stadium. The destruction to Gaza City's infrastructure is clearly visible. Government buildings, police stations, roads and bridges have been shelled. Many other sites, believed to have housed rocket launchers and militant Palestinians, were attacked.

'Fear, fear, fear'

There is peace, but also doubt as to whether the ceasefire will hold.

Nour Abu Khater lives with her family in Khan Yunis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The past few days have been horrible, says the young woman, who grew up in Germany and returned to Gaza when she was 18.

"I had nothing but fear, fear, fear for an entire week," she says. "I couldn't sleep a day. I hadn't slept in seven days. Today was the first day that I was able to grab four hours."

She has experienced the outbreak of violence all too often, and has no illusions things will be any different this time.

"Victory or not, nothing will change for us," Khater says. "I'm certain the ceasefire won't hold. But I wish so dearly for freedom with no limits."

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