GAZA (Reuters) - Mourning tents dotted the Gaza Strip on Monday as Palestinians gathered to remember loved ones among the 1,300 people killed by Israeli forces.
Saber Jnaid said his son, a Hamas fighter, had been killed 12 days ago during Israel’s 22-day onslaught on the Islamist militant group. He could not formally receive condolences until fighting stopped on Sunday and Israeli forces pulled back.
“May God make the Islamic resistance stronger,” the grey-bearded father told Reuters as he sat with relatives. “I have 10 more sons and I hope all of them die as martyrs.”
Hours after Israel declared its attack over, Hamas announced a ceasefire, saying it would observe it provided the Israeli army left Gaza within a week.
Apart from the dead, 5,300 Palestinians were wounded during the Israeli campaign. Many of the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip have seen their homes and other property blown to pieces.
“We want a solution that would guarantee Israeli tanks will not return to kill us,” said Yehya Aziz, 28. “They said a ceasefire for a week. I don’t feel good, I doubt it is over.”
Israeli soldiers have been withdrawing from Gaza, leaving scenes of devastation and what Palestinians see as desecration.
Graffiti scrawled inside a mosque in the battered Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City read “Hamas whores” in Hebrew and “Hamas is dead” in English. Discarded military rations littered the floor. A shell hole gaped in one wall.
The Israeli military has said it attacked certain mosques and other civilian targets in the Gaza Strip because Hamas fighters had fired from them or used them to store weapons.
Palestinians were still trying to cope with the scale of the carnage and destruction unleashed on the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Businessman Tayseer Abu Eida put his extended family’s losses in excess of $4 million. “Ten multi-storey buildings and four large, fully equipped cement factories were destroyed completely, razed to the ground,” he said.
“What can I do now and who will compensate me?” asked Abu Eida, whose family lives in a cluster of homes east of Jabalya town, scene of the most violent Israeli-Hamas clashes.
Hamas traffic police were back on duty in Gaza City center, but the few cars gave them little to do. Most shops remained shuttered and banks were closed for lack of cash.
Two young men fried falafel at a rare stall that was open, only emphasizing the desolation of usually teeming streets.
In Zeitoun, residents used donkey carts to take home basic food rations handed out at U.N. distribution centers that supply 750,000 Gazans, but some no longer had homes to go to.
“Four months ago, I bought this house,” said Tawfeek al-Mawasi, surveying a shell-pocked two-storey building in a green, open area. “Now I have to pay money to demolish it.”
“Go inside and take a look at the house and the furniture, all destroyed. Basically I’m going to turn it into firewood.”
Ismail Haniyeh, who heads the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, has promised to help people whose houses were damaged or destroyed by Israeli air strikes and ground attacks.
A Hamas government official said on Monday $200 million was needed for “urgent financial aid.” He said 5,000 houses had been completely destroyed, along with 20 mosques and 16 government ministries, while 20,000 houses had been damaged.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has estimated a total repair bill of at least $1.9 billion.
Saudi Arabia has promised $1 billion to rebuild the Gaza Strip, and Western donors have spoken of rushing in aid, but Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are already squabbling over who should control reconstruction.
“First humanitarian aid has to come in and also the basic needs, pipes and so on, have to be prepared so that the population can have water, fuel, food and whatever is necessary,” Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union’s external relations commissioner, told reporters in Jerusalem.
How this will work when the EU, the United States and Israel refuse to deal with Hamas, viewing it as a terrorist group, is unclear. For now, Hamas is working to restore a semblance of normality in Gaza, parts of which look like an earthquake zone.
Municipal bulldozers churned aside rubble. Workers tried to fix dangling power cables and uprooted electricity poles.
Hundreds of thousands of people who had fled battle areas returned to their houses, but many still lacked electricity and water. Some searched for glass to mend broken windows but either could not find it, or could not afford what was available.
Charred and mangled cars lined streets disfigured by tank tracks, shrapnel, bomb craters and broken asphalt.
In Zeitoun, Omar Hajeh contemplated the ruins of his chicken farm, strewn with dead birds, and wrecked houses nearby.
“It has not even been a year since we opened this farm. Look at the houses, my nephew’s house and the house of Abu Assi -- it’s all complete destruction, praise Allah,” he said, using a phrase Muslims invoke to show their acceptance of God’s will.
Editing by Alistair Lyon and Andrew Roche
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