The aftermath in Gaza

Palestinians look out of a heavily damaged building in Gaza city on August 8, 2022, following a cease fire between Israel and Palestinians. The cease-fire ended more than two days of intense cross-border violence that started Friday, when Israel killed Islamic Jihad’s Tayseer Jabari, the group’s chief of operations in the northern Gaza Strip. On Saturday, Israel killed Khaled Mansour, the head of the Islamic Jihad’s operations in southern Gaza, in an airstrike that demolished a house in Rafah near the border with Egypt. Photo by Ashraf Amra apaimages

Time does not pass in war, people do.

The red flame of the bombs that fill the darkness of night during war each represent a moment of death, and every person in Gaza, locked in their home, is forced to watch from a distance.

When the bombs falls, families gather in one place in the home, all together. They all stand as the sound shakes them. Someone always tries to remind the group to “stay away from windows” as the first rule of protection. Then someone tries to look outside, to confirm that the smoke from the bombs that they can tell is close by is not coming from their home. They then go back to the rest of the family and say, “it is not here, we’re still safe.”

Some people desperately wait for the end to the war from inside their homes. Other families desperately wait to get back to their homes after they have fled. Others want to stop counting martyrs; and others simply want to go out in order to return to their daily work. In many cases one day without work means a starving family.

A ceasefire was reached at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, but people preferred to stay home until the morning, because they believed that Israel could break the ceasefire at any time and target them again in the night.

Monday morning, the crowded city of Gaza woke up. It does not have time to mourn. Everything went back to normal, except for families who lost their loved ones, of course. Nothing will go back to normal for them.

Drivers, workers, street peddlers, and passengers all jumped into the streets on the first morning after the war. They wanted to breathe freedom by moving inside the besieged city of Gaza. A blessing they were prevented from doing for the three previous days.

It is understandable when people go for a walk to see how their city turned out after the war, but getting back to their hard work without taking at least one day of rest after three terrifying days of bombs ? This leads you wonder, how are we really handling the violence of war?

Mohammed Saqqa, 13, is standing on the sidewalk at Omar Al-Mokhtar Street. Only a hundred meters away from where a bomb targeted a car and killed three people. He is trying to entice some passersby to buy the perfume and makeup which he sells.

Mohammed survived the war in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood east of Gaza city along with eight of his family members. He and his father were waiting for the war to end to go back to work in order to buy some food.

“They were very scary days. Every time we heard a bomb I jumped from my bed to go to my mother,” he tells me. This maybe gives you the impression that Mohammed is simply a child who still goes to his mother seeking safety. But this is not the truth. As the eldest son, he feels responsible. Working all day trying to get some money to feed the family has taken away his childhood. Now in his head he is a responsible man, a child no more.

“I really wish I could rest, or have some psychologist help me like other people in the world who suffer wars, but these are only wishes. Here I am, standing here from 9:00 in the morning to secure the food for my family. No one during or after the war asks me or my family ‘how are you doing?’” the 13-year-old boy tells me.

“How are you doing?” I ask him immediately.

The boy starts crying at once.

“I’m sad, scared, and tired. I just want to sleep without panic or bombs over my head.” The boy opens his heart and speaks. His crying melts the manly shield he was wearing, or feels forced to wear.

“The news was full of children who were killed, I saw their photos on social media, and I put myself in their places. I imagine that the war kills kids, and I do not want my mother to suffer like the mothers of the kids who were killed. I do not want to break her heart; I want to stay alive not torn apart in an Israeli airstrike,” he tells me.

Mohammed wishes that he was born in a different place, where he could grow normally and work when he finished school, and die when his body is fully grown.

I walk through the crowded main streets and parks in the wake of this war, which leads me to a family of six people sitting in Al-Rimal garden.

Eman Hamed, 34, is a mother of four kids, and she describes the aftermath of the war as simply a pause in the killing of Palestinians.

“The war will come back again, and again, and again,” she says.

“We are here in the park to have some peaceful times because this peace will vanish whenever Israel decides to launch a new war.”

She considers every day of a Palestinian’s life to be a day at war. “There is not a single day that passes without reading or watching Israelis kill Palestinians,” Eman says. “My 77-year-old mother always says that she has lived her entire life in wars. I was born in wars as well, and my four kids were born in war, so how could I say that the war ended?”

“The war does not end unless the occupation ends,” she says.

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