Gaza City – In a defiant show of strength after their 11-day war with Israel, Hamas holds military parade in which hundreds of masked Hamas fighters brandishing assault rifles paraded in Gaza city as the group’s top leader made his first public appearance on Saturday. It was the first full day of the ceasefire as Egypt mediators held talks to, strengthen the truce which brought an end to the fourth Israel-Hamas war in just over 10 years.
In the fight, Hamas and other militants fired more than 4000 rockets towards Israel while Israel unleashed hundreds of airstrikes against militant targets in Gaza. More than 250 people were killed and most of them were Palestinians.
The residents of Gaza city began to assess the damage. Omar al-Mukhtar Street, one of the biggest commercial markets in the city, was covered in debris, twisted metal and smashed cars due to the destruction of a 13-floor building in its centre from an Israeli airstrike. Soot covered merchandise was seen strewed inside smashed stores and on the pavement. The broken glass and twisted metal were being swept by municipal workers from the streets and sidewalks.
Hamas holds military parade.
“We really didn’t expect this amount of damage,” said Ashour Subeih, who sells baby clothes. “We thought the strike was a bit further from us. But as you can see not an area of the shop is intact.” Being in the business for a year, Subeih estimated the losses to exceed the amount that he made from the business by multiple times.
Between homes and business that were left standing, city blocks reduced to rubble were seen from drone footages and photos. Both Israel and Hamas have claimed victory in the war. Hamas fighters, donning military camouflage and in several numbers, were seen parading past the mourning tent of Bassem Issa, a senior Hamas commander killed in the fighting. In his first public appearance since the war began, top Hamas leader Yehiyeh Sinwar attended the parade to pay his respects.
The house of Sinwar, along with that of other senior Hamas figures, was bombed by Israel in what it termed as an attack on the group’s military infrastructure. “Israel delivered a punishing blow to Hamas, and top Hamas figures remained targets,” said Israel’s defence minister, Benny Gantz.
Even though another round of fighting at some point seems inevitable, there is a widespread expectation that the cease-fire would stick for now. Several underlying issues still remain unresolved including a 14-year old Israeli-Egyptian border blockade that is choking Gaza’s 2 million population and refusal by Hamas to disarm.
On Saturday, the United Nations Security Council released a statement welcoming the ceasefire and stressing “the immediate need for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly in Gaza.” Meanwhile, thousands of people rallied in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv calling for coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
May 10th was the day that saw the fighting erupt as Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets towards Jerusalem. The initial bombardment by Hamas was a result of days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa compound. The tensions were inflamed by heavy-handed police tactics and threats of eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.
The war has sidelined Hamas’ main political rival, the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, which oversees independent enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas has positioned itself as a defender of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem which has seen a rise in its popularity.
Thousands of Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa compound chanted against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his self-rule government, hours after the ceasefire took effect on Friday. “Dogs of the Palestinian Authority, out, out,” they shouted, and “The people want the president to leave.”
The display of anger against Abbas was unprecedented. The conflict has showcased the growing frustration amongst Palestinians living in occupied West Bank, Gaza and within Isreal, over the status quo as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been abandoned for years.
Since Israel and the West Bank, along with the United States, consider Hamas a terrorist organization, Abbas will be the point of contact for any renewed U.S diplomacy despite his weakened status. The U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with Abbas and Israeli leaders in his upcoming visit next week. To avoid strengthening Hamas, Abbas is expected to raise demands that any Gaza reconstruction plans go through the Palestinian Authority.
According to official Palestinian news agency Wafa, Abbas met with Egyptian mediators on Saturday to discuss the rebuilding of Gaza and internal Palestinian relations. The two teams of mediators were in Israel and Palestinian territories to continue talks on strengthening the ceasefire deal and secure long term calm, said an Egyptian diplomat.
Hamas holds military parade
The discussions included implementing the agreed-on measures in Gaza and Jerusalem, including ways to prevent the type of actions that led to the latest fighting, said the diplomat. He did not elaborate. Apparently, he was referring to the violence at the Al-Aqsa mosque and the planned eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.
The diplomat spoke to the Associated Press on conditions of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes deliberations. According to another Egyptian official at the border crossing, a 130-truck convoy with humanitarian aid and medical supplies reached the Gaza border from Egypt on Saturday. As he was not authorized to speak to the reporters, the officials also spoke on conditions of anonymity.
The assessment of Gaza’s already decrepit infrastructure has begun across the territory. 769 housing and commercial units were rendered uninhabitable, at least 1,042 units in 258 buildings were destroyed and just over 14,500 units suffered minor damage, said the ministry of public works and housing.
As half of the water network was damaged in the fighting, about 800,000 people in Gaza do not have regular access to clean piped water, said the United Nations. Israel has stated that it was targeting Hamas’ military infrastructure, including an extensive tunnel system running under roads and homes, as well as command centres, rocket launchers and the homes of commanders. The Israeli military said that it was trying hard to minimize civilian casualties and accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields.
At least 248 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 39 women, with 1,910 people wounded, said the Gaza Health Ministry. It does not differentiate between fighters and civilians. On the other hand, 12 people were killed in Israel, all but one civilians. The casualties included a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.
Israel has accused Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad of hiding the actual number of fighters killed in the war. More than 200 militants were killed, including 25 senior commanders, said Prime Minister Netanyahu. Islamic Jihad on Saturday gave the first account of deaths within its ranks, saying that 19 of its commanders and fighters were killed, including the head of the rocket unit in northern Gaza.