Calm continues for Day 2 in Israel and Gaza as the main focus is on reconstruction: NPR
Palestinians inspect the rubble of their destroyed homes in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday. The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be holding. Fatima Shbair / Getty Images Hide caption
Fatima Shbair / Getty Images
Fatima Shbair / Getty Images
JERUSALEM – The ceasefire between Israel and Gaza took place on a second day on Saturday. After 11 days of fighting, more than 240 Palestinians and 12 Israelis were killed.
The focus of the talks is the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, in which, according to the United Nations, Israeli air strikes destroyed hundreds of houses and commercial buildings, damaged six hospitals and 53 educational institutions, and damaged roads and power lines. Israel says it took action against Hamas militants.
Electricity shortages have caused other problems: desalination plants that provide drinking water and sewage treatment plants are offline. Around 800,000 people in Gaza do not have regular tap water.
Any reconstruction is likely to cost billions. The Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has pledged $ 500 million. However, other international donors – including the US – fear that Hamas’ aid could be misused for military purposes or that investments in Gaza could be destroyed in another war.
In addition, the materials required for the reconstruction, such as cement and pipes, have long been restricted by Israel, which, along with Egypt, has blocked Gaza for years. Israel argues that the materials will be used by Hamas to develop its military capabilities.
The negotiations are mediated by Egypt, which has a border with the Gaza Strip and, unlike the USA, maintains direct contact with Hamas. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to take part in the talks next week.
There is also the question of which Palestinian group will manage the funds. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which the US and Israel regard as a terrorist organization.
In managing the aid, President Biden announced on Thursday that the US would be working with the Palestinian Authority, the political group that runs the West Bank, and Hamas, which claims to represent the Palestinian national movement.
“We will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority – not Hamas, the agency – in a way that does not allow Hamas to simply replenish its military arsenal,” said Biden, adding that he has been with on a number of occasions I spoke to the President of the Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas loudly proclaimed victory in this month’s conflict, and Palestinians across the region celebrated Friday in support. The group’s popularity had declined over the past decade, but now some in Israel fear that the conflict will lead to an increase in their popularity.
“Hamas has been militarily defeated, but they still have success in the position in which they put themselves in the position of the Palestinian leadership. They have fallen into the vacuum created by Abu Mazen,” said retired IDF Major General Amos Yadlin, referring to himself to Abbas by another commonly used name.
Until these issues are resolved, Israel and Gaza have continued to maintain what is known as a “silence for silence” agreement – as long as Hamas does not fire rockets, Israel says they will not fire, and so will Hamas.
On the second day of the armistice, many Jewish communities in Israel stood still to keep the Sabbath. In Gaza, residents examined the damage for the first time in two weeks, visited shops and restaurants and, according to Gaza officials, including dozens of children, mourned the relatives of the 243 Palestinians who had died.
After being incarcerated in rocket fire by militants from the Gaza Strip and Israeli air strikes all night for 11 days, many Palestinians celebrated what they viewed as a Hamas victory and expressed relief over the lull in the hostilities.
“I feel a lot better. I can’t even describe the last few days. Every minute I thought, ‘I’m going to die,'” said Aysha Abu Sultan, a Gaza resident who said she had spent the past 11 days feeling ” frightened”.
In previous conflicts between Israel and Gaza, the ceasefires repeatedly collapsed shortly after they came into force, particularly during the war in 2014.
Perhaps the biggest test of the 2-day-old truce is the upcoming decision by the Israeli Supreme Court on a series of evictions in a neighborhood in east Jerusalem called Sheikh Jarrah.
This decision was originally planned for earlier this month. But as the protests grew and tensions rose even before the rocket fire began, the verdict was delayed. The court is now expected to rule in about two weeks.
Daniel Estrin contributed to coverage from Gaza.