People are crowding the streets of Gaza City and fishermen are back on the sea as Gazans seize the opportunity of a shaky three-day ceasefire to try to return to something like normal life. More than a quarter of Gaza’s 1.8 million people have been displaced by the fighting, so when Israeli troops withdrew on Tuesday morning, many Gazans clogged the roads, heading back to their neighborhoods to get some idea if anything is left in the places they fled.
The war has killed over 1,800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, hundreds of them children, and 67 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers. It has gone on for nearly a month with such ferocity that both Israel and Hamas, nearing exhaustion, have been looking for ways to claim victory and end the fighting.
So there is general optimism in Gaza that this is the beginning of the end. But for the residents of Khuzaa, rocked by the trauma of near complete Israeli destruction and a hideous mass execution, there is a sense that this is only the end of the beginning.
Despite the Israeli withdrawal from an intended buffer zone that includes 44 percent of Gaza’s territory, many in Khuzaa can no longer imagine continuing to live in this town on the eastern Gaza border with Israel. For Palestinians, whose national identity is built around the notion of strength expressed as steadfast attachment to the land, the broken will of those in Khuzaa is a major psychological defeat at the hands of Israel’s military.