'We hope it will continue': Gazans call for extension of truce as they look for loved ones

Deal between Hamas and Israel has given enclave first quiet night in seven weeks of conflict

Gazans gather at the Rafah border crossing to receive fuel during a pause in the war. Reuters
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Gazans were free from the fear of Israeli bombs on Friday night and have called for the four-day truce between Hamas and Israel to be extended, as they try to recover from seven weeks of devastating war.

Residents of the enclave told The National of the relief they have felt during the pause in fighting, which provided an opportunity for many to search for loved ones.

"It was a relief for us as it was the first quiet night for nearly 50 days," one resident told The National.

The start of the temporary truce on Friday morning marked the first pause in the Israeli bombardment that has left much of the Gaza Strip in ruins. It brought the first quiet night for the 2.3 million Palestinians in the enclave.

The fighting has killed almost 15,000 people in Gaza and displaced about three quarters of the population.

Residential areas have been levelled and many people are feared to be trapped under the rubble.

For the first few hours of the truce, many displaced Gazans rushed back home to look for loved ones and personal items.

"We looked for relatives and loved ones and I've been trying to find things for our basic needs," the resident said, adding that "nothing has changed".

People in Gazan "all hope that today will be better than yesterday and that the calm will lead to a final solution to the crisis," he said. But many fear the "war will return to what it was and perhaps be more severe".

For Heba Al Najjar, who lives in the Khan Younis refugee camp in the south, the pause in the war meant she could return to dig through the rubble of her home, which was flattened in an Israeli attack last week.

"I have been looking through the rubble for the past four hours, trying to find clothes for my children. Our house is completely destroyed," she said.

"We call for a truce extension as these conditions are unlivable. We hope it will continue."

Ms Al Najjar said "returning home was a shock, I didn’t expect it to be in this state – we want to live in safe conditions".

Under the conditions of the temporary truce agreed to between Hamas and Israel, about 50 Israeli hostages will be freed from Gaza, in return for the release of about 150 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons.

The first hostages and detainees were released on Friday.

The deal has also allowed an increase in the amount of aid entering Gaza. A rush of aid lorries to have entered the strip from Egypt.

The UN said food, water and medicine deliveries to Gaza at their highest since humanitarian aid convoys resumed on October 21. The body was also able to deliver 129,000 litres of fuel – about 10 per cent of the daily volume before the war – and sent cooking gas for the first time since the conflict began.

In Khan Younis on Saturday, people formed a long queue outside a fuel filling station.

"We wish it can be extended so that our lives can return back to normal," Adel Homs, 23, told The National as he waited for fuel.

"I ask God to have mercy on us because only God can help us. The whole world is watching and no one is helping."

Mr Homs, who alongside his 13 children has been sheltering in tents without water, electricity and food, said it was a mistake to flee his home.

"My brother in law and nephews, uncle and around five friends all died. I want to go back to make sure my family are safe," he said.

Aid streams into Gaza as temporary truce holds

Aid streams into Gaza as temporary truce holds
Updated: November 26, 2023, 7:51 AM