Palestinians torn between their desire for peace and anger with the Israelis

Like many Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, Naima Hamad is caught between her desire for an immediate end to hostilities and her anger over the war that has left her husband unemployed and restricted her movement.

"We want to have a normal life. We do not want Jews to kill our children and uproot our trees. We want the PA [Palestinian Authority] to come here and prevent the firing of rockets,'' she said, while grazing her seven sheep. Mrs Hamad and her 12-year-old daughter Feda remember Hamas militants firing rockets from Zimo, a large citrus farm next to her house in Beit Hanoun, two months ago. The farm is now in complete ruins. "The people pay a heavy price," she said.

Mrs Hamad, who has seven children, said a one-sided truce was meaningless because if Israel did not stop its incursions and air strikes, any ceasefire would not last long. "The two sides should stop," she said as across from her home, several Israeli tanks and military vehicles could be seen and shots could be heard.

She said a bullet had missed her head by inches while she was on the rooftop of her house on Sunday.

Her neighbour Louai al-Zaneen, 24, whose father's farm was ruined by Israeli bulldozers, said he would support a truce if it meant lifting the closure, allowing more workers to enter Israel and resuming the peace negotiations.

Signs of exhaustion are everywhere in the Gaza Strip. It can be seen in the deserted Feras vegetable market, and the fish market in Gaza City and in the pronouncements of established Palestinian figures such as Iyad al-Sarraj, a well-known psychiatrist.

He said: "The Palestinian people are very tired. Seventy per cent of the Palestinian people have low income. Many people are desperate. They are ready to stop everything, if they have a little hope."

The people are divided between two extremes: those who want to stop the hostilities and get back to normal life, and those who want to continue with the violence and acts of revenge. Colonel Majed al-Kafarneh, a senior security forces commander for the Northern districts of Jabalya, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, with a population of 200,000, said there were two groups of people. There were those bent on violence, and those who don't care who's in charge, "whether it is [the Security Affairs minister Mohammad] Dahalan or a monkey, we should reach an end [to the conflict]."

Colonel Kafarneh said he was not ready to "arrest or shoot at suicide bombers on their way to Israel", as long as Israel refused to withdraw and end its occupation. He said he would not shoot at Hamas, even if Yasser Arafat or the Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen, ordered him to.

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