Fares Akram: Three fleeting hours of respite – so we rushed out looking for bread

Gaza Diary

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From 1pm, life started returning to the streets. Israel stopped the bombing and shelling briefly after 12 days to allow humanitarian supplies in, and to allow us to stock up on food. People emerged from their houses, many to the hospitals to look for injured family members or the bodies of dead loved ones.

Most people headed for the bakeries, others rushed around with empty containers looking for drinking water. I joined a queue in front of a bakery but unfortunately returned without a single loaf since the bread ran out before it was my turn. Going to the green market was disappointing; there weren't enough vegetables. There were onions and cucumbers but tomatoes, the one thing everyone wants, were scarce. Nor was there any eggplant. There was something on sale that we don't use so much here: sweet pepper, considered a luxury because it's expensive.

Most vegetables are grown in either the southern or northern ends of the Gaza Strip. As Israel has been dividing the territory into three it's difficult to transport produce into Gaza City. Fresh fruit is also something of the past as Israel has not allowed any in since early November last year. Strawberries are the only fruit Gaza is famous for and the Israeli ban on their export at least means we have one fruit in the market.

Everyone looked relieved and we're hoping the temporary ceasefire will be repeated. But it's a sad reminder of the time when Gaza was occupied by Israel before the creation of the Palestinian Authority and we had curfews that the Israelis would lift for two hours so that people could go to the market. Gaza is supposed to be free and unoccupied but in fact Israeli soldiers still have the power to keep us in our homes or let us go to the market.

In any case, the three hours passed quickly. We bought cans of fish, beans, cheese, eggs. I went to see my pregnant wife Alaa who is staying at her mother's house, and then rushed back at five minutes before 4pm, afraid that heavy bombardment would resume suddenly.

Our biggest need is still for cooking gas. We're finding ways to adjust; my mother remembered an old brass stove her father used 30 years ago. It's working well. But the smell of burnt kerosene, mixed with the smell of the food being cooked, and the sound of the burner, leave you thinking we have moved out of the 21st century. Waiting for the tea from this old cooker and holding the laptop in my arm, the two things didn't seem to go together.

You can trace the worst moments for Palestinians with our little brass cooker. My grandfather bought it in the 1950s. All Palestinian refugees depended on kerosene during the 1967 war. And it came into use again in 1991 during the Gulf war when Israel imposed a blockade on the occupied territories and the electricity was knocked out.

By dark last night, Israel had resumed the shelling, targeting a car travelling in the northern town of Beit Lahiya and killing four people inside. Maybe this brief ceasefire was a trial. But before any real ceasefire, you have to withdraw the tanks. The old brass stove will be in use for a few more days, I think.

The Israeli viewpoint: Voices from the blogs

The latest news from the Gaza war is the fact that a UN school was hit by the Israel Defence Forces, and supposedly many civilians were killed (having been put there for expressly this reason, of course).

You know what? It may not be politically correct, but I don't give a damn...

I am not alone. Thank G-d the government, despite the strength of the liberal media, has finally realised that the Israeli people care more about their own soldiers than the enemy's civilians.

'West Bank Mama'


We won't fire into Gaza in order to allow people to go out and shop and store up on goods and essentials. This is what a humane society does – though it obviously will mean allowing our enemy to regroup, reposition.

Not to be outdone, the Palestinians announced they too would hold their fire during this time, and then they let loose a barrage of rockets right before the temporary "ceasefire" went into effect. I want to talk to Elie. I need to hear his voice. I know that he's safe – in the sense that he's in the middle of a war zone while rockets are falling, but not injured.

'A Soldier's Mother'


One of the side effects of war is that people stop visiting. [My cousin] was due to make his first trip to Israel. Well... he bailed.

Having never been here before, he envisioned entering a country with bullets whizzing by, and rockets falling around every corner.

Fair enough, if I was watching CNN or Sky, that's what I might be thinking too. But it's still a bit discouraging... that American Jewish [people], staunch supporters of Israel, are preferring to stay at home during this time of need, when we could use a little moral support.



The decision not to allow journalists into the Strip was a wise one. There is no reason why Israel should give Hamas more means to fight us. On Sunday, Sky News broadcast the claim by Hamas that it had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, a claim that turned out to be false but did cause hours of anxious rumours among Israelis, thus contributing to Hamas's psychological warfare against Israel.

Such warfare is an integral part of any war, Israel also uses it, but I see no reason why Israel should make fighting even harder for its soldiers. If a journalist gets hit the chances of Hamas being made responsible are almost non-existent.

Bert de Bruin


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