Gaza – Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were able to safely take stock of the destruction around them for the first time after 11 days of violence, following the announcement of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Buildings in Gaza were reduced to rubble from the fighting, and people were crying on the street for lost loved ones, neighbors and friends.
The foreign press was also allowed to enter Gaza on Friday for the first time since the conflict began. Israel said it had prevented the international press from entering Gaza during the conflict for safety reasons.
“I lost all my friends,” Masha Nasser told CBS News, bursting out in tears as she held her baby.
“I have no more feelings. All my feelings have evaporated,” she said.
Dozens gathered to mourn in tents erected on the pavement, including Mohammed al Haddid, who said he lost his wife and four of his five children when they were visiting family and were hit by an Israeli airstrike. Only he and his young baby, Omar, remain.
“My heart is breaking. What guilt does this baby have?” al Haddid told CBS News. “I ask God that I can meet his needs and demands.”
“All these children, we know them, and we miss them,” said Sarhan Abu Kaloob, who knew al Haddid’s family.
“We hope that the cease-fire will continue, but if Israel attacks us, we will attack them,” he added.
The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist organization. Israel claims it killed more than 200 militants with its strikes, and has said it does its best to avoid harming civilians. But officials in Gaza say nearly 70 of the people killed were children.
While the cease-fire held in Gaza, tensions flared in Jerusalem, where Israeli security forces clashed with Palestinians outside Al-Aqsa mosque. After Friday prayers, some of the thousands who had gathered stayed to demonstrate on behalf of Gaza. The clashes died out after about an hour.
Tensions at Al-Aqsa mosque and possible evictions of Palestinians in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah helped spark the recent fighting. More than 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza.
Humanitarian organizations warned that it would take years to build back the infrastructure in Gaza that was damaged or destroyed during the 11 days of conflict. Vital infrastructure such as roads, water and sanitation systems, medical facilities, and schools were all damaged in the fighting.
The World Health Organization said that Gaza’s already stretched medical facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed by the number of injuries caused by the violence, calling for immediate access to bring aid into the area.
“The real challenges are the closures,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said.
Humanitarian aid was restricted during the fighting, also for safety reasons, the Israelis said.
The regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Fabrizio Carboni, said that while it would take years to rebuild infrastructure, it would take “even more to rebuild the fractured lives.”