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Mideast ceasefire - Gaza residents return to survey destruction

Mideast ceasefire - Gaza residents return to survey destruction
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After seven weeks of war, thousands of Gaza residents left their temporary shelters in United Nations-run schools on Wednesday as an open-ended ceasefire between Hamas and Israel took effect.

As they returned, many found their homes and businesses had been completely destroyed by Israeli attacks.

More than half a million Palestinians have been displaced by the latest violence; many say they’ve grown weary of the on-off conflicts between the two sides.

Gaza shop-keeper Ahmed Kharwat was among those calling for peace as he surveyed the damage to his property.

“Nobody likes war. They should find a real solution. We don’t want to go through war every one, two, or even four (years). They need to find a real solution so that we can live and work. As you see, after we rebuilt, war came. Two years later everything is destroyed again,” he said.

Israel has agreed to open its borders with Gaza to allow humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials to reach those who need them most.

A World Food Programme convoy, carrying enough aid for 150,000 people, passed through the Rafa crossing on Wednesday.

Israelis though, are more sceptical about prospects of lasting peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces deep criticism in some quarters for not taking stronger military action against Hamas.

Jerusalem resident Beth Hava doesn’t think the ceasefire will be respected for long.

“If the ceasefire works so that really there is quiet and Hamas is not able to re-arm themselves and something is put in place so that they are demilitarised, then I think it’s a good thing. I think everyone is tired and needs a rest and needs to get back to a normal life,” she said.

Despite facing nearly two months of persistent rocket fire, Israel said the war had dealt a strong blow to Hamas, killing several of its military leaders and destroying the group’s cross-border infiltration tunnels.