With Israeli Drones Buzzing Overhead, Gazans Remain Home in 'Paralyzed' Strip

Despite reports Egyptians are holding marathon talks with Gaza factions and Israeli officials, Gaza’s schools are closed and offices are shut as well

A Palestinian girl looks out from her family house at the damaged offices of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in Gaza City, March 26, 2019.
Adel Hana/AP

Gazans woke up Tuesday to a tense morning after a night of little sleep, during which Israeli drones buzzed overhead as the Israeli military carried out a series of strikes on Hamas targets.

Classes were cancelled on Tuesday at most schools in the Strip and - according to Gazans who had been through a number of rounds of fighting over the past decade - parents preferred not to take any risks and stayed home as well. Many offices also remained closed on Tuesday in the coastal enclave.

“One could say that Gaza City and the Strip in general is paralyzed,” Abu Asan, a Gaza City merchant, said Tuesday. “There is no doubt that the people, I mean those who have work, are afraid to set out for a regular work day.” Most of those who went to work Tuesday were emergency personnel or merchants, he added.

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There have been no reports of deaths in Gaza since the fighting erupted on Monday with the rocket attack from Gaza on a home in Mishmeret, north of Tel Aviv, that injured seven people. The Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reported on Tuesday that three residential buildings in Gaza had been completely destroyed in Israeli aerial raids. The residents of the buildings received advance warnings of the attack from the Israeli army and left in time. Civilian office buildings, including one housing the offices of the Al-Multazam insurance company, were also hit. The Health Ministry in Gaza reported that seven people were lightly wounded in aerial raids late Monday night.

On Monday night, Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a cease-fire had been reached. Israeli officials later denied that a cease-fire agreement had been reached and limited exchanges have continued. The last rocket from Gaza was fired at about 4 A.M. early Wednesday and was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system over the industrial area of the city of Ashkelon, just north of the Strip.

Palestinian sources said Israel was conditioning an agreement to end hostilities on an end to the launch of airborne firebombs over the border into Israel and the suspension of activity along the border, including demonstrations scheduled for this weekend to mark a year since the mass protests began there on March 30 of last year.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television reported on Tuesday that an Egyptian delegation was holding marathon talks with Palestinian factions in Gaza and with Israeli officials to maintain the quiet. A senior Hamas political official told Haaretz that the Palestinian factions were committed to an approach agreed upon with the Egyptians, in which quiet on one side would be met by quiet on the other.

The committee organizing the mass protests by Gazans along the Israeli border fence announced on Tuesday that it was suspending nighttime protests along the border in the wake of this week’s flare-up of fighting. The committee made it clear, however, that the nighttime operations, which have included loud demonstrations and the throwing of firebombs near Israeli border communities, were not being cancelled altogether but simply deferred.

It’s not certain at this stage whether the suspension of the protests is a tactical step, part of the Egyptian mediators’ efforts to end hostilities.