Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Holds as Aid Trickles Into Gaza Strip

A cease-fire between Israel and militant group Hamas was holding for a second day on Saturday, as more residents in Gaza emerged from their homes to survey the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes and foreign aid began trickling into the isolated strip of land.

On Al-Wahda Street, where Israeli bombing caused the deaths of more than 40 Palestinians on May 16, every third building was leveled or damaged. The barrages from both sides were the worst since the most recent of three wars between Israel and Hamas in 2014.

“Thank god we are still alive; I was totally afraid about my business,” said Hamdi Nabhan, 28, who opened his sweet shop, Carmela, days before the conflict began. He said he saved $20,000 over three years to open the bubblegum-pink-and-white store a few blocks from Al-Wahda Street. Its freshly painted white walls were cracked slightly from the impact of bombs.

“There were some rumors the building next to us was going to be destroyed,” he said.

In total, thousands of buildings were damaged across the Gaza Strip, displacing at least 65,000 Palestinians to shelters, according to the United Nations and Palestinian authorities. The 11-day conflict claimed the lives of more than 250 people, mostly in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas rules.

Palestinians collecting food aid on Saturday in Gaza City.


Photo:

John Minchillo/Associated Press

U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings, in blue, visited Gaza City on Saturday.


Photo:

nidal al-mughrabi / Reuters

The cessation of hostilities offers a critical window to deliver aid to the densely populated enclave, where overwhelmed hospitals have been tending to injured Palestinians while dealing with shortages of electricity and medical supplies.

A spokesman for Israel’s civilian military arm said international aid agencies sent medicines, medical equipment and animal feed, among other aid, via Israel over six hours on Friday. Online videos also showed a line of dozens of aid trucks waiting to enter Gaza from Egypt.

Egypt positioned itself as a supporter of the Palestinians during the conflict, opening its border to treat wounded Palestinians in Egyptian hospitals and dispatching a fleet of ambulances to Gaza. Egypt’s president,

Abdel Fattah Al Sisi,

also allocated $500 million in aid for Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State

Antony Blinken

is expected to travel to meet with Middle Eastern foreign ministers and Israeli and Palestinian officials in the coming days to discuss recovery efforts in the strip and longer-term solutions to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians.

President Biden on Thursday said the U.S. was ready to work with the U.N. to provide “rapid humanitarian assistance and to marshal international support for the people of Gaza.”

The U.N. has called on the international community to provide a reconstruction package for the Palestinians. The U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which provides cash for humanitarian crises, said it has released $18.5 million for aid efforts in Gaza.

The cease-fire that underpins the foreign-aid effort faced an early test Friday when Israeli police clashed with Palestinians at a Jerusalem mosque.

Israeli police tossed stun grenades near crowds of Palestinians who had gathered for prayers at the grounds of the mosque, known as Al Aqsa, according to videos posted on social media. Israeli police said riots had broken out and hundreds of people threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police officers, who responded with crowd-dispersal methods that calmed the situation within an hour.

Demonstrations at the mosque, and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, where dozens of Arab residents face a looming court decision on whether they will be replaced in their homes by Israelis, helped ignite the broader conflict with Hamas.

Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem after a May 10 deadline, imposed by the militant group, for Israel to remove forces from Sheikh Jarrah passed. Israel responded with a military campaign targeting the group’s leaders and infrastructure.

Palestinians called to gather at 5 p.m. Saturday for another protest of the potential evictions.

Israel’s highest court on May 9 said it would set a new date within a month for a final hearing, indicating that tensions are likely to remain high. Many Palestinians feel emboldened by the recent hostilities to push for a longer-term solution to both Israel’s blockade of Gaza and their decades-old conflict with Israelis.

The Israeli-Palestinian Crisis

Write to Rory Jones at [email protected] and Felicia Schwartz at [email protected]

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