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Ceasefire opens up deeper waters for Gaza's fishermen

For the first time in years Gazans can fish farther off their coast and catch more fish, thanks to the terms of a new ceasefire with Israel.

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"This land used to be like paradise. It used to be green and clean, now it is barren and deserted," says Abu al-Qumboz. "But I will cultivate it and make it more beautiful than before." 

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The farmland was his only source of income for his family, he says, and he is eager to regain it. "When Israel banned us from reaching [this land], we lost that source of income and life became very miserable. I hope this truce will continue because war only brings destruction and poverty." 

On Friday, Israeli soldiers fired at a crowd of protesters who neared the border fence, killing one man. And one man was reportedly wounded near the border yesterday by Israeli fire. But farmers have reported greater freedom of movement in several areas, and Hamas deployed police near the border Saturday to prevent clashes that would break the truce. 

Helping the truce hold

Abu al-Qumboz is hopeful that the ceasefire will hold, and says farmers will work to keep it from being violated, for their own good. "Now all farmers can work on their lands and I think they will not let anyone to ruin the truce because this is against our interests. We don't want to get frustrated once again."

Fortunately for Abu al-Qumboz, Hamas is not likely to break the ceasefire soon, according to Dr. Abu Saada. "Hamas also knows the eruption of a new round of violence with Israel may cost it a heavy price. The next confrontation will be on the ground, and Hamas realizes that Israel can reoccupy Gaza," he says.

On the other side, Abu Saada says Israel will be reluctant to anger Egypt, which mediated the truce, by immediately breaking it.

In the wake of the Arab uprisings against autocrats and the Islamist governments that have come to power, some of Israel's neighbors are now taking bolder stands against Israel's actions in Gaza. Egypt is one of only two Arab nations with a peace treaty with Israel. Yet Israeli officials have not indicated they intend to allow normal trade through the border crossings. And Egypt is reluctant to open its pedestrian crossing at Rafah to goods unilaterally, for fear Israel could then close its crossings and shift the burden of Gaza's humanitarian needs onto Egypt. 

If Israel does not ease passage of goods and people at the crossings, it may be difficult for Hamas to keep support for maintaining its end of the bargain. Abu Marzouk warned that there would be no ceasefire if Israel did not live up to its side of the deal. 

Ceasefire seen as victory

Though the status of border crossings has not yet changed, most Gazans view the ceasefire as a victory over Israel. Muhammed Dahman, a jobless engineer, believes that the truce is the best achievement in the history of the Palestinian struggle.

"The ceasefire is a great success. The bloodshed on both sides will stop at least for a long period of time. It's a good chance for unemployed young people like me who will have job opportunities when the process of reconstruction starts. Finally Gaza will live in peace like the rest countries of the world," he says. 

Not everyone is thinking of peace, however. A Hamas fighter, who refused to give his name, says the truce is a chance to rest and prepare for the next battle.

"We need this truce to get well prepared for the next battle – the battle in which we will sweep Israel and restore our lands. Now Israel and the whole recognizes Hamas as a big power in the region," he says. "Peace? Peace is a good thing, but not with an occupier. The truce is just a moment of rest for us to continue our fight against Israel."


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