Gaza’s streets, empty and quiet during a week of violence, were once again flooded with cars and people on Thursday as life returned to normal after a truce deal between Hamas and Israel.
The contrast between the deserted roads of the past eight days and the scenes of joyful chaos on
Gaza City’s thoroughfares on Thursday was almost comical.
“Move it, people! Go, go, go!” one frustrated Hamas policeman shouted in a futile attempt to diffuse a traffic jam, as a coffee vendor threaded his way between the cars.
The clogged streets would have been unthinkable 24 hours earlier, as Israeli missiles fell and Palestinian rockets were launched skywards.
His voice was barely audible over the sounds of honking cars and a nearby celebration organised by militants from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Participants waved the yellow flags of the Brigades and red flags of the PFLP as residents watched from nearby buildings. The mood was palpably joyful, with strangers greeting each other with handshakes and smiles.
Outside the parliament building, thousands gathered for a celebration organised by Hamas, many waving the movement’s trademark green flag.
Although it was led by Hamas, the gathering had an unusually non-partisan feel for Gaza, where the movement has often cracked down on displays of support for other Palestinian organisations, including arch-rival Fatah.
Parents carried children with the words “Hamas” in green and “Fatah” in yellow painted onto their cheeks, and some waved the flags of both movements.
Shop owners began to reopen, some for the first time since the violence began on November 14 with Israel’s targeted killing of a senior Hamas military commander.
Sixty-year-old Yusef Jdeidah was smiling as he watched the scene. “The thing I’m happiest about is that the Palestinian people seem to be coming together. This, I think, is the best and most beautiful outcome of a terrible war,” he said.