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Palestinians Weary of War as Conflict with Israel Goes On


Anwar Mohammed holds part of a rocket that destroyed his family's home in Gaza during Israel's Operation Protective Edge targeting Palestinian militants. Photo VOA / Gabe Joselow

Anwar Mohammed holds part of a rocket that destroyed his family's home in Gaza during Israel's Operation Protective Edge targeting Palestinian militants. Photo VOA / Gabe Joselow

week-long Israeli military operation in Gaza has displaced tens of thousands of people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Palestinians grow increasingly weary of life during wartime, a cease-fire deal remains a distant hope.

Anwar Mohammed trudges through the wreckage of his home in Gaza City. He lived up on the third floor with six members of his family.

Now, there Is a gaping hole in the ceiling, broken glass strewn across a child's playroom, and a tiny bird, one of the family's pets, flapping helplessly with a broken wing in a pile of shattered plates and glasses on the kitchen floor.

They were at home on a Friday, watching the evening news, when they got the warning: first a phone call and then the infamous "knock on the roof" - a rocket fired at the home as a warning that the next round is going to be devastating.

"When we got the call to evacuate the building we thought it was a joke," Mohammed said. "Then the warning shot hit, we all ran out and just made it to the next street before they bombarded the building."

Mohammed counted three or four minutes between the warning shot and the final blow.

The strikes are part of the Israeli military operation Protective Edge, launched last week in response to rocket attacks aimed at southern Israel from Gaza.

Israeli forces say they are targeting positions used by the militant wing of Hamas - the ruling political authority in Gaza. According to the United Nations, most of those killed in the strikes have been civilians.

Mohammed says no one in his building was part of any militant group.

"Being a Palestinian means you are a target for the Israeli airstrikes," he said. "We are just normal people, they do not just hit militants, no one in this house is a member of a resistance movement."

Thousands of Palestinians have fled their homes in Gaza, some 16,000 have sought shelter at U.N.-run schools, like this three-story boys' prep academy in Gaza City.

Families huddle together in classrooms, staking out space on the floor.

Many received warnings in leaflets or text messages sent by Israel to leave their homes in the north end of Gaza to avoid being caught up in a major military operation.

Seham Abu Khosa holds her four-day old grandson. She says since arriving at the school, they have received no assistance other than water.

She blames the people in power for her plight: the Israelis, Hamas and the Arab states for not getting involved.

"We want good people in positions of power, not the bad people who are responsible for our suffering," she said. "The good ones should help us because no one else in the world is experiencing what my family is going through right now."

A week into the conflict, there has been little public progress on a cease-fire agreement. The Israeli air force continues to strike Gaza and rockets continue to fly into southern Israel setting off alarms and sending residents running for bomb shelters.

This is the third extended conflict between Israel and Hamas militants since the deadly war in 2008-2009 that left more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says in a VOA interview that there must be assurances that any cease-fire deal is adhered to.

"How can we believe now that the third time of cease-fire the situation will be respected? We want to stop this war first of the occupation. After that we want a guarantee to (end) all of the injustice and all the conditions we are suffering from," he said.

Barhoum said any potential agreement should enforce the terms of the last deal that ended a conflict in 2012 and lift the blockade on Gaza.

Israeli officials have been quiet about any deals, while the military is calling up more than 30,000 reservists in preparation for a possible escalation.

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