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19 Jan, 2009 13:00

Peace holds in Gaza

Peace in Gaza continues after Israel and Hamas declared separate ceasefires. Israeli forces are pulling out, leaving local people to rebuild their lives – and their homes.

In Gaza, four thousand buildings are reported to be destroyed, and around 20,000 damaged. 26,000 people are homeless and currently reside in temporary shelters. The territory is experiencing serious shortages of food, medical supplies and water.

Israeli officials said that they will allow a lot of humanitarian aid into the territory. On Monday alone they promised to allow around 180 trucks with aid and 400,000 litres of fuel into the territory.

Western diplomats have estimated that it will cost $US 1.6 billion to rebuild Gaza. Arab leaders are meeting in Kuwait with plans to secure a $US 2 billion aid package to rebuild Gaza after the three-week onslaught.

Militants in Hamas-ruled Gaza agreed Sunday to a weeklong ceasefire with Israel. The announcement came about 12 hours after Israel declared its own unilateral ceasefire.

Hamas insists that the Israeli forces should be out of Gaza within a week, or they will no longer adhere to any kind of truce.

Hamas' Syrian-based deputy leader, speaking for the militant Palestinian factions, said on Syrian television that the ceasefire will give Israel time to withdraw and open all the border crossings to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“We, the Palestinian resistance factions, announce a ceasefire of our factions in Gaza and we stress that our demand is the withdrawal of the enemy forces from Gaza within a week, along with the opening of all the crossings,” said Hamas's deputy chief in Syria Moussa Abou Marzouk.

Earlier, Israel said that five rockets have been fired from Gaza despite the Israeli ceasefire. In addition, there has been another armed clash in Northern Gaza, according to the Israeli military.

Hamas said that the Israeli ceasefire undermines the negotiations that are going on in Egypt.

Hamas intends to continue negotiations and put forward its conditions: the ending of the Gaza occupation, a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops and opening the border crossings to allow humanitarian aid in the area.

And even if the ceasefire holds on both sides, the memories of the attacks and the deaths are still raw.

“I think there is a deep trauma in Israeli society and I can’t stand it, I just cry, I’m angry, I’m helpless. And at the same time I also feel very attacked by people from abroad, comparing Israelis to Nazis, comparing us to monsters, and on a certain level they’re right, but that adds on to the violence here,” says Mirella van Staveren, Libi Center for meditation founder.

Meanwhile, exclusive pictures from Jericho show the secret training of the people who are planning to replace the Israeli army in Gaza, when it finally leaves.

After intensive training in Jericho and Jordan, the Palestinian Autonomy's National Guard say they are preparing for everything.

“We are military people and we are preparing for everything. When the political leadership gives us the order to go to Gaza, we will take our people and we will go there. We are just waiting for orders,” said Samir Ahmed Ibrahim, Palestinian National Guard captain.

On Saturday, the onslaught had entered into its fourth week. Palestinian medics say 1,140 Palestinians have been killed, while the Israeli side claims thirteen Israelis have died.