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10 bodies found in rubble as life slowly returns to Gaza streets

Aug. 6, 2014 8:09 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 7, 2014 9:41 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- 10 bodies were removed from the rubble across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, as locals took advantage of the second day of calm in the 72-hour ceasefire to assess the damage caused by more than a month of relentless Israeli assault.

Medical sources said that 10 bodies were found as medical teams were able to gain access to ruins previously off-limits by Israel, which imposed a "buffer zone" over 44 percent of the Gaza Strip during the assault. Previously the zone encompassed 17 percent of the Strip.

Sources at the Gaza Strip's largest hospital al-Shifa said that five of the bodies were pulled out from under the rubble of homes in the Abu Halawa area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and had yet to be identified.

The bodies bring the total in Israel's four-week assault to at least 1,885, of whom at least 430 were children and 79 were elderly.

The Ministry of Health estimates that 9,567 people were also wounded in the assault, including 2,878 children and 374 elderly.

The United Nations' children protection agency UNICEF said on Tuesday that nearly 400,000 children were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, stressing that although they were committed to help the situation appeared "extraordinarily bleak."

"If you were seven years old, you would have lived two previous wars and the latest escalation is worse than the 2008-2009 and 2012 aggression," head of the Gaza field office Pernille Ironside said in a press conference.

"How do we expect parents and caregivers to care for their children and to raise them in a positive and nurturing way when they themselves are barely functioning as humans? People have lost entire strands of their family in one blow," she added in statements made to the UN in Geneva.

"How can a society cope with this? This is a deep, deep, deep wound."

Despite the challenges ahead, most Gazans on Wednesday were focused on taking advantage of the respite from the violence and returning to normal life, at least for now.

Thousands of the 485,000 people mandated to evacuate from their homes by Israel during its ground assault continued to stream home for a second day, although with PLO figures indicating that nearly 6,000 structures have been completely demolished and 32,150 homes damaged, many were returning to find devastation in place of their former lives.

Ramadan Abu Khusa, a Gaza resident who returned to find himself newly homeless, told Ma'an that he had set up a tent on the rubble of his house "to guard what is left of it."

"When we came back, we found our houses destroyed. They turned it into rubble."

Abu Khusa, who fled his house with 15 family members, said that some 70 houses belonging to his extended family had been completely destroyed across the northern Gaza Strip, which bore the brunt of the Israeli ground assault.

"When we fled, we did not take anything with us, not even clothes or money. We did not expect all this wreckage to happen," Abu Khusa said, adding that they only took white flags to walk with as they fled.

Abu Khusa said that the area was completely unrecognizable by the time they returned.

In central Gaza City, meanwhile, shops re-opened their doors, markets flooded with shoppers, and taxis returned to the streets.

Although shopkeepers had to stay shut during the usually busy Eid al-Fitr shopping season in mid-July, many opened again as shoppers swarmed local markets to stock up ahead of an uncertain future following the end of the ceasefire Friday morning.

Despite the return of a certain level of normalcy in the streets, it was clear that the damage suffered by Gazan infrastructure would take many years to repair.

Electricity supply on Wednesday reached two to three hours a day in most areas, after falling to zero hours a day in much of the Gaza Strip after Israeli bombed Gaza's sole power plant on July 29.

The Gaza power authority said at the time that the damage would take at least a year to repair in order to bring Gaza back up to its previous daily electricity average of around eight hours.

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