A cacophony of cheers, ululations and celebratory gunfire filled Gaza’s streets on Tuesday night, as elated residents welcomed news of a ceasefire ending a bloody 50-day war with Israel.
As the truce went into effect, hordes of people surged onto the streets, clapping and chanting songs of victory as a man swathed in a huge green Hamas flag threw handfuls of sweets into the air.
Traffic packed out Gaza’s cities, with hundreds of vehicles careering around tooting horns, with flags of Palestinian factions attached — the green of Hamas, the black and white of Islamic Jihad and the yellow of Fatah.
Mosques used their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants of “God is greatest” as the war-torn enclave hailed the apparent end to seven weeks of violence that has seen a quarter of the territory’s 1.8 million people flee their homes.
At a UN school in Gaza City, used like scores of others as a shelter for thousands of displaced, Rewa Shamali ululated along with dozens of other women and their families.
“I’m so happy today, like everyone, because the resistance succeeded in imposing their demands on the Israelis,” she told AFP, explaining how she had come to the school with 30 relatives after their homes were shelled by Israel.
“This victory makes us forget our destroyed homes, our displacement.”
Others agreed the truce was a victory for Hamas.
Ibrahim, an armed militant, held his Kalashnikov rifle in the air defiantly.
“We achieved a lot in this war, imposing our demands on one of the most powerful armies in the world,” he declared, but warning they were ready if fresh fighting resumed.
“We’re ready, if necessary, for a second round.”
– ‘Festival of victory’ –
“Thank God! The resistance won!” said Tamer al-Madqa, 23.
“Today Gaza showed the world that it is resisting and that it is stronger than Israel.”
Militants emerged from hiding for the first time in weeks, firing shots into the air in celebration and crying “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest).”
One pickup truck cruised by with around 20 people packed into it, standing in the back or on the roof of the cab, waving flags and showing the victory sign.
As night fell, there was no letup in the celebrations, with masked gunmen in military fatigues firing into the air and drums beating a celebratory note through the crowded streets where a performer could be seen breathing fire.
Mohammed Badir, 20, was also celebrating but he paid tribute too to the memory of the huge number of dead and wounded in the seven weeks of fighting.
“It’s the festival of victory, but we won’t forget the blood of the martyrs, the wounded or the homeless, all in their thousands,” he told AFP.
Gaza’s emergency services say the violence has killed 2,143 Palestinians and wounded more than 11,000.
UN figures indicate that nearly 70 percent of the victims were civilians.
On the Israeli side, 70 people have been killed, most of them soldiers.