Waving her son goodbye as he boarded a bus carrying his unit away from Israel’s border with Gaza, Orly Doron was relieved but apprehensive about the lull in fighting Tuesday.
Doron comes from Kfar Aza kibbutz close to Gaza, where her son has been involved in the intense fighting that has left areas of the Palestinian enclave in ruins.
But the guns fell silent Tuesday with the beginning of a 72-hour truce after fighting that has left 1,867 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, and 67 people on the Israeli side — almost all soldiers.
Kfar Aza has been regularly hit by the mortar and rocket fire Israel said it was trying to stop when it began its offensive on July 9, and Doron is sceptical about whether this lull will bring a permanent end to it.
“I never trust Hamas; we don’t trust them,” she told AFP.
“You know, we’re just three hours from the time the ceasefire started. Let’s see if it is actually kept. We had three or four ceasefires during this war; we all saw they weren’t kept.”
In a sun-baked field down the road, troops fresh from operations looked glad to be away from the front.
Dozens of dust-covered tanks sat parked in the field, just kilometres from the border as their crews laughed and smoked.
The young soldiers talked happily as they worked atop their vehicles, some flying the Israeli flag.
On a track next to the field, tanks and trucks occasionally passed, kicking fresh trails of dust into the air as they left.
They were among the last troops pulling back from that part of the border Tuesday.
The day before, the roads around the field had been clogged with military vehicles as Israel redeployed its forces away from the area.
Despite the apparent calm along the border early Tuesday, an officer from the armoured unit was guarded about the prospects for a lasting truce
“It’s not my job to worry about this,” he shrugged. “It’s my job to be ready”.
Asked if he was ready to resume fighting, he said: “Of course, as always”.
– ‘Not leaving’ –
At a service station just inside Israel, more soldiers huddled round tables, in transit to military bases and homes away from the border.
Some wore olive-green uniforms white with dried sweat, and all carried rifles slung across their backs.
Sat a little way from the soldiers was 71-year-old Israela Yoed who was heading back to her home 500 metres from the border.
She has lived in Kibbutz Nahal-Oz for 50 years, and was among the few to stay on as Israeli troops pounded Gaza from nearby.
“We had thousands of soldiers in our fields and most of the people left our kibbutz,” she said.
Many people living along the border who have put up with rocket fire for years, ended up leaving area this time after troops uncovered a sophisticated network of cross-border tunnels used by militants for infiltrating southern Israel.
Earlier Tuesday, the army confirmed completing a mission to destroy them, saying it had demolished 32 such tunnels.
As the truce got under way, Yoed was quietly hopeful, saying she was “80 per cent” sure it would hold.
Although she also said she didn’t trust Hamas, she was grateful for the brief lull in violence, and hoped that a lasting solution could be reached.
“I believe that we can make things better through negotiations,” she beamed.
But if the ceasefire fails and troops take up positions around her home, she said she would not be moved.
“I won’t leave; I’m not afraid,” she said.