Gaza's doctors, retailers and fishermen busy as truce holds

Middle East correspondent Derek Stoffel says Gaza's fishing ports, markets and hospitals are bustling a day after a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel went into effect.

'While the war waged, I missed the sea,' resident tells CBC reporter Derek Stoffel

Fishermen in Gaza were finally able to get their boats ready on Thursday. Most hadn't been out to sea since the conflict between militants and the Israel military escalated last week. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

Jamal Naman felt lost for the last eight days. With Israeli strikes from both the air and sea, he was unable to take his boat out and make a living.

"While the war waged, I missed the sea," he said, standing in the early morning sunshine at the port in Gaza City. Naman has fished here all his life. Fishermen say they were warned to keep their boats out of the water, or face being targeted.

With the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas holding, dozens of boats were launched Thursday morning.

"If both sides stick to the ceasefire, it’s good for us. We feel happy now. Our children left the house today smiling, no longer scared," said Naman.

Ahmed al-Gorani is among the fishermen ready to return to work. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

Just down the quay, Ahmed al-Gorani, was more pessimistic.

"The war may be over, but there is still the Israeli blockade," said the 62-year-old fisherman. Israel imposes a three-nautical-mile limit on where Gazan fisherman may work.

Al-Gorani says the more profitable catches are well beyond that.

"We cannot go and fish beyond where Israel tells us, and here the fish are small. We make no money from them."

If this truce agreement holds, Israel and Hamas are expected to begin negotiations to end the blockade.The fishermen at the port welcomed that development, but negotiations on this contentious issue will not be easy.

Elsewhere in Gaza, signs of life returning to normal after eight days of violence were evident everywhere. Shops and restaurants that had been shuttered reopened. The markets were busy as shoppers stocked up on food and milk.

Gaza’s streets were alive with sound – from the normal honking of the impatient drivers here to the odd soccer ball kicked down an empty lot.

Ibrahim Nasser, 12, played a match with a dozen of his friends. Unlike most children in Gaza, Ibrahim says he continued to play soccer every day – despite the danger from the skies.

"We thought [the Israelis] might shell us while we were playing, but we weren't scared," he said, taking a break from the game.

At Gaza’s main medical facility, the al-Shifa hospital, orderlies were cleaning the blood off stretchers.

Gaza hospital treated 100 wounded daily

Day and night, the hospital operated at a chaotic pace. A chief doctor told me at least 100 people a day were treated after the violence escalated.

The hospital is nearly full, with doctors and nurses continuing to care for those injured in the conflict.

"We have shortages of a lot of drugs, especially [the] drugs of anesthesia, [the] drugs of antibiotics, and some of the extra supply of the operation," said Dr. Abdul Jafar Za’neen, the chief of chest surgery.

Dr. Za’neen is hopeful supplies will be replenished soon, now that borders into Gaza are gradually reopening.

But it will take at least a week or two for the hospital to begin operating what Dr. Za’neen calls normal levels – when elective surgeries begin again.

For now, the focus is on those still being treated. "When you are looking to the injured patient, children, females, mothers, sisters – all of them – I am crying!" Dr. Za'need said.