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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Viewpoint: Gazans fear for the future
The bus driver's children hold a picture of their father
The children of a Palestinian bomber hold a picture of their dead father
By Kylie Morris in Gaza City

Samar el Zant sits inside the small quiet living room of her family's ramshackle concrete home, perched on the edge of Gaza City's busiest street.

She speaks of the tension in the Palestinian territories in the days since a suicide bomber killed 19 young Israelis in a Tel Aviv nightclub.

"These days the streets are empty," she says. "Everyone is inside watching the TV and listening to the radio, thinking 'Oh today Sharon will kill us.'"

Ever since the Tel Aviv bombing, Palestinians have braced themselves for retaliatory strikes from Israel. And in Gaza, the sense is that if they come, they will be harsher than any before.

Tenuous peace

The Israeli Government says it is giving the Palestinian Authority time to see whether it can enforce a ceasefire, pledged by Yasser Arafat under international pressure.

If we are going to die, we should all die together

Samar el Zant
But this is a tenuous peace. On the ground, there have already been fierce gunbattles on Gaza's southern border at Rafah.

And in the political arena, conflicting statements from the radical Hamas movement as to whether or not it supports the ceasefire adds to the tension.

For Samar el Zant and her family, each turn is a warning that their fears may be realised.

Samar is an air hostess, but no planes have flown since the closure of Gaza's only airport with the start of the intifada eight months ago.

Family fears

Confrontation in Gaza
An everyday confrontation in Gaza
Now she is awaiting the birth of her first child, but her husband, a pilot, is looking for work in Egypt.

She is desperately hoping he will be allowed back into Gaza in time for her daughter's birth.

She has family on her mind. She has spent the last few days visiting relatives, just in case attacks begin.

"I went to see my aunt and my grandfather because I do think of dying," she said. "I said to my aunt, you should come with me, to the family house, because if we are going to die, we should all die together."

Shifting sentiments

Samar says that these days it is difficult to think of the future. She tells me that her father wants to buy new things for the family home and repaint it but he is too unsure of their future to go through with his plans.

Samar's 13-year-old sister Sahar spends most of her time on the family's new computer, mainly listening to music and playing games.

A suicide bomber has destroyed all the gains of the Palestinian people over the last eight months

Ibrahim el Zant
Her school holidays have just begun, but there's not a lot of recreation on the horizon. She says that she and her friends don't go outside anymore "because there's no safety".

Listening to a teen angst love song, with a pop beat, she tells me that she doesn't think Ariel Sharon will let her people off lightly.

Out on the verandah, Samar and Sahar's father Ibrahim has a slightly different view.

He says that the Israelis have won a political victory, and that the international sentiment has shifted with the deaths in Tel Aviv.

"Israel won't attack," he says. "Now, they have what they want. They have a ceasefire. A suicide bomber has destroyed all the gains of the Palestinian people over the last eight months."

But Ibrahim, who works as a public servant, says the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, is not over. "Some days will go easily, some days are very hard, but I don't think the intifada will stop."

As Israeli planes continue their daily flyovers, the el Zant family are trying to get on with their lives.

But until there is a peace, with benefits for both sides, they will continue to sleep lightly.

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Middle East
US presses Israel over Palestinian tax
22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Israeli unity government 'in days'
09 Jan 01 | Middle East
Israel's 'assassination policy' on trial
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