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Friday, 5 April, 2002, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Gaza waits for attack
Palestinian Hamas militants march in a Gazan refugee camp
Militants: Planning their own "welcome" for Israeli forces
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By Kylie Morris
BBC correspondent in Gaza City

The mood in Gaza is pre-apocalyptic.

There have been rumours in the past week of tanks pushing into the closed territory, of F-16s readying for another round of bombardment, and of plans to re-occupy refugee camps such as Jabalya, and even Gaza City itself.

In some areas, likely to be on the frontline of any exchanges, large numbers of gunmen have been out on the streets by night

People have stayed off the streets, and away from school and work, so as not to be caught away from home when any attack begins.

Normally busy streets packed with students and workers have been silent.

Meetings have been cancelled, and planned activities - such as dinners with friends - postponed.

Haunting images

Instead, televisions have been running hot, bringing pictures of the human and material wreckage of the Israeli campaign in the West Bank.

Enlarge image Click here for a detailed map of the West Bank and Gaza
Pictures of Palestinian gunmen stepping into the street to surrender before Israeli tanks, of scared families only daring to look from their windows, and of bodies lying bleeding in the streets.

Arab networks have looped the most dramatic footage, showing ambulance workers being forced to lie on the road while their vehicles are searched.

Pictures of Yasser Arafat dimly lit by candle-light inside his Ramallah offices have been shown, and images of Israeli soldiers strolling Palestinian streets, announcing curfews through megaphones.

In Gaza, people watch and wait.

Preparing for war

Government authorities have made contingency plans, and international agencies who still have foreigners working in the territory have drafted evacuation plans.

But it is not only officials who are preparing.

Militants from various factions have been discussing strategy, and planning their own welcome for the Israeli forces.

People are speaking of anti-tank munitions being laid where the heavy artillery is expected to roll in.

In some areas, likely to be on the frontline of any exchanges, large numbers of gunmen have been out on the streets by night.

Panic buying

There has been panic buying of petrol and of dry goods.

Palestinian schoolgirls at school in Jabalya refugee camp
Many Palestinian schools have been damaged by air strikes

Gazans who can afford them have bought up generators to cope with electricity cuts.

In a low rise building of apartments, Amani al Kafarna has moved in with her two sisters-in-law.

She, her husband, and their three daughters used to live in a high rise block close to the sea, and to Yasser Arafat's headquarters.

But they moved after too many nights' shelling and too many nights spent evacuating to the basement.

Now the women have been buying up supplies in case they are besieged.

They have been to the shops for flour and salt.

She says they cannot buy up everything they will need, but every household has been out to get the basics, especially if they have children.

'No safe place'

After the schools were closed for much of the week, they are now open again, although parents like Amani keep a close ear out for war planes and are constantly prepared to run and collect the children from school.

Two of her daughters' schools have been damaged by air strikes.

She says nowadays there is no safe place, but people have to get on with their lives.

Amani says she has no choice but to live through this time, the hardest she can remember, and look forward to the prospect of a real and just peace.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Middle East
US envoy breaks Arafat isolation
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israel reoccupies most of West Bank
05 Apr 02 | Middle East
Anti-Israeli anger sweeps Arab world
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Q&A: Middle East conflict
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