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Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Friday, 16 January 2009

Gaza City voices: Pressure eases

Palestinian families fleeing their homes
Many families in Gaza City's Tel al-Hawa district left their homes on Thursday

Palestinians across Gaza City describe a welcome easing in conditions after intense fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants on Thursday.

ABIR, in Tel al-Hawa district

The Israeli tanks have gone, but the streets are destroyed.

I look out of my window and I see big holes in the road and we can still see and smell the smoke rising.

The electricity cables are pulled down. The streets are empty because so many people left. A few are coming back very cautiously to collect some things, but they leave straightaway.

I can see the Quds hospital from my window. We were going to take shelter there yesterday, but we changed our minds at the last minute because we were scared to go out.

There was a tank outside the hospital, but it's not here now.

Because nearly everyone we know left the area, they are now all ringing me to see if they can come back.

MOHAMMED ABUSHABAN, central universities district

Mohammed Abushaban
Mohammed Abushaban says he hasn't left the house for many days

For the first time in 20 days, we were able to sleep last night.

At the start of the evening we were all sleeping downstairs. But later the tanks pulled back from our neighbourhood and it was calm, so I told my mother and sisters to go and sleep in their rooms upstairs.

I heard on the local radio stations this morning that the Israeli tanks have withdrawn from the area.

It's such a relief. Yesterday was unbelievable. When you can hear tanks at the top of your street - I was telling friends on the phone it was like dying and coming alive again 100 times a day.

I still haven't left the house though. If things stay this quiet I might go to the mosque for Friday prayers.

The mosque is exactly where the tanks were, on the crossroads of the Islamic University and the Unrwa building that was hit. There is no call to prayer, because there is no electricity for the microphones. But we have a timetable, so we know when to go.

Also for the first time since this started, my father is using his car. He's gone to the supermarket to get a few things. Today's humanitarian ceasefire is an hour longer than normal, from 1000 until 1400.

I heard on Arabic language Israeli radio that Tzipi Livni is going to Washington and is working towards a 48-hour ceasefire. Here's hoping.

All of my family is OK. We are sitting in the living room, some are drinking tea, some are drinking milk, waiting for Dad to come back.

MOHAMMED ALI, western Gaza City

Today things are a little better, although there are still explosions as I talk to you. We are on the coast of Gaza. I heard this morning that the Israelis had pulled back and then the air was full of ambulance sirens.

Yesterday and the night before that was really horrible. The bombardment didn't stop night or day and I could see many buildings on fire.

There have been nine of us sleeping in the same room. But my two sisters who were staying with us with their children have now gone back home.

We have two babies, one is 15 months old and the other is five months old. They are really suffering, especially the older one, he wakes up panicking.

At night especially you can hear the launch of the Israeli missiles very clearly. It goes "Psshhhhhh" and then you tense because you never know where it will fall. Yesterday they targeted a building 300 metres from my home.

AMJAD SHAWA, southern al-Remal district

Our neighbourhood is still quiet since the Israeli withdrawal early this morning. But put this in context, there's still bombardment elsewhere in the city.

Children play Jews and Hamas war games

I've heard two people were killed in air strikes an hour ago, and about seven people died in Jabaliya today, in the north.

I took my nine-year-old son out with me during the ceasefire today, I didn't want to but he insisted so much, I let him. It was the first time he had left the house in 21 days.

We met other children and they immediately started playing Jews and Hamas war games: "I'm the F16, you're the Apache, you're Hamas." You can't separate them from what's happening.

There are still 13 of us in our house. My brother left his home in nearby Tel al-Hawa district yesterday, to escape the fighting. He was wondering if it was safe to go back.

I said 'No!' There's no accurate information, so even though the Israelis have withdrawn, they can come back in a minute.

We've had a total of three hours electricity in 21 days. Neighbours come over to charge their mobiles on my small generator.



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