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Israelis and Gazans reflect on the war, one year on

A year after Israel launched its 22-day military operation in the Gaza Strip, people from both sides give their views on the war.

More than 1,100 Gazans were killed in the offensive. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians, died. Rights groups have accused both the Israeli military and Palestinian militants of committing war crimes.

Israel said it was aiming to end Palestinian rocket fire at towns in southern Israel. The rocket fire from Gaza has largely stopped, but Israel's blockade on the territory remains tight while Hamas is in power.

MUHAMMAD ABU JARAD, Beit Hanoun, Gaza

Muhammad Abu Jarad's wife was pregnant with their third child when she was killed by an Israeli shell containing small metal darts, known as flechettes. Rights groups criticise the weapon as indiscriminate.

Muhammad was also injured. He had already lost his job in a soft drinks factory, which he says closed because of the Israeli blockade.

Mohammad Abu Jarad and his young son, Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip

Just this week I've got some work as a driver. It's the first work I've done in the past year. I don't even have a licence, but I needed the money.

Nothing has changed, in fact there's even more suffering. Psychologically we are even more tired.

Hamas claimed victory, Israel claimed victory - I don't know who won. But I know who lost - we civilians. This little boy lost his mother - was she a militant?

I don't think we will get justice. We were offered lawyers to take the Israelis to court. We don't know what will happen.

I was even invited to the border to be interviewed by the Israelis in their investigation [into alleged misconduct by Israeli forces].

I didn't want to go, but a lawyer and my neighbours pushed me.

The Israelis said they wanted to hold soldiers to account. But it's Israelis holding other Israelis to account, it's meaningless for us. It's just words.

OFER SPITZER, Nir Banim, southern Israel

Ofer's son Ben, an Israeli soldier, lost an arm in a friendly-fire incident while serving in the war. The family live within range of rocket fire from Gaza.

Ofer Spitzer (Image: Channel 2 News, Israel)

Our lives revolve around Ben at the moment, it's not easy. Twenty-four hours a day, we're focused on Ben.

The rehabilitation is very long - months, if not years. I feel like I sent out an F16 fighter plane and I barely received a small kite back.

The war was very much needed and it's a shame they didn't do it earlier. It's a shame they didn't finish it altogether.

They should have completely destroyed the Hamas regime.

As for the Palestinian side, I'm not so interested in them, they didn't take into consideration what was going on with us.

It's a shame that innocent children were killed, that's very bad, but I'm convinced no one intentionally fired at them. On the other side, they shot intentionally into civilian populations.

The south is quiet and peaceful now. Yes, we paid a price for it. I don't feel good about it, but I don't ask 'Why me?'

[On international criticism of Israel's military action:] It doesn't matter what we do, for eight years we were hit and no one said anything. I think we should stop being such goody two-shoes.

MOHAMED, Gaza Strip

Mohamed requested that his identity be concealed for fear of reprisals for his criticism of Hamas.

GAZA CONFLICT CASUALTIES
Total Palestinian deaths:
1,409 (PCHR)
1,387 (B'Tselem)
1,166 (Israeli military)
Palestinian children killed:
326 (under 17, PCHR)
252 (under 16, B'tselem)
89 (under 16, Israeli military)
Palestinian civilians killed:
916* (PCHR)
773* (B'tselem)
295 plus 162 unknown (Israeli military)
Israelis killed:
3 civilians
10 security forces (includes 4 by friendly fire)
*Figures exclude about 250 Hamas police officers

PCHR=Palestinian Human Rights Centre, B'Tselem=Israeli human rights group

Before the war I supported firing rockets at Israel, but now I've changed my mind. It has brought us nothing but destruction. It is not resistance when you fire and run away from the area and endanger the civilians living there.

The war showed that the resistance do not really care for the people of Gaza. If they did, they would have done more to avoid the destruction.

I think it's better to resist Israel with diplomacy, like going to the UN Security Council. It's this that Israel fears.

Media-wise, the war made Hamas stronger. It received aid and sympathy from some countries. But militarily it made it weaker. Hamas ended up stopping the rockets without really getting anything back. The siege is still there.

Hamas could resolve all of this if it wanted to, by reaching agreement with Fatah. This would leave Israel with no more excuses to avoid abiding by agreements. But it would also oblige Hamas to hold elections which they could lose.

DORI ENGEL, actor, Tel Aviv, Israel

Dori was opposed to the war from the start.

Dori Engel

When the war started I found the general feeling of "Let's go and get them" really frightening. It disgusted me.

I was shocked when I saw how disproportionate Israel's response turned out to be. I still feel ashamed to be part of it.

I was also embarrassed that Israel didn't let journalists into Gaza during the war. Do we have something to hide?

We are very disconnected from people in Palestinian territories. Recently I've been curious to find out more than what's in Israel's mainstream media. But I am not a political activist, by the way!

It's left me confused. Increasingly, I notice the gap between what is said publicly - and what happens on the ground. For example, with the settlements, or building in East Jerusalem, or keeping Gaza closed.

I think the closure of Gaza is morally wrong.

But it's complex. Hamas are terrorists and I blame them for attacking civilians and for using them as human shields. A country has to defend itself. How do you do this without torturing a whole population?

Maybe we need more international supervision.


ABU NADER, Gaza militant, Gaza Strip

This Palestinian describes himself as a fighter with no political affiliation. He says he is not a spokesman for Hamas, and spoke on condition that his identity was concealed.

Gaza militant

I say to Israel, you made a mistake when you carried out your vicious campaign.

Your answer from the resistance will be earth-shaking, God willing.

We have not stopped our resistance through fear or weakness. Thousands of people have lost their homes and our role now is to help get shelter for them.

We are rebuilding and preparing.

We Palestinians love life the same way you do, but we are not afraid of death because we have right on our side.

What was taken by force can only be regained by force. Jews came from all over the world to colonise this land.

How can we recognise the state of Israel when its people stole the land from its original owners?

We became refugees because of the international support for the so-called Zionist entity in 1948. No matter how long it takes, we will get our rights back.

RIVKA GOLDSCHMIDT, former Gaza settler, Israel

Rivka lives in temporary accommodation in Yad Binyamin, south of Tel Aviv. She was among the Israeli settlers who Israel decided to withdraw from Gaza in 2005.

Rivka Goldschmidt

We lived in Gush Katif for 28 years before the Israeli government took the unpopular decision that we had to leave.

We had a very good relationship with the Arabs who worked on our farm. They were the quiet minority who just wanted to earn their living.

But since 2000, we had been attacked with thousands of mortar shells. The terrorists carried on launching rockets after we left, so it's not about the so-called occupation.

I thought the war in Gaza a year ago was too late and too little. No government in the world would let its own people remain under fire like this.

It's been quieter since the war, but this means the terrorists are just preparing for the next attack. They're not going to stop until they get to Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Hamas definitely got a hiding, but they have mean, cruel ways of getting stronger. There's nothing democratic in Gaza.

We speak to our worker in Gaza every now and then. We even transferred money to his bank account once.

The withdrawal of Jews from the Gaza Strip was bad for the population on both sides.



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