icon icon icon icon icon icon icon

Truce in Gaza: Time to breathe, time to mourn

Young child with half-smile looks out the back window space of a damaged car

A child sits in a partially destroyed car while his family uses it as a shelter in Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza. Photo: Greyscale Media

A child sits in a partially destroyed car while his family uses it as a shelter in Nuseirat refugee camp in Gaza. Photo: Greyscale Media

After 50 days of constant bombardment, the pause in fighting that went into effect early on Nov. 24 has provided temporary relief for the people in the war-stricken Gaza Strip for the first time since early October.

The temporary truce has allowed 2.2 million Palestinians to sleep without bombing for the first night in seven weeks, and provided some time to secure food and water, access medical support, and buy warm clothes for the cold winter nights in tents and destroyed buildings.

“The best thing in the last few days was to finally see the children smile again. My daughters and her children, they feel so much better,” says Salwa Tibi, a CARE program representative in Gaza. Salwa has fled with her family to Rafah, which has no electricity. This means she had to walk a long way to find someone with a generator to charge her mobile phone and connect with others.


“The children were very afraid of the bombing and shelling. Now, during the ceasefire, they do not have to fear the planes in the sky.”

Salwa Tibi

“They feel happy,” Salwa says. “I walked with them on the street. I wanted them to see the sun, the light, the good parts of life, and it was so heart-warming to see them at ease and happy. We walked through the neighborhood, and they played with some of the local children, who are not displaced like us.”

Since the beginning of the conflict in early October, the Gaza Strip has become the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. According to UNICEF, over 5,300 children have died – 40 percent of the total death toll. In other words: over 110 children in Gaza have died every day since Oct. 7, with hundreds more believed to remain under the rubble.

Counting the losses

Despite the temporary relief the pause brings, this is also a time of sadness, as people take stock of what has been lost. Many returned to their homes, finding nothing but debris and scorched ground, accompanied by the need to retrieve the bodies of loved ones from underneath the rubble.

Also, for the first time, the phone connection improved and allowed people to check on their family, friends, and their homes in Gaza City. Across the Gaza Strip, more than 46,000 homes have been destroyed and over 234,000 housing units have been otherwise damaged. These constitute over 60 percent of the housing stock according to UN figures.

“Unfortunately, our family house is completely destroyed due to airstrikes,” says Saaed Rafiq Al-Madhoun, CARE’s Emergency Response Coordinator in Gaza, who fled with his wife and five children to Khan Younis, a city in the south that has received many displaced people.

“While I felt relief about the truce, I feel very upset and down because I have certainty now that the place where we gathered with our friends and family, all our assets and memories, are lost. My children keep asking me when we can go back home. I haven’t been able to tell them yet that we’ve lost it.”

Woman in head covering and glasses stands outdoors in front of a pile of rubble
Salwa walking through the neighborhood in Rafah she's fled to during the relative calm of the truce. Photo: CARE Gaza/West Bank

Like so many others, Salwa too received the dreaded phone call over the weekend, informing her that her house in Gaza City is uninhabitable now.

“I worked for more than 25 years to build this house,” she says. “I can’t believe all this is gone now. We have lost so much, and none of us expected this to last for such a long time. Our houses, we can rebuild. But we cannot bring back the people we love. I lost 15 of my relatives, mostly children and women. Other family members are still in hospital, severely injured.”

“Unfortunately, our story is not unique,” Saaed adds. “Everyone around us has lost almost everything, often mourning numerous family members.”

Six days are not enough

Since the truce on Friday morning, hundreds of aid trucks were able to deliver food, water, medicine, and fuel. The bulk of the aid was distributed in the south.

CARE’s Gaza team was able to secure 3,000 hygiene kits and 58,000 liters of water to be distributed to vulnerable displaced people. Each kit covers the hygiene needs of a family of five for one month.

Last week, CARE was able to provide badly needed medical supplies to two mobile clinics, sufficient for serving around 4,000 people for one month; 800 hygiene kits, serving 2,500 people for one month; and shelter items such as blankets, thermal blankets and mattresses for 500 families (2,500 people).

Humanitarian workers unloading a truck outdoors
CARE and partners are taking advantage of the Gaza truce to distribute hygiene kits and bottled water to vulnerable displaced people in the south. Photo: CARE

“Most of the aid was distributed to people living in shelters such as schools,” Saaed says. “Huge numbers of displaced people did not find shelter in the UNRWA centers, and they live with relatives. But their hosts can barely afford to cover the needs of their immediate family, especially since many of them were employees and were not paid for almost two months.

“We really worry about all the families who live in more remote and difficult to reach areas, who are hosted by relatives. All these people urgently need support as their needs are huge.”

“I heard from people who were queuing for up to 12 hours to fill gas canisters for cooking,” Saaed adds. “They are hoping they can prepare themselves for the coming days, especially given their worry that this might be a one-off opportunity for the time to come.”

A crowd of people outdoors next to a truck
A gas queue in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Monday, Nov. 27. Photo: Saaed Rafiq Al-Madhoun/CARE

“Many people also tried to fill up their cars. I went to one of the fuel stations, but the queue was way too long. I have heard from others that by the time they had waited for hours, the fuel was already gone, as the amount was very limited. Unfortunately, we still do not have any clean water, even now.”

“Six days of truce are not enough to deal with the numerous challenges people are facing.”

While aid was finally able to reach some people for the first time in weeks, many still lack food and fuel to cook. Bakeries are not operational because of the lack of fuel, and there is a severe shortage of wheat flour. Aid organizations are particularly concerned about the lack of nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and children.

Permanent ceasefire needed

Like Salwa, Saaed and their families, approximately 1.8 million people – nearly 80% of the population – have fled to the south. According to the UN, nearly 1.1 million internally displaced people are sheltering in 156 facilities.

Seated woman with head covering pouring from a yellow container
A woman fills small bottles of water to distribute to people in need at a makeshift camp in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Greyscale Media

In many of these shelters, overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions are rife, further worsened by the acute lack of water. Children especially have fallen sick with communicable diseases, and suffer from diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, and hygiene-related conditions like lice.

“The first day of the ceasefire, I was too afraid to go out,” Salwa says.

“I was not sure whether to trust the calm. We spent almost 50 days expecting to be killed any minute, it is hard to shrug this off.”

“When I finally went out to the shops, the situation was hard,” she adds “Most people spent around four hours at the market to search for food, just the basics. There is only one market for over a million people, and the prices have skyrocketed.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, prices for food and beverages have increased by 10 percent just in October, vegetables by 32 percent, wheat flour by 65 percent, and water by 100 percent.

According to The New York Times, Israel and Hamas agreed on Monday to extend their truce for two more days, what the newspaper called “an act of continued cooperation that could allow for additional aid to flow into Gaza and the release of more hostages, prisoners and detainees than initially expected.”

CARE is urgently calling for the current humanitarian pause to turn into a permanent ceasefire and for unrestricted humanitarian access to reach survivors. More than 14,000 people have reportedly been killed so far, with thousands more still missing. CARE is particularly concerned about reaching women and children who are already dying of preventable deaths, caused by a lack of clean water and medical supplies.

Back to Top