South Israel Cautiously Returns to 'Normal' Amid 72-Hour Ceasefire
ASHKELON, Israel -- Residents of the coastal city of Ashkelon in south Israel cautiously returned to their daily routines on the second day of a planned three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Relieved Israelis could be seen soaking up the sun on Ashkelon's beaches, as others ate lunch and sipped beers on the veranda. The last rocket alert sirens in Ashkelon blared early Tuesday morning, when Hamas fired 26 rockets at southern Israel and Jerusalem shortly before the ceasefire's 8 a.m. start time.
"We're trying to get back to normal," Eddie Ben Hamu, spokesman for the neighboring city of Ashdod, told Breitbart News. "The question is, what will happen after the ceasefire ends?"
That is the question being addressed in Cairo over the next several days, as Palestinian and Israeli delegations hold indirect negotiations through the Egyptian government to craft a long-term diplomatic solution in an attempt to end the nearly month-long conflict.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the Palestinians have come to the negotiating table with a long list of demands, including the construction of an airport and seaport in the Gaza Strip, as well as the release of all prisoners captured since the beginning of the conflict, when three Israeli teenagers were abducted and murdered near Gush Etzion.
Meanwhile, Israel is focused on two main issues in Cairo: keeping Gaza from rearming in the short-term, and working to demilitarize Gaza long-term.
Still, residents of south Israel are returning home during the ceasefire, although many are returning with new fears.
"We used to look up to the sky in fear, but now we are looking down at the ground," Sderot resident and mother of four Tzofit Peretz told the Times of Israel. "The idea of the tunnels, I just don't know how we're going to absorb that... It's a new trauma."
"My 11-year-old is calling and asking every five minutes, 'Mom, did they take care of the tunnels? How do we know if they got all the tunnels? What is daddy going to do to protect us from the tunnels? How can I stay home alone if there are tunnels?' And I have no way to answer those questions," she said.
These fears, among others, have prompted at least one leader of a community close to the Gaza border to order area residents not to return home too soon.
According to the Times, the head of the regional council of the town of Eshkol has ordered residents not to return until the 72-hour ceasefire has been fully completed. Just 20 percent of the town's residents remained at home during the 29 days of Operation Protective Edge.