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Eerie quiet in Gaza City on first night of cease-fire

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Not much was moving in Gaza City on Sunday night. There were few cars on the roads and only a handful of people walking the quiet streets, ghostlike figures in the near total darkness.

This was the calm after the storm, and after 22 days of devastating warfare the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be holding in its early hours.

On the 40-mile nighttime drive north from the Egyptian border to Gaza City, there were no tanks, no burning buildings, no plumes of acrid smoke. There were only glimpses of the Israeli onslaught: a Dumpster-sized crater in the seaside highway, a mountain of rubble where a building once was, a lone palm tree still standing amid the concrete chunks.

Near Rafah, just over the Egyptian border, taxi drivers eagerly greeted about 20 foreign journalists who'd passed through the Egypt-Gaza crossing, among the first to be allowed into Gaza since Israel and Egypt closed their borders for the duration of the war.

Israeli airstrikes had pounded the area in recent days, targeting tunnels used by Palestinian militants to smuggle weapons in from Egypt. A few streetlamps glowed dimly and stray dogs roamed around trash piles, but otherwise taxis were the only things moving.

Driving north road from Rafah, traffic thinned almost to nothing. In Gaza City, the streets were pitch dark except for a couple of small grocery stores, a mobile phone shop, a used-television dealer. Powered by generators, the shops glowed like hospital operating rooms even though few customers milled about.

Overhead, however, there was an unmistakable reminder of the war: the persistent buzz of Israeli drones, which circled the city for much of the night and broke the eerie quiet.


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